[This is an invited post.--ES]
A few weeks ago, a graduate student said in my class that he “had to restrain [him]self from tearing [a prominent female academic] a new one.” After class ended, I told the student, in private, that he should probably refrain from using colloquial phrases that reference anal rape in professional contexts. He was shocked to hear my interpretation of his comment. Later, I asked my Facebook friends if I had handled the situation appropriately. Of the many who responded, about half said that I had; the others said that I should have corrected the offending student in front of the other students, either to educate the other students (if they saw nothing wrong with the comment), or to reassure them that their response was appropriate (if they did object to the comment). In light of the latter argument, I invited all of those present in the class, including the student who made the comment, to write this post with me. Except for two students who were too busy, they graciously agreed.--Jennifer Rubenstein
How should college instructors respond when a student says something in class that the instructor believes to be offensive but that the student might not realize is offensive? This is the broader question raised by the incident in our class. Cases of this kind raise different issues from cases in which students knowingly cause offense or are culpably ignorant (e.g. they use the “n-word”). In the latter types of cases, the egregiousness of the violation means that it is almost always appropriate for the instructor to confront the student immediately, even if this causes shame or embarrassment; the instructor is also usually reasonably confident of her immediate assessment of the situation.
One more cautionary observation before we begin. The volume is published by Bloomsbury, which has taken over Continuum, the house which apparently had contracted the anthology. A number of the pieces unfortunately contain stylistic and grammatical inadequacies in expression. For some essays this is just distracting, but for others it is extremely frustrating. Clearly the publisher's copy-editing was highly inadequate. We can only hope that this will not become a trend with Bloomsbury. More significantly though, we cannot help but wonder whether it really is such a good thing for English to become the de facto lingua franca of European philosophy. This is perhaps unavoidable today -- not long ago, something called the 'European Science Foundation' produced a ranking of philosophy journals, and publication in languages other than English was initially used to relegate journals to the 'B' or 'C' category. Now, if Anglophone philosophy puts a premium on 'clarity,' as defined by composition models taught in Anglophone universities and less elsewhere, then the obligation to write in English seems to unavoidably place international colleagues in a bad light. In this reviewer's experience, the profession suffers from a pressing need to address this issue.--Hakhamanesh Zangeneh
There are (at least) three issues here:
(i) Especially given the high prices charged for their product, academic presses and journals have a professional obligation to maintain the highest standards of copy-editing. Cost-cutting measures do not inspire confidence. I have no ideological objections against outsourcing, but the recent (apparent) trend toward concentrating copy-editing philosophical texts in Bangladesh and India is not improving the situation. (I am probably not alone in having to correct the copy-editors; as my fellow NewAPPSers can testify, I tend to be the one needing correction!)
This semester, I’ve experimented with anonymous grading for the first time. Now that I think about it, it is a mystery why it took me so long to realize the obviousness of it, but better late than not at all, I suppose. As many other countries, the Netherlands does not have a tradition of anonymous grading at all, but I recently found out that in the UK it is fairly common practice, showing that it can be done. This was one of the topics of Jennifer Saul’s recent Aspasia Lecture in Groningen, and I am happy to report that she made such a good case for it that my colleagues in the evaluation board of the Faculty are already looking into adopting anonymous grading systematically.
Why should it be done? Well, for those of you familiar with the literature on implicit biases, the answer will not be hard to find: we inevitably rely on stereotypes and preconceptions to perceive and judge people, which serve as convenient heuristic shortcuts. This can have a negative effect on how we judge members of stigmatized groups (based on gender, ethnicity, class, geographical origin etc.), and it can also unfairly boost our judgment of privileged groups. With grading in particular, it has been noticed that anonymity significantly increases the average grades of members of these stigmatized groups, simply because their work is looked upon more objectively without the association to a particular person. (See this informative report by the British National Union of Students.)
Marcus Arvan at the Philosophers' Cocoon has started a new series on What it is like to be a VAP. His first post is well worth a read and resonated with my own (three, very privileged!) years as a VAP.
