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Talent-Hungry Companies Are Teaming Up With Historically Black Colleges

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 6:00pm in

This story was originally published by The Hechinger Report. 

As it did in workplaces worldwide, the killing of George Floyd — just a few miles from its offices in Minneapolis — led to deep introspection about diversity and fairness at the Solve advertising agency.

The company was more than 80 percent white, and part of an industry in which Black and Hispanic employees are drastically underrepresented compared to their proportions of the population.

“It obviously pushed the entire industry to reflect, ‘Are we doing enough?’” said Andrew Pautz, a partner in the firm and its director of business development. “And the answer was really no.”

To respond, Solve looked 1,100 miles away, to Baltimore. That’s where it found a historically Black university, or HBCU — Morgan State University — that was willing to team up to create an entry-level course to introduce its students to careers in advertising.

“Advertising isn’t on the radar of diverse candidates when it really counts, when they’re trying to find a career to engage in,” Pautz said. So he and his colleagues asked: “Where is there a high concentration of diverse students? And that’s what brought us to HBCUs.”

It’s not only Solve that has come to this conclusion. So have some of the nation’s largest employers, who are descending on HBCUs to recruit the workers they need to meet diversity promises or expanding collaborations that already existed — often underwriting courses and programs and the technology needed to provide them.

These employers include Google, IBM, Northrop Grumman, Novartis, NBCUniversal, the airlines United, Delta and Southwest, and even the NFL, which teamed up last month with four historically Black medical schools to boost the number of Black team physicians and medical professionals.

“At many HBCUs, the phones have been ringing off the hook,” said David Marshall, professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communication at Morgan State. “Given that these institutions are producing some of the highest numbers in terms of Black and brown students in some professions, it’s a natural development to come to where the students are.”

About one in 11 Black college students are enrolled in the nation’s 101 HBCUs, which produce more than a quarter of Black graduates with degrees in math, biology and the physical sciences, the National Science Foundation reports, and 50 percent of Black lawyers, 40 percent of Black engineers and 12.5 percent of Black CEOs, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

“People who have attended HBCUs, we know the value,” said Cheyenne Boyce, a graduate of historically Black Spelman College and senior manager in the Education Partner Program at the software developer and marketing company HubSpot, which also teams up with HBCUs to find interns and employees. “We’ve always known that. But it does help to have additional external validation.”

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No one tracks how many companies are teaming up with HBCUs to find workers. But many such affiliations have been announced over the last two years. There’s been “a significant uptick,” said Marshall, at Morgan State. “It’s been deeper over the last couple of years,” said Lydia Logan, vice president for global education and workforce development and corporate social responsibility at IBM. Added Yeneneh Ketema, university relations diversity program lead at Northrop Grumman: “From what we’ve heard from our campus contacts, yes, there are a lot more companies coming there.”

This expanding pipeline to jobs with top employers could attract more students to HBCUs, whose enrollment overall declined by 15 percent in the 10 years ending 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Education — although about a third of the schools have seen a rebound in response to racist incidents at predominantly white institutions, the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions reports.

“Having companies really be willing to make investments, it benefits the students. It’s great for the parents. It’s great for the universities,” Boyce said.

For HBCU students who are lower-income or the first in their families to go to college, closer relationships with corporate recruiters and mentors also could help offset the advantage long enjoyed by wealthier counterparts who can network their way to jobs.

“I as a rich white kid might have, not just the relationships to get into the door, but also the perspective to know that working at a bank doesn’t just mean being a teller,” said Jeffrey Moss, founder and CEO of Parker Dewey, which helps employers and colleges arrange short-term internships. “Or maybe if my mom or dad works at [the management consulting firm] McKinsey, I could get a job there.

“What’s exciting to see coming out of the HBCUs right now are these opportunities to build real relationships,” Moss said.

That’s because many employers are investing more than an occasional campus recruiting visit. They’re showering HBCUs with technology and other support, mentors and money to help develop talent.

“The old model is, you bring a fancy table to the career fair and you give out brochures,” Marshall said. “The second tier is that there have always been occasional internships. The shift now is looking for more meaningful relationships.”

IBM in May announced that it would underwrite new cybersecurity centers at six HBCUs: Morgan State, Xavier, North Carolina A&T State, South Carolina State, Clark Atlanta and Louisiana’s Southern University System.

In addition to supplying academic content, the company will furnish experts to conduct guest lectures and even simulated hacking events.

“This is our next new big thing with HBCUs,” said Logan, at IBM, which already had a program to recruit students from historically Black schools.

“We’ve had a long commitment to diversity. For other companies it’s newer. For everyone, it’s gotten deeper over the last couple of years,” Logan said.

There’s not only now a social imperative for these companies, but an economic one: a huge demand for workers — not just in cybersecurity, but in other fields that require education in science, technology, engineering and math.

“We have a talent shortage,” Logan said. And “if you’re looking for diverse talent in STEM, it’s a natural fit to recruit from HBCUs.”

