Answering the Taxpayers
I am a professor of philosophy at a public university. What is the value of philosophy to the taxpayers who subsidize my teaching? Philosophy is an abstruse and difficult field. Many of those whose taxes support higher education probably would have a hard time seeing the point of most philosophical debates. Why ask people to pay for discussions of seemingly arcane a..
Update from Abbate on McAdams (updated)
Cheryl Abbate, the former Marquette University philosophy graduate student who had become the target of a smear campaign by associate professor of political science John McAdams, has responded to some of the claims being made in various articles since it was announced that Marquette is seeking to fire McAdams. She writes:
It should be noted that there are a numb..
Yik Yak Yuck
Margaret Crouch, a philosophy professor at Eastern Michigan University, was team-teaching a large group of students with two other professors, while, unbeknownst to the three, many of the students were using the class time to post hostile and vulgar remarks about them via Yik Yak. (If you don’t know Yik Yak, think of it as a local anonymous twitter feed in which old..
Philosophical Delight in the Classroom
One thing that makes us different from most of our undergraduate students is that we really enjoy philosophy and they do not. It may drive us to frustration and despair sometimes, but, generally, we find it interesting and take pleasure in it in a way that is foreign to our students. Yet, every once in a while its possible to get students to catch a glimpse, firstha..
A Good Offense (updated)
When it comes to teaching philosophy, how offensive may we be, and in what ways? Recent discussions here, particularly regarding teaching same-sex marriage, have raised this issue, but those conversations have been dominated by discussion of the plausibility of arguments regarding that substantive matter. Though it has cropped up, the issue of the role that offensiv..
Same-Sex Marriage and Philosophy Revisited
“How Academic Philosophers Are Trying to End the Gay-Marriage Debate—and Getting it Wrong” is the title of a new article in the National Review. Written by University of Colorado Ph.D. student Spencer Case, the article picks up on a discussion had here at Daily Nous about the matter back in November.
Despite their field’s reputation for interminable controversy..
How Do You Want Your Students To Assess You?
Most colleges and universities have students fill out forms to evaluate their instructors’ performance at the end of the term. Semesters are just beginning around now, but it is not too early to start thinking about those evaluations. One study found that “students’ ratings 2 weeks into the semester did not differ from end-of-semester evaluations.”
There are lots..
Mapping Philosophical Arguments
The students sit in pairs at a computer terminal, and after reading Cullen’s synopsis of a particular argument, they try to map it. The room fills up with whispered suggestions, lines tested and rejected, double negatives made positive. Most of the boxes into which they enter text are red or green. The green ones contain evidence supporting the above premise; the re..
Inclusive Philosophy Classroom Best Practices Site
A new website, Best Practices for the Inclusive Philosophy Classroom, has launched. It is an interdepartmental project, started by Minorities and Philosophy (MAP), which aims to be “an easily accessible launching pad for teachers who want to make their philosophy classrooms more inclusive.”
The site includes anthologies and other resources for diverse syllabi, ad..
Teaching As If Our Students Were Not Future Philosophers
Since most of our undergraduate students are planning to go to graduate school in philosophy and become professional philosophers, it makes sense that the undergraduate philosophy curriculum is typically filled with courses that prepare them for that future. Their courses should introduce them to the way that contemporary professional philosophers understand their f..
Philosophy of Police Violence and Mass Incarceration
Lisa Guenther, associate professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University, has developed a new philosophy course, “Police Violence and Mass Incarceration,” which she will be teaching this coming term. I think it is a great way of showing students a way in which philosophy can interact with current events. I asked her about the course, and in an email she writes:
Laptops, Tablets, and Phones in the Classroom
I settled on my New Year’s resolution while giving a lecture to 85 masters students. It was one kid who unintentionally suggested the idea. He was sitting in the back row, silently pecking away at his laptop the entire class. At times, he smiled at his screen. But he rarely looked up at me. I had a choice. I could disrupt the class to single him out. Or I could do w..
Philosopher is State-Level Winner in Professor of the Year Contest
Karen Hornsby, associate professor of philosophy at North Carolina A&T, has been recognized by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as the North Carolina winner in their Professors of the Year competition. You can read more about Hornsby and her approach to teaching here. She was the only ph..
Philosophy at Community College
In the Tusculan Disputations, Cicero famously says, “Socrates was the first to call philosophy down from the heavens and set her in our cities, bring her into our homes, and compel her to ask questions about life and morality and the nature of good and evil.” At a community college, my students—aspiring plumbers and harried moms among them—helped me to rediscover th..