But what caught my attention is this remark by Arvan:
Slowly, though, things began to change for the better. I attended a teaching workshop which emphasized the "flipped classroom" -- i.e. getting students to do more work in the classroom, rather than being the "sage on the stage." My wife and mother also suggested that instead of working myself into the ground prepping for classes, I should prioritize getting students to work. I did.... It has worked wonders. My student evaluations have soared, and more importantly, my students are improving beyond my wildest dreams. Getting them to work -- to do philosophy themselves, both in the classroom and at home -- works wonders.
Recognizing something akin to this is crucial, I think, to all great (philosophy) teaching.
'The history of philosophy as practiced by professional philosophers [hereafter HOPPP] is a service to the rest of the profession; HOPPP's scholarly output is primarily geared to facilitate (undergraduate) teaching.' This suspicion [hereafter HOPPPS2P] had lodged in my mind when a few years ago I started to reflect on (a) the extremely low citation rates for journal articles in HOPPP, which suggests that there are no genuine controversies nor classic papers that ground future research; (b) the lack of concern about the proliferation of Handbooks and Companions that are effectively slowing down research in HOPPP; (c) the extreme difficulty of getting a position in HOPPP if one is not working on a canonical figure. (There are, of course, extreme regional differences on (c); in some places there are no positions for HOPPPers; in other places so-called 'systematic' and 'practical' philosophers do not even regard HOPPP as philosophy, but let it exist out of institutional inertia, benign neglect, etc.) But I wondered if I could ground ground HOPPPS2P in hard data.
Luckily, Michael Beaney, the thoughtful editor of British Journal for the History of Philosophy (BJHP), wrote a review of the last 20 years of the BJHP, with some recommendations for the future. Now BJHP is a young journal, but it has become one of the top venues in the sub-field. (In Europe it certainly also helps that it is listed in Thompson's Web of Knowledge/Science index so that publication can count in the right metrics.) Beaney and his team compiled data on the contents of the first twenty years.
"What this shows is that almost half the journal has been devoted to the work of just seven philosophers – the ‘big seven’ of early modern philosophy – and that around two-thirds of the journal has been devoted to the work of just sixteen philosophers, with three more early modern philosophers included as well as Plato and Aristotle from the ancient period and four [Hegel, Mill, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche--ES] nineteenth-century philosophers.
My friends, the serious historians of philosophy, often look down at (Analytical or even Continental) work that engages critically with authors from the canonical past; 'as if such classic texts could coherently be criticized from present perspective--we all know that involves vicious anachronism!' Even those employed in Analytical departments tend to prefer contextual understanding and sympathetic exegetical imagination over attempted refutations. (In fairness to the serious historians: they also look down at work that mines the past for useful insights.) These historians say they want to understand the past on its own terms and sometimes they also insist that in doing so we can understand the present. But (with a nod to Nietzsche) my friends are, in fact, quiet undertakers (the brilliant ones) or museum guards (the mediocre ones); they never imagine being a Maharal to the past and make it live.
Every Wednesday, I go to Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville to facilitate a discussion group with prisoners on death row and philosophy graduate students. It’s a nice prison, as far as prisons go: clean, suburban-feeling, with a soapy smell that lingers on my hands and clothes after I leave. The reception area is filled with motivational posters of determined mountain climbers and goal-oriented rowing teams. Beyond the checkpoint, an ordinary sidewalk leads to death row. The path is lined with beige wooden fences and topiary shaped like giant bathtub stoppers. We pass through a series of grey doors and empty hallways until we reach the smiling faces of ten men who have been condemned to death by the state of Tennessee.
Th Dec 6, 5 pm CST: I'm moving this post back up as it's received some important comments from Ed Kazarian, in response to a comment I made at Leiter Reports to a post by Amy Ferrer, the Executive Director of the APA. By the way, all of Ferrer's posts at LR deserve reading.
The past month (September 2011) we've had a series of interesting and informative posts on preparing graduate students to enter what is commonly called "the job market." The presupposition here is that the job market in philosophy begins post-PhD.
I don't want to criticize the content of the posts; as far as I can tell, the advice has been excellent. But I do want to suggest that we change our frame of reference on these matters, and specify that we have been discussing only a small segment of the complete system of employment for philosophy instruction in institutions of higher education. So I'd like to suggest we call the analysis of the complete system "the political economy of philosophy instruction."