Consumers and activists are also pressuring employers to live up to promises that they will diversify their workforces.

“Especially for those companies that are consumer brands, their customers are saying that they want to see something happen,” Marshall said.

In some industries, such expectations can have an immediate and tangible effect on the bottom line. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say their perception of a brand’s diversity through its advertising affects whether they will patronize it, for example, according to a survey by the marketing analytics firm Marketing Charts. More than half of Black respondents said they won’t do business with a company that doesn’t represent Black people in its ads.

“Whether it’s about race or religion or gender, perspective is everything in advertising,” said Pautz, of Solve, whose clients include True Value, American Standard and Rust-oleum. Having a diverse workforce can broaden a company’s perspective, he said. “We have to understand how people think. It’s all about getting into a target audience’s shoes.”

Google’s Grow with Google HBCU Career Readiness Program provides digital education and funding to help expand the pipeline of Black tech workers, who represent only 4.4 percent of Google employees in the United States, even though 13.4 percent of the U.S. population is Black. Last year — facing criticism, including from one of its own former diversity recruiters that it previously didn’t seriously consider Black engineers from HBCUs for jobs — the company’s CEO met with the presidents of five HBCUs. Google has now added a new program called Pathways to Tech to provide those universities with technology resources.

To recruit new airline pilots, fewer than four percent of whom are Black and another 14,500 of whom the Bureau of Labor Statistics says will be needed each year through at least the end of this decade, United Airlines has teamed up with historically Black Delaware State University, Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina and Hampton University in Virginia. Delta has formed a partnership with Hampton, too, and Southwest with Texas Southern University in Houston.

The NFL announced last month that it would offer month-long clinical rotations to students from the historically Black Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science as a way to increase diversity among NFL physicians, only 5 percent of whom are Black.

“It’s really important for us to have that pipeline” from HBCUs, said Ketema, at Northrop Grumman, which also has collaborations with HBCUs and this fall will hold its fourth annual “HBCU Invitational,” during which it invites students to interview for jobs and participate in workshops and other activities.

It’s important that employers give more than lip service to these partnerships, Ketema’s colleague, Chris Carlson, Northrop’s director of university recruiting, said.

“One thing that we all know from working with HBCUs is the students can truly tell if a company is there to check a box — just showing up at a career fair to collect resumes — or if the company is in it with a school,” Carlson said.

Marshall agreed that the onus is on employers to live up to their diversity goals.

“This is not a story about HBCUs,” he said. “It’s about companies and corporations that are under increased pressure from their stakeholders, their shareholders, their customers saying, ‘You can no longer sit on the sidelines. You’ve got to do something.’ ”

“I don’t think the burden is on the HBCU side. I think the burden is on the corporations that suddenly woke up and found Jesus.”

In the meantime, HBCUs are indisputably enjoying a surge of employer interest.

“It’s great for HBCUs to get this attention,” said IBM’s Logan. “For a long time I think they were overlooked and now they’re getting the recognition they’ve always deserved.”

The post Talent-Hungry Companies Are Teaming Up With Historically Black Colleges appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

To Be a Department of Philosophy (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/05/2022 - 9:21pm in

“There are many reasons to expand the story we tell about philosophy.  But a main reason is just that the best, most interesting, and even the correct answers to philosophical questions that interest us might be found anywhere.”

The following is a guest post* by Alexander Guerrero, Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. It is the second in a series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.

[Gaba Meschac – Globallon (detail)]

To Be a Department of Philosophy
by Alexander Guerrero

The profession of philosophy and the education of philosophy students—at both the undergraduate and graduate level—must change.

It has now been almost exactly six years since Jay Garfield and Bryan Van Norden published their “If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is” in the New York Times, and it has been five years since Van Norden published his follow-up book, Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto. They and many others have been pointing out, for years, that the vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States (and most other parts of the Anglophone world) offer courses only from one strand of the world’s philosophical traditions, the Anglo-European strand. (And even within that strand, it is narrow, giving prominence to Ancient Greece, France, Germany, the UK, and the US.)

As those of us who went through such programs know, this story begins in Ancient Greece with fragments of Thales and Parmenides and a few others, and considerably more from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; skips forward to Medieval Europe and Anselm and Aquinas (or skips this period entirely); continues through a few prominent ‘early modern’ or ‘modern’ Anglo/European men (Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Kant, maybe also some Leibniz, Spinoza, and Rousseau); picks up a few others in the 19th Century (Bentham, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, Mill); and arrives with an early 20th century philosophy origin story that goes through Frege, Russell, Carnap, Wittgenstein and into central figures like Quine, Kripke, Lewis, Rawls; and then a topically-driven focus on many distinct philosophers in the last quarter of the 20th Century and early 21st Century on the analytic side (substitute Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, Foucault, etc., on the continental side). The dominant version of the story includes no chapters on African, Chinese, Indian, Latin American, or Indigenous or Native American voices or views; nothing (or almost nothing) from the long grand traditions intertwined with Buddhism, Islam, or Judaism; nothing from other non-Anglo-Europeans.