Virtual Worlds and Video Games in Philosophy Teaching
Do any of you use virtual worlds or video games in your teaching of philosophy, and if so, how? In conversation the other day a colleague expressed an interest in creating a virtual world in which an epidemic was taking place, and having students immerse themselves in it to learn about addressing some of the various ethical challenges that confront agents in such si..
Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Marquette (updated)
The Westboro Baptist Church, a bizarre anti-gay cult comprised largely of the extended family of its late founder, is planning to picket on the campus of Marquette University this Sunday (correction: next Monday) morning, citing Fox News’ misleading account of Marquette graduate student Cheryl Abbate’s handling of an undergraduate’s desire to discuss same-sex marri..
Philosophy Grad Student Target of Political Smear Campaign (several updates)
A philosophy graduate student and instructor at Marquette University is the target of a political attack initiated by one of her students, facilitated by a Marquette political science professor, and promulgated by certain advocacy organizations.
Cheryl Abbate, a Marquette PhD student working on a dissertation in ethics, has provided me with information about the ..
How To Fail Philosophy Exams
Bob Hargrave was, I am told, a much-loved lecturer in philosophy at Oxford University (he died in 2012). Among his pedagogical contributions is a document he prepared called “Rodin’s Thinker, or How To Fail Philosophy Exams.” It was written for Oxford students, but much of it is applicable to philosophy exams (and some writing assignments) given anywhere.
Group Work in Philosophy Class
Here are problems with group-work that I have observed or heard about multiple times from students:
- the members of the group (unless the group is the whole class) do not include an expert on either the topic for discussion or the assigned reading on it, so mistakes can go uncorrected and misunderstanding can be increased (if plausibly, confidently, or charisma..
Brilliant Combination of Teaching and Outreach (updated)
Mount Holyoke philosophy professor Thomas Wartenberg and College President Lynn Pasquerella co-teach a course called “Philosophy for Children.” An article at masslive.com describes it:
As part of the course, college students are teaching second graders at the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence in Springfield to question their own assumptions, lis..
Assessment and Philosophy Courses
Most of the discussions regarding “assessment” are fine examples of exactly what we do not want to see college producing: vague and uniform truisms, hooked up with measures so meaningless as to guarantee that nothing will ever change. It is the deadened life of the bureaucratic mind. But imagine, as an alternative, academics charting the careers of students who have..
Comfortable With a Kind of “Stupidity”
At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else. I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered ..
Telling Your Students Your Beliefs
Adam See (Brooklyn College) wrote a letter to his philosophy students at the end of the past semester. It begins:
I am no longer your professor. Throughout the semester many of you have asked me what my personal beliefs are on the topics we’ve discussed. As I understand it, the reason that professors are reluctant to discuss their own beliefs come..
Academic Ice Bucket Lesson Plan
Arthur Ward (Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State) teaches a unit on charitable giving in his ethics course and has come up with a way of doing so that gets the students really interested and involved:
I had heard of others doing some group work in class with this topic, asking students to research effective charities. It occurred to me that this was a great idea, b..
The Purpose of Philosophy Class
It is not the purpose of a Philosophy class to transmit information or inculcate skills, however useful that may be. It is to introduce students to the life of the mind, with all the characterological as well as intellectual changes that requires. It is to welcome the young man or woman into a moral sphere in which argument, honesty, and a passion for ideas reign…
Updated Contemporary Moral Problems
Many colleges and universities offer a lower-level course on “contemporary moral problems” or “ethics and social issues.” These courses typically include topics like free speech, affirmative action, abortion, drugs, same-sex marriage, capital punishment, poverty, treatment of animals, and the environment—and have for several decades. While these are important topi..
Social Psych in the Philosophy Classroom
Normally, self-affirmation is reserved for instances in which identity is threatened in direct ways: race, gender, age, weight, and the like. Here, Nyhan decided to apply it in an unrelated context: Could recalling a time when you felt good about yourself make you more broad-minded about highly politicized issues, like the Iraq surge or global warming? As it turns o..
More on Teaching Philosophy in Prison
The notion of incarceration goes back to the beginning of philosophy, with the imprisonment and execution of Socrates—and the idea, expressed by his student Plato in the Republic, that we are all imprisoned by the cave of our own reflections but don’t realize it. “ face a lot of the issues ordinary people face, but in a heightened condition. We’re all doing life in ..