Posted by John Protevi on 06 December 2012 at 17:00 in "Austerity"? You mean class war, don't you?, Adjunct faculty and hyper-exploitation, Global Financial Crisis, Improving the philosophy profession, John Protevi, Organizing labor, Political Economy of higher education, Teaching Philosophy | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
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Teaching is Not Magic. I'm stealing this motto from my fellow-blogger, Michael Cholbi. Teaching is not some magical thing that one has innately or that one "gets" or that one gets the hang of after a few years of exposure. Most philosophers are rightly skeptical of scholarly literature in what one might call "education studies." But thankfully, philosophy has its own association of philosophy teachers (the AAPT) and its own journal (Teaching Philosophy) that both share that skepticism and recognize that good teaching is at the very least not something that every philosopher should have to figure out on her own and that it should be informed by argument, reason and evidence. Its not good enough to point one's graduate students to these resources. Graduate programs should be centrally involved in the AAPT and in Teaching Philosophy, because arguably, Ph.D programs are most responsible for the students who have learned the most. Share the wealth, folks - how did you do it?--Rebecca Copenhaver, In Socrates' Wake.
Copenhaver's post is focused primarily on the North American situation (in my neck of the woods PhD bursaries are employees not "students," etc.), but her reflections apply more widely. The post reminded me of the weaknesses of my graduate education and also, alas, the shortcomings of my current practice as a supervisor. Anyway, I encourage everybody involved in PhD programs in philosophy to go read her whole post.
My university, Morgan State, is revising its general education curriculum requirements. Obviously, this is an exciting and anxious time, as the faculty gather to share their pedagogical methods and ideals while protecting our turf and trying to fend off managerial incursions on both ideals and turf. When we met last Spring, our president held up a copy of Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift and suggested that we should use it as a guide. Though there are serious methodological problems with their research (and troubling substantiation for previous research showing that many students are not and will not be well-served by a college education) the book does help those of us in the humanities and liberal arts make the case for our disciplines.
Arum and Roksa use data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment to demonstrate that the only students who show significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication have taken certain kinds of courses. These courses had three factors in common: (1) more than 40 pages of reading per week, (3) more than 20 pages of writing per semester, and (3) high teacher expectations.
As a result, I have proposed that Morgan State (and other public universities) should require these types of courses at the start so that core critical competencies are available as they go on to their major coursework. (The longer proposal is more specific to Morgan’s needs but also includes lengthy details like book lists.) The best way to do this is the First-Year Seminar. Small liberal arts college faculty are probably familiar with this model, but it is uncommon at large universities.
1. It is a form of status seeking and conspicuous consumption.
2. It provides a) a valuable social network, not to mention b) opportunities for assortative mating.
3. It is a life-style choice (see 1). Moreover, The enormous residential infrastructure keeps retention/graduation rates very high (see also 4b).
4. It a) teaches a lot of important social skills in b) a protective environment.
5. And for a minority group of students it is an escape from one's class.
At one of my favorite philosophy blogs, Philosopherscocoon (a blog devoted to early career types), there is a discussion on how to make the first day work. Why not join in there?
Here's what I do:
I would start with Deleuze's book, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, because it expresses Deleuze's ethos, his affirmation, his love. You should know what a philosopher loves (Plato would tell you that), and this little book is a love letter from one philosopher to another. Reading it will I hope inspire you to want to read Deleuze, to see how he lives up to "the secret link between Lucretius, Hume, Spinoza, and Nietzsche: their critique of negativity, their cultivation of joy, the hatred of interiority, the externality of forces and relations, the denunciation of power" (Negotiations, 6).