This story of philosophy has been overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white, and, as Garfield and Van Norden are at pains to point out, overwhelmingly Anglo-European, dominated by Europe, the UK, and, joining later, the United States. Why is this the story that has been told, over and over again, to undergraduates moving through philosophy programs? Why is this the story that we continue to tell through our major requirements and PhD distribution requirements?

There are two broad families of answers. The first aims at justification and vindication: here are the substantive, justifying reasons why this is what we teach and require and put at the center of ‘Philosophy’ in our educational institutions. The second aims at debunking these justifications (arguing that there is no justification for doing things this way) and supplementing that with diagnosis and historicization: here are the empirical explanations for why this what we do; notice that there are no justifying reasons in that story, nor no new justifying reasons to embrace now.

The first kind of answer makes a substantive claim about philosophy. It claims that, in sticking to the story above, we teach and require everything that is most centrally well-described as philosophy. We leave out, or put to the margins, work that is just religion, or anthropology, or literature, or cultural studies, or “thought” that doesn’t constitute philosophy.

I’m not sure anyone still really believes this. At any rate, they shouldn’t.

This kind of answer requires (a) that there is some kind of meta-philosophical view for sorting things as ‘philosophy’ or not, (b) that it is an attractive, non-question-begging meta-philosophical view, (c) that those telling this standard story agree on this view and use it to sort work into the ‘philosophy’ basket or not, (d) that this view compels us to include what we teach and require but exclude what we don’t currently cover, and (e) that this sorting just happens to include only Anglo-European work and almost nothing from non-Anglo-Europeans prior to 1950 or 1960 or something like that (at which point Jaegwon Kim and a few others get to become the very first non-Anglo-Europeans ever to do philosophy!). (Or perhaps there isn’t just one meta-philosophical view that all agree on, but, by amazing coincidence, the various meta-philosophical views are all such that they get extensionally equivalent results regarding (d) and (e)?) That is already quite a lot to swallow. I know that, at least in the places I’ve been, I would not expect any kind of broad meta-philosophical agreement, nor has there been any recent sorting or meta-philosophical discussion. What would the meta-philosophical view be? Something about arguments? Arguments about certain topics? Counterexamples—from inside and outside our standard story—abound. Garfield and Van Norden offer many of these.

But, even more decisively, we can tell that this isn’t what is really going on, because of the second difficulty with this answer: those who endorse it have either no or only glancing acquaintance with work from these other traditions, so the actual explanation for inclusion or exclusion can’t be some faithful, careful application of an attractive meta-philosophical principle. Nor can we defer to our wise forefathers (and they were certainly almost all men) who first crafted this story by using some (now forgotten) beautiful meta-philosophical sorting principle. We might not know that much about them, but one of the things we do know is that they, too, knew very little about any work that isn’t part of the standard story.

I expect that almost all of us teach and study in departments in which we just inherited the basic structure of coverage and the (at best) implicit understanding of philosophy revealed by that structure. These are the courses on the books, these are the professors we have to teach them, this is what I learned about in my philosophy education, these are the readers and textbooks we use, this is what we know about already, so, this is philosophy.

Obviously, that’s not any kind of argument toward substantive justification. We might try to come up with some attempts at post hoc rationalizations, but, once we acknowledge we don’t know anything at all about what is in the shadows, why should we continue to maintain that the pedagogical light is shining in just the right place?

The main answer to this is a human one: it’s natural to feel defensive and protective of what you have come to know and love. The vital point—at least by my lights—is that the problem with the standard story isn’t what it includes: what we all have come to know and love is, in many deep ways, important and beautiful. It makes sense that we want it to be taught and studied forever. The problem with the standard story is entirely about what it excludes. Figuring out how to move forward, figuring out how to begin telling a different, broader story, requires looking backward to better understand these patterns of exclusion. The second kind of answer to the ‘why this story’ question—the debunking and historicizing answer—helps us in that regard.

The second answer to our initial question of why this is the story of philosophy that we offer focuses on historical factors, explaining why we are in this situation without purporting to justify it. The long version of this story would need to be told by someone with more knowledge and historical and sociological expertise than I have. Randall Collins, in his unbelievably comprehensive masterpiece, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change, tells some relevant parts of this story, focusing on the shift of philosophy into universities, particular networks of philosophers and intellectuals and the stories they tell about their own origins, and the gradual accumulation and ossification of a story as generations of students encounter it and learn about the key figures within that story (and, just as importantly, do not learn about other things).