This frugal, propertyless life, undermined by illness, this thin, frail body, this brown, oval face with its sparkling black eyes: how does one explain the impression they give of being suffused with Life itself, of having a power identical to Life? In his whole way of living and of thinking, Spinoza projects an image of the positive, affirmative life, which stands in opposition to the semblances that men are content with. Not only are they content with the latter, they feel a hatred of life, they are ashamed of it; a humanity bent on self-destruction, multiplying the cults of death, bringing about the union of the tyrant and the slave, the priest, the judge, and the soldier, always busy running life into the ground, mutilating it, killing it outright or by degrees, overlaying it or suffocating it with laws, properties, duties, empires -- this is what Spinoza diagnoses in the world, this betrayal of the universe and of mankind. (Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 12)
After Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, here's what I recommend you read next:
[This post is a follow up to some passing comments in this post, which prompted a few emails from readers.--ES]
"You are publishing too much," said one of my letter writers (while I was preparing for the fourth time on the market), "Harvard will never take you." The preceding year (2004 or so) I had six acceptances. I loooked at him (and edited my words carefully), and responded: "Harvard has had its chance, I need a job!" In graduate school nobody explained how to write a journal article. After the third year out on the job-market I had one publication--a long piece on Adam Smith's obituary of David Hume (that was, despite some kvetchy refereeing, accepted and significantly shortened under the wise and helpful editorial guidance by Ken Winkler and Elizabeth Radcliffe--bless their souls). It's not like I wasn't trying to get published: a paper sat at Philosophical Review for a year (rejection without comment); another version of that paper was rejected after a year at BJPS (a one paragraph, misleading summary and no further comment). I don't recall the exact details, but another journal (PPR?) was about to stop accepting submissions, etc. Meanwhile, one other paper was getting elaborate referee comments on how I was clearly ignorant of the important work done by George Smith (George, my undergraduate guru, and I have had a paper forthcoming since the late 1990s).
So what changed was this: with the help of senior colleagues at Wesleyan and, especially, Red Watson at WashU in St. Louis (my first two adjunct positions--yeah, don't cry for me--), I learned how to craft a journal article, and started to send papers to slightly less incrowd journals with reputations for quick turn-around and getting things in print fairly quickly. Below the fold some of the things I picked up (with room for readers' comments):
My most recent post in philosophy of economics unexpectedly led to a number of requests for syllaby suggestions in the philosophy of social science. I have not taught that course since 2005 (when I left WashU, St. Louis). Sadly, my old syllabi are not online anymore. Now, my choice of topic/approach is always a function of my sense of the quality and skills/backgrounds of the students (philosophy or social sci majors, etc) , the level taught, as well as my personal aims for the class (what do I want to learn about; do I want to teach writing or methodological skills), etc. So, please take what follows as ideosyncratic. I have often used then recently popular books (Nickle and Dimed, The Bell Curve, Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, etc) and supplemented these with philosophical and critical material and classic methodological works by Max Weber, Milton Friedman, Jon Elster, Donald Winch, Geertz, and Elinor Ostrom. I have used Brian Fay's textbook, which I liked a lot, but I bet it is probably getting dated. There are two readers (one edited by Delanty&Strydom and the other by Martin/McIntyre) that give a good sense of classic topics and recent developments about two decades ago (the same can be said of Stephen Turner's Blackwell Companion). I would recommend that students follow a bunch of blogs (which give a very good idea of ongoing debates in science in practice): Retraction watch, Marginal Revolution, Economic Principles, Crooked Timer (especially anything by Quiggin), Brad de Long, [Schliesser on NewAPPS?], etc. Anyway, here are some topics that I would certainly cover (and that seem underserved by existing readers):
A young scholar asks:
"How do you know when an article is finished? It's weird to put into words, but when do you get the sense an article is done. Moreover, it may be that established philosophers have a community of fellows to draw from, but there plenty of us who are not as established. So this question is from the author's point of view... When do you know you are done? And the article is ready for journal submission?"Comments and suggestions from readers are very welcome. When I was a PhD student at Chicago this was the kind of thing nobody paid any attention to. So, early in my career (when I was non-tenure-track) I followed the generous advice from my senior colleagues (especially at Wesleyan). Below the fold I share my current approach (for what it is worth).
I just sent out the announcement for the summer school on formal methods in philosophy that I am organizing. It seems to me that more sustained methodological discussions of applications of formal methods in philosophy are at this point much needed. The summer school is an attempt to foster such debates and motivate students and young researchers to be attentive to the to methodological issues underlying their work. See below for the official announcement, and check the webpage of the summer school for further details.