Most of us who went into philosophy didn’t know all that much about what it was; we learned via example and ostension: this, these texts, the writings and ideas of these people, is philosophy. We have been told various things to justify this particular set of people, these starting points and texts. But often what we were told is just something said on the first day or two of class, not rigorously questioned or challenged even by those telling us the story. We are all, after all, mostly philosophers, interested in philosophy, not intellectual historians, interested in intellectual history. Once we have some interesting philosophy in front of us, we might not be inclined to ask all that many questions about what we haven’t been shown and why.

So, for much of the recent history of philosophical education in the Anglo-European world, what was pointed 75 years ago is still what is in the story today. Martin Luther King Jr.’s syllabus for an introductory social and political philosophy class he taught at Morehouse College 60 years ago could be identical to one that might be taught today.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s outline for his social philosophy seminar at Morehouse College

For some significant part of that time, many of those doing the pointing have plausibly had biases against work by women and work by non-White people. Racism and sexism are part of the story of exclusion.

But another key part of the story is just a story of cycles of ignorance: your teachers don’t know about X, so they don’t teach you about X, so you don’t know about X, so when you teach you don’t teach about X, so your students don’t know about X…  It might be that what falls under ‘X’ is a result of racism and sexism. It might also just be a matter of what is easily accessible at a particular time and place. We live at a time of unprecedented access to texts, ideas, and traditions from throughout history and from around the world, in addition to sophisticated scholarly commentary on and distillation of all those texts, ideas, and traditions.

Those parts of the explanation suggest good news and concrete steps for the project of beginning to tell a different story. I will suggest six such steps, concerning both undergraduate and graduate philosophical education. These might not all be equally easy to implement, depending on one’s particular local situation. But I hope that many of them can be taken up by those involved with philosophical education in almost any educational setting.

(1) Continue Your Philosophical Education

First suggestion: if you regularly teach philosophy, see it as a personal project to develop competence with material in your areas of specialization and/or competence from a philosophical tradition outside of the Anglo-European tradition that could be brought into your regular teaching (and perhaps also your advising and research).

Very few people who graduated with an undergraduate degree and a PhD in Philosophy from schools in North America, Australia, or the UK will have had any courses in any of Africana, Buddhist, Chinese, Indigenous or Native American, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Latin American, or any other non-Anglo-European philosophical work. This is the central mechanism of the vicious cycle of ignorance that keeps us where we are. The only way to get out of the cycle is for many of us who were exposed only to the standard story to do some work. We can’t wait for someone else to do it. We aren’t teaching anybody else to do it. As Garfield and Van Norden wrote in 2016:

The vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world. For example, of the 118 doctoral programs in philosophy in the United States and Canada, only 10 percent have a specialist in Chinese philosophy as part of their regular faculty. Most philosophy departments also offer no courses on AfricanaIndianIslamicJewishLatin AmericanNative American or other non-European traditions. Indeed, of the top 50 philosophy doctoral programs in the English-speaking world, only 15 percent have any regular faculty members who teach any non-Western philosophy.

Very little has changed in this regard in the past six years. There are excellent people working in these areas, but there are simply not yet enough people who are experts in these areas, and the vast majority of PhD programs in Philosophy are not producing people who work or teach in these areas.

Fortunately, one thing that is changing significantly are the resources available to people for their own continuing philosophical education with respect to work from outside the standard story.

There is a new program, the Northeast Workshop to Learn About Multicultural Philosophy (‘NEWLAMP’), which has this as its central purpose. Twenty philosophy instructors from across the country will meet in July to expand their knowledge of African and African social and political philosophy. Future iterations will cover different traditions and topics. More such programs should be created.

But there are also many things one can use on one’s own, or in a small reading group. Last Spring, I ran a reading group on African, Latin American, and Native American philosophy over Zoom. This was very fun and relatively easy to do. All the readings and plan are available here, and many other similar groups could be organized, covering all manner of topics.

Perhaps the single-most remarkable resource, The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps project, now has extensive coverage of Islamic Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, and African Philosophy, thanks to the truly amazing work of Peter Adamson, Jonardon Ganeri, and Chike Jeffers, among others. The future plan includes coverage of ancient China with the help of Karyn Lai. It is helpfully organized chronologically but also indexed thematically, so that one could learn just about aesthetics or ethics or mereology.

Familiar resources, like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Philosophy Compass, are significantly expanding their coverage of philosophical work from outside the Anglo-European tradition. For example, Guillermo Hurtado and Robert Eli Sanchez have created a remarkable overview entry for the SEP on Philosophy in Mexico, there is a fantastic entry on metaphilosophical questions concerning ‘Latin American Philosophy’ authored by Susana Nuccetelli, and Stephanie Rivera Berruz has written a brilliant entry on Latin American Feminism. Philosophy Compass has new Section Areas on African and African Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, Latinx and Latin American Philosophy, and Native American and Indigenous Philosophy, to accompany the longstanding Section on Chinese Philosophy. Keep an eye out for articles that will helpful both for professors looking to get their bearings and for assigning to students. Also, check out The Philosophical Forum, as Alexus McLeod (a world expert on several different philosophical traditions from outside the standard story) has been brought on as the new Editor of that journal, and he aims to make it a leading forum for work from all philosophical traditions.

There are several great blogs and other online communities to help one get a sense of the people working on these topics now, and to become familiar with some of the topics and issues. Warp, Weft, and Way, focusing on Chinese and Comparative Philosophy, is one of the most active and oldest blogs. 20th Century Mexican Philosophy provides discussion and links to many valuable resources. The Blog of the APA has been running a series of posts on teaching material from outside the traditional canon, such as this wonderfully helpful entry by Liam Kofi Bright and Peter Adamson, So You Want to Teach Some Africana Philosophy?

The Center for New Narratives in Philosophy, directed by Christia Mercer, is creating events and other resources aimed at bringing work from outside of the standard story into view. This includes a book series, the Oxford New Histories of Philosophy (co-edited with Melvin Rogers), which brings both primary texts and secondary materials helping to make accessible and “available, often for the first time, ideas and works by women, people of color, and movements in philosophy’s past that were groundbreaking in their day but left out of traditional accounts.”

Bryan Van Norden has put together a remarkable bibliography of readings on Africana, Chinese, Christian, Indian, Indigenous, Islamic, Jewish, and Latin American philosophy, including many helpful suggestions under the heading ‘Where Should I Start?’ for each of these areas.

As I hope is clear, although it might have been hard to know where to begin 10 or 15 years ago when thinking about trying to learn more, it is considerably easier now. Please mention other resources in the comments!

(2) Make Connections at Your Institution

There are almost certainly philosophers and people teaching and studying philosophy outside of your home institution’s department.  They are quite likely to be teaching and studying philosophical work from outside the standard story. They might be in Departments of Religion, East Asian Studies, History, American Studies, Africana Studies, Comparative Literature, and so on. Learn about who they are. Reach out to them. Build connections between them and the Philosophy department. Co-teach with them. Co-organize conferences with them. Encourage your Philosophy students to take their classes.  Cross-list their classes with Philosophy.  Give them a presence on your departmental webpage. Perhaps, if it makes sense, pursue giving them more institutional power within Philosophy (through joint-appointments and so forth).

(3) Create Courses to Expand Your Department’s Story About Philosophy

Once you have identified what is already offered at your institution, think about what isn’t being covered, even if those courses are brought also into philosophy, and learn enough to create introductory courses on that topic or to bring that material into existing courses. This is actually one of the best ways to take up the first suggestion, as nothing helps one learn a topic more than teaching it.

At many institutions, it is not very difficult to get a new course on the books. In my experience, it was very easy to get institutional approval for a new course on African, Latin American, and Native American Philosophy. (You can read about my experience in that regard.) Most departments at most institutions are already way ahead of Philosophy in expanding the story they present to students, and administrators are excited when this happens. My philosophy colleagues have always been nothing but supportive in this regard. I expect yours will be, too.

There is now a remarkable collection of syllabi collected by the American Philosophical Association on topics in all of these areas. These are excellent for making it easy on new instructors, so that you don’t have to start from scratch.

Even if you don’t create a whole new course, work on adding material from outside the standard story into your classes in Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Mind, Political Philosophy, and so on. Many of the above resources will help in that regard, too, and this is, in some ways, an even more direct way to expand the standard story and to make evident the way in which philosophy really is a subject that has been done by people of all kinds and everywhere.

(4) Change the Official Story Your Department Tells – Undergraduate Level

Once you have identified courses being offered at your institution that expand the standard story, or once you and your colleagues have increased your knowledge and created such courses, start requiring your undergraduate and graduate students to take these courses.

At many institutions, the Philosophy major is structured so that philosophy majors have to take something like 11 or 12 total philosophy courses, with 1 course in Logic, 1 course in Ancient or Medieval Philosophy, 1 course in Modern Philosophy, 2 courses in Metaphysics, Epistemology, or Language, 1 course in Moral or Political Philosophy, and then 5 or 6 electives, spread out over courses at varying levels. This is the basic pattern at Rutgers, Penn, and NYU (the three philosophy departments that I have spent the most time in, but also three pretty different institutions), but it is also similar to some places that have specialists on the Philosophy faculty who work on topics outside the standard story, like Michigan. Often, there is a list of courses on historical topics that specifies which courses can count as fulfilling the requirement, and that list almost always leaves off courses that aren’t part of the standard story. At Michigan, for example, these are the courses that count for history:

At Rutgers, we somewhat regularly offer courses on African, Latin American, and Native American Philosophy, Hindu Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, Islamic Philosophy, Jewish Philosophy, and Chinese Philosophy, but these are not listed as courses that fulfill any of the philosophy major requirements.

Given that many are very attached to everything currently required as part of the standard story, an easy initial recommendation would be to add in an additional requirement for a course from one of these other traditions, once those courses are being offered regularly enough at one’s institution. Prior to that, I would suggest pushing so that they can count as alternative ways of fulfilling existing requirements, but I know that is likely to engender more controversy.