An unpublished piece by the creative economists, David Levy and Sandra Peart, called my attention to the following observations by Rawls, when he is about to introduce David Hume:
Utilitarianism was, and still is perhaps, the most influential longest continuing tradition in English speaking moral philosophy. While it perhaps can claim no writer of the stature of Aristotle and Kant (their ethical works being in a class of themselves), taking the tradition as a whole, and viewing its extent and continuity and ever increasing refinement in certain parts of the view, utilitarianism is perhaps unique in its collective brilliance. One must remember that utilitarianism is historically part of a doctrine of society, and is not simply a detached philosophical doctrine. The utilitarians were also political theorists and had a psychological theory. Also, utilitarianism has had considerable influence in certain parts of Economics. Part of the explanation for this is that if we look at the more important economists in the English tradition before 1900 and the well-known utilitarian philosophers, we‘ll find that they‘re the same people; only Ricardo is missing. Hume and Smith were both utilitarian philosophers and economists....Sidgwick and the great economist Marshall were both in the same department at Cambridge, when they decided to found a separate department of economics around 1896. Since that time there has been a split, although utilitarianism still influences economics, and welfare economics has a close connection to the utilitarian tradition. Still, since 1900 the tradition has divided into two more or less mutually-ignoring groups, the economists and the philosophers, to the reciprocal disadvantage of both...The division is not easy to rectify given the pressures of specialization, and much else. It is also very difficult nowadays to get a sufficient grasp of topics in both subjects for one person to intelligently discuss them. (Lectures on History of Political Philosophy, 162-3)
Facebook conversation among myself, Jason Stanley, and Keith DeRose revealed each of us has an extensive course materials page.
There must be hundreds of other such pages on the web. How can we organize access to them? Is there a wiki already? (Is "wiki" the right term for a user-controlled links page?) If not, does anyone have any ideas here on developing one? I've contacted the Phylo folks, and the PhilPapers folks. Any others I should contact? Is this an idea worth pursuing? If so, who wants to lend a hand here?
This is probably the must-read philosophy link of the day, perhaps of the week: Carlos Fraenkel’s article in the Boston Review on the compulsory teaching of philosophy in Brazilian high schools (linked for example by Leiter, among others). Since 2008, it became a federal law, but before that it had already been implemented in several states (education is mostly a state affair in Brazil).
A brief interview with NYU professor Lisa Duggan is here. She will teach a course on “Cultures and Economies: Why Occupy Wall Street? The History and Politics of Debt and Finance” in the NYU Department of Social and Cultural Analysis this spring.
New APPS readers are invited to discuss in comments how they might include any of the social movements of 2011, from the "Arab Spring," through the indignados to the Occupy movement, as a topic in their courses. As well as the instigating processes for those movements: the Global Financial Crisis; the Shock Doctrine austerity policies adopted on the basis of not letting a good crisis go to waste; the debt crises of students, workers, and indeed nations; and so on.
The coming months I’ll be teaching a third-year course on paradoxes, a mix of the history of different paradoxes, systematic analysis and a discussion of the methodological role of paradoxes for philosophical theorizing. I’ll also be reading some classical texts on paradoxes with the students, and for now I’ve selected portions of Aristotle’s Physics for Zeno’s paradoxes, Ockham and Bradwardine for the Liar, Russell’s letter to Frege for self-referential paradoxes, and Carroll’s ‘What Achilles said to the tortoise’ for the so-called paradox of inference. I’m still looking for sources on the ship of Theseus and the sorites paradoxes; for the former, I’m hesitating between Hobbes and Locke, and for the latter, I really don’t have much of an idea for now.
I was wondering if readers would have suggestions they could share? Maybe some of you have already read some of these texts with your students? I’ll also be working a bit on the methodology of reading historical texts in philosophy, but they cannot be too difficult, as this will be an overview course. Any thoughts you might have would be much appreciated!