Having these courses either be required for the major or at least count for a major requirement is essential for changing the story. It also is essential for creating a new generation of philosophers with more competence than the ones before it with respect to work outside of the Anglo-European tradition. In my experience, these classes are also very popular and bring in many students who might not otherwise have been considering Philosophy as a field of study.

Please, share in the comments if you teach at an institution that has made changes in this direction!

(5) Change the Official Story Your Department Tells – Graduate Level

Obviously, there are tens of thousands more students learning philosophy at an undergraduate level than at a graduate level. But if departments of philosophy are ever going to change the story they tell at any kind of scale, it will need to be through making it easier to get a PhD in Philosophy while also working on philosophy from outside the standard story. This is also vital for creating philosophers who can work on these philosophical ideas and traditions as researchers, bring them into conversation with other philosophical work, and do so at a high level of sophistication and competence, learning the relevant languages, and so on.

An initial, somewhat modest set of steps is to encourage MA and PhD students to take up the first suggestion, learning about philosophical work from outside the standard story in an area that is an AOS or an AOC. They might do this via directed reading groups, teaching their own courses on these topics or TA-ing for courses that faculty teach, or other mechanisms from your program that help to provide both time and support for those doing this. This has obvious non-instrumental benefits, but there also now is a significant demand for new faculty with competence or expertise in these areas. As Marcus Arvan documents, the number of jobs in ‘Non-Western’ Philosophy was roughly half what it was for all of Mind, Language, Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Logic combined.  Developing an AOS or even an AOC in these areas might really help students on the job market.

Of course, to do work in these areas in a serious way will be hard (even if not impossible) to do without more direct expert advising.  And there are very few people teaching in Philosophy PhD programs who are experts in these areas. This is not a trivial problem, given the current composition of faculty at most PhD programs in North America, the UK, Australia, etc. Most such faculties include no one who can advise a dissertation on these topics or traditions.  (To find those that can, or to find potential experts to consult, you might look to The Pluralist Guide for some of these areas, or to the discussion on Warp, Weft, and Way concerning graduate programs in Chinese Philosophy.) And although departments could hire away experts from some of the other institutions out there, this won’t address the overall numbers problem. (It still might be an important signal to the profession if more ‘fancy’ PhD programs were to do this.)

To address this concern, an obvious initial step is to look within one’s institution, as suggested above, to see if there is expertise on these philosophical topics outside of the philosophy department.

An additional obvious next step is to actually hire people who are experts and specialists on philosophy from outside the standard story. That’s not always possible, of course, but when one sits around in a department meeting thinking about what holes there are in the current program coverage, one should start to take these holes more seriously.

A somewhat less obvious step, but one that I think deserves more consideration and discussion, is to hire (at adequate compensation) experts from other institutions to teach mini-courses, give lectures, and perhaps serve as outside advisors for students at one’s institution.

The overall suggestion here is to do what one can to support PhD and MA students in becoming experts and competent teachers with respect to philosophical work outside the standard story.

(6) Hire People Who Know More of the Story

As some of the foregoing suggestions indicate, there are things that people should do even if they can’t bring experts in these areas into faculty roles in their department. But that is obviously an excellent thing to do if it is a possibility. Just as it is impossible for most graduate programs to be excellent in their coverage of every single area of even the standard story, it won’t be possible for graduate programs to cover all of these areas and philosophers. But departments can develop specializations and strengths in some of them, and if some of those are outside the standard story, that will do quite a lot to change the perception of the department and the field.

*  *  *  *  *

Many of these suggestions ask for some effort and even sacrifice on the part of current professors and graduate students in philosophy.  It’s worth talking about the reasons to see this both as beneficial and morally imperative. There are several reasons, and they do not compete, although they may differ in the degree and nature of force they provide.

The first is already obvious, I would expect: if one of the main reasons we tell the story we do through our philosophy curriculum and requirements is simply historical racism, we should do something about that. Continuing to do nothing, to just run out the exact same philosophy curriculum and to produce students with the exact same limited understanding of philosophy, is to both be complicit in that racism and to perpetuate it. Perhaps one thinks that racism plays very little role in the initial crafting of the story; it was, instead, just that people taught what they knew about and what was available to them. That just makes us doing nothing all the worse.  It is then our racism—or culpable negligence, or something close to that—that is keeping the story alive. Because work from all these traditions is, at this point, relatively easily available to us.

This is the kind of scolding reason. It’s also a problem: none of us like to be told that we have to do anything. That’s why we got into philosophy! It’s also a disaster! Because—in my experience—every person I’ve seen encounter ideas and arguments and thought experiments from these other traditions finds something there to be excited about. There’s something for everyone, whether one works in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, mind, language, political, social, logic, or anything else.

And it’s not surprising that it is exciting. It provides a new dimension of interest and even a kind of validation to see that people in considerably different sociohistorical circumstances might have also been thinking about some of the same things that keep you up at night. Comparative philosophy, whether across history or cultural difference or both, is tricky, and it is easy to be too quick to see commonality even when the reality might be more complicated. But it is undeniable that there are many common questions and concerns, and many interestingly different and interestingly similar ideas and arguments.

And for those of us interested in philosophical ideas, there is a more basic kind of excitement: meeting something new and beautiful and possibly bewildering that helps you understand something you are fascinated by and care about.

There are familiar arguments that racism is inefficient: by only considering people from one racial group for hiring, for example, one narrows one’s search in an arbitrary way, missing out on brilliance and ability for no good reason. Here, too, in the quest for philosophical truth, racism is inefficient.

If you think there are better and worse answers to philosophical questions, or even correct and incorrect answers to them, some worries emerge with the dominance of the standard story. The “streetlight effect” is the name of a kind of observational or investigational bias that occurs when people are searching for something but look only where it is easiest, rather than all the places where the thing might be (based on a story of a drunk person looking under the streetlight for his keys, even when he is pretty sure he left them in the enshadowed park across the street).

There are many reasons to expand the story we tell about philosophy. But a main reason is just that the best, most interesting, and even the correct answers to philosophical questions that interest us might be found anywhere. If we think there are genuine answers here, we should be concerned about parochialism. And we should be concerned about the streetlight effect.

To be a department of philosophy, we must change the story we are telling.

Related: When Someone Suggests Expanding the Canon, Philosophical Diversity in U.S. Philosophy Departments, End Philosophical ProtectionismTwo Models for Expanding The Canon, Bad Arguments Against Teaching Chinese Philosophy, Why Don’t We Study African Philosophy?


The Dunce Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 10:59pm in

Tennessee lawmakers attempt to rid schools of “divisive concepts.”

Book Review: Complaint! by Sara Ahmed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 10:03pm in

In Complaint!Sara Ahmed follows the institutional life of complaints within the university, exploring how they begin, how they are processed and how they are ultimately stopped, thereby reproducing systems of whiteness, violence and silencing. Proposing complaint as a feminist pedagogy and a form of collective and social action, Ahmed’s work should provoke change to a resistant institution and culture, writes Anna Nguyen

Complaint! Sara Ahmed. Duke University Press. 2021.

Book cover of Complaint!A few years ago, I leave my first position at a university. There, I dealt with external committees, whose mission statements mirror legal jargon, yet all conduct ‘informal’ procedural methods. I have grown tired of hearing the words ‘neutral’ and ‘good faith’. After I compile all the emails that I consider to be harmful and to exhibit asymmetries of power, these external members suggest that they can’t actually see any harm or toxicity. While I contemplated my next steps, a professor from a different university emailed me and warned that I should expect that professors will always take the side of professors. If I wanted to stay in the department, he suggested, I would have to find a way to ‘submit’ in the least humiliating way for myself. I didn’t take his advice, but I have never forgotten those foreboding words, especially now that I have heard from other professors that I should keep my head down and do my work. Never am I explicitly told that my wellbeing and status are tied to professorial power.

In On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Sara Ahmed had already begun an institutional ethnography on the language of diversity and how diversity and its initiatives are institutionalised performative acts. Rereading the book alongside Ahmed’s most recent monograph, Complaint!, and relating my own experiences above, the recurring issues she raises point to the radical need for deep structural change in universities. On the first page of her acknowledgements, Ahmed writes that she completed Complaint! during the COVID-19 pandemic amidst ongoing global cruelties and violence. She, like many others, has written that we can organise our worlds in other ways, that we can dismantle existing structures and build better alternative futures, noting wryly that a global pandemic shouldn’t have been the reason for this lesson to be learned (xi). But who is not learning these lessons? Or who has heard these complaints but has not tried to collectively help shape better futures?

Ahmed begins Complaint! by emphasising how ‘complaints are not heard or how we are not heard when we are heard as complaining’ (3). Those who follow Ahmed’s work will be well aware that she traces the genealogy of words – verbs, nouns, as subjects or as objects – and how their meanings may change depending on their uses. Complaining as a speech act may have negative connotations, but Ahmed draws our attention to complaint as a form of feminist pedagogy.

Ahmed does this by offering a ‘feminist ear’, a method she’s introduced in Living a Feminist Life (3): ‘to acquire a feminist ear is to become attuned to the sharpness of such words, how they point, to whom they point. To be heard as complaining is often attuned to sound, to how we sound, how we are heard as sounding, to how words sound, to how we sound, how we are heard as sounding, to how words sound, stories too’ (17). More specifically, Ahmed is observing complaints as testimony (13) and as ‘formal allegation’ (4) in the space of the university that, as I note in my own fragments and experiences, offers informal procedures that mimic legal language and formalities to avoid any real accountability.