In the concluding paragraph (quoted here) of Glymour's controversial manifesto, we find three criteria to keep philosophy departments around: 1. Grant-making ability; 2. Being cited and useful outside philosophy; 3. Good undergraduate teaching. All three are sensible reasons to give philosophers some "shelter" in a university (it's not clear they are also good reasons for a distinct department). In his piece, Glymour focuses (with a nod to Michael Friedman) on the second reason; he praises those philosophers that are "outsiders to the science of the day, people who will take up questions that may have been made invisible to scientists because of disciplinary blinkers." Glymour presupposes that at any given moment science is not necessarily, optimally truth-tracking--a topic close to my heart. That is, one task for philosophy is to be critical of present science (but not the scientific ideal) in an informed and constructive fashion. Despite Abe Stone's protests so far so good. But from here Glymour's argument slides.
As a professional (US-trained) philosopher working in the (the still existing) Eurocore-zone, I found it striking that the recent PGR ratings do not rank departments like Carnegie-Mellon very highly despite their being (as Brian Leiter notes) "well-rated in certain specialties." CMU has a very significant presence and influence on the way analytic philosophy is practiced in Europe. I would characterize this approach as a commitment to formal (or mathematical) philosophy. (There is also an underlying sense -- nicely expressed by Sebastian Lutz -- that the spirit and, perhaps, substance of logical empiricism is still very much alive.) If anything some of the most exciting analytically oriented departments (Munich, Groningen, University of Amsterdam, LSE, Tilburg, and, perhaps, Bristol [as well as a few in Scandinavia]) seem increasingly committed to formal philosophy (in the way that descends -- in the felicitous phrase of Mohan -- roughly from Carnap, Bayesianism, Suppes, etc.)
Philosophy is often viewed as akin to a normal science (I quote Mohan,, philosophers understand themselves as investigating "reality, using transparently objective methods (even in the realm of values). In this sense, they regard philosophy as continuous with science..."[or: "philosophy as extension of science or PES.") One consequence is that PES is accompanied with some of the vices that are characteristic of normal science in its contemporary institutional settings (e.g., mythic histories that promote a picture of progress (Cf. Soames), excessive boundary policing, etc--read your Kuhn or Feyerabend). In particular, folk that do normal science need not answer all objections to ruling theories. This attitude is often accompanied by a lazy, dismissive attitude toward those working on different puzzles (or who reject philosophy as puzzle solving altogether [see Brian Leiter's comments here]). One important sign or proxy that one is dealing with such attitudes is the presence of taboos that allow a community to focus on problems it deems worthy of interest and systematically ignore alternative approaches.
In the context of our recent discussions on how to make the philosophy profession more diverse along the race dimension, I’d like to put forward a modest suggestion for everybody’s consideration. It has in fact been put forward by a commentator in a NewAPPS thread quite a few months ago (unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the commentator in question), and remained in the back of my mind since. Now that we are explicitly discussing these issues, it seems like an appropriate moment to bring it to the fore.
During a Thanksgiving dinner conversation I was asked by someone who knows next to nothing about philosophy what one book they should read in order to get a sense of what philosophy is about. Now I am long habituated to conversations with people unfamiliar with philosophy, and to addressing various questions, but this time I did not have a standard, prepared answer. I did suggest they read either Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or Plato's Dialogues, especially the Five Dialogues collection, but then I couldn't quickly add to the list, so I am intersted to know what book (or books) others would recommend if they were asked the same question.
A long time ago I had a post up on my blog Lemmings called "Should You Become a Professional Philosopher?" The main message of the post was that you probably should only go into a Ph.D. program in philosophy and attempt to get a job in academia if you cannot imagine yourself being happy in a different kind of job. Some of the reasons listed included the difficulties of getting a job and the relatively low salaries that philosophers receive.
Since I published the blog post, the prospects of getting a job in philosophy and a decent salary have only gotten worse. Budget cuts have forced colleges and departments to cut back on new hires and raises. I can use my own department as an example. For the first time since 2008 we got a very tiny raise this year. The other years our salaries were cut in various ways. In addition to that, four people have left, or are leaving, and budget cuts prevent replacement. To make up for the loss of four faculty members, the dean has given us permission to hire one person in a temporary position with a 4-4 course load and a salary that's about half of that of a tenure-track person (who is not getting all that much in the first place). Four courses is a lot, not least when you compare it to the regular course load in the college, which is a 2-2.