Door with sign reading 'This Door Blocked'

Image Credit: Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

For this project, which she had already begun before resigning from her university post in 2016,  Ahmed’s institutional ethnography is based on interviews with 40 students, academics, researchers and administrators who were involved in a formal complaint process, including those who withdrew (10), eighteen written statements as well as conversations held in person, by email or by phone (11).

The first three sections of Complaint! follow the institutional life of a formal complaint: how they begin, how they are processed and how they are ultimately stopped. In Part One, ‘Institutional Mechanics’, Ahmed analyses the language, policies and procedures as well as other ‘nonperformatives’ (see also Judith Butler, 1993): institutional speech acts that do not bring into effect what they name (30, 80), such as nodding (80). Complaints follow a particular procedural pathway, and they are filed and placed in a record, a record that is not only indicative of what happens to a person but also what happens in institutions (38) – or what can be considered the ‘phenomenology of the institution’ (41). The mechanics of the institution not only tell us how institutions work by going through long procedural processes, but also how they reproduce these systems of whiteness, violence and silencing (99-100).

The complaints compiled in the book range from institutional violence (the focus of Part Three, ‘If These Doors Could Talk?’), racism and sexism, bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, ableism, precarity, the aftermath of challenging whiteness and the power structures of the university (‘the canon’ is a topic that obviously comes up), the paradox of committees on diversity and equality, silence and bribery (see especially pages 99-100) and lack of support, as evidenced by unkind reference letters for jobs post-graduate life.

A year later. I leave another university and department. I knew the procedures better than my then supervisor, who has never had a PhD student and never taught a class, yet he determines my work is not scientific and I write like a ‘political leader’. I disagree. He sends an email that states I would have a hard time if I continued writing as I do. And so I email him to end the supervisory relationship. His last words were that this was for the best and that I had to take advice from professors. More professorial wisdom. I still disagree with these sentiments. A dean whom I’ve never met asks to meet with me and discuss what happened via email. I never respond.

In the first chapter of the first section, Ahmed notes that some words already carry a complaint; ‘all you have to do is use a word like race and you will be heard as complaining’ (65). Words like ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unreasonable’ (17) I have also heard, by professors interpreting my own complaints. In the next section, ‘The Immanence of Complaint’, we see how ‘institutional blinds’ are lifted when complaints make violence visible; yet, acts of violence are also justified by what Ahmed calls ‘theoretical justifications’ (133). These theoretical considerations are themselves violent (134; read, too, an example of a Title IX case at Harvard University, where theoretical assumptions are harmful). Or, when discourse is contested, professors will hurl ‘you can’t handle criticism’ (126), which I also hear quite often, a phrase that requires a lot of elaboration in situations involving power.

In addition to the analysis of complaint as a method, Ahmed illuminates how institutions like the university are designed for precisely the people who can and continue to flourish while miming theoretical righteousness and perpetuating violent norms. Many of us know professors who fit this categorisation, those who perform critical analysis but insist on sovereign lecterns or using the traditional classroom space to ‘objectively’ teach. Ahmed astutely writes: ‘We learn not only from who is supported but from how they are supported, how ideals (such as academic freedom or criticality) can be reused to justify ways of speaking or acting that are not only the object of a complaint but what most universities say they are committed to opposing’ (135).

But it’s the third section of the book that is most troubling, especially for those like myself who feel that they have no other option but to leave while departments and the university continue with their everyday approach to research as business. A scholar’s or a student’s departure does not end institutional violence. As many of Ahmed’s participants shared, once they lodge complaints against their supervisors, there can be instant ‘institutional death’ (223).

Ongoing. I have been discussing a position with another department. I disagree with the role of the proposed supervisory arrangement, in which my would-be supervisor suggests I should satisfy her expectations for a dissertation. My writing should be legible to her. I make it clear that I welcome feedback with which I can engage and even reject, but I suggest that a dissertation is a project that I shape that does not belong to her expectations. I unflinchingly say the word ‘whiteness’ to discuss her arbitrary expectations and she then asks me to explain how I perceive the situation as racist or about whiteness. Before the conversation ends, I have already decided, once again, to leave.

It is difficult not to compare one’s own experiences whilst reading Complaint!, especially when I and others have seen many complaints go through institutional processes that led to nowhere or are ‘buried’, as one participant shared (38). Ahmed likens complaints to biographies that tell a particular life story, reminding us that data is as experiential as it is theoretical (18): ‘The term complaint biography helps us to think of the life of a complaint in relation to the life of a person or a group of people […] To think of a complaint biography is to recognize that a complaint, in being lodged somewhere, starts somewhere else. A complaint might be the start of something – so much happens after a complaint is lodged, because it has been lodged – but it is never the starting point’ (20).

Person surrounded by paper scattered on the floor

 Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

This observation makes space for the penultimate chapter of the concluding section. In Chapter Seven, other contributors wrote ‘Collective Conclusions’, detailing their first collaboration on a report on their department which documented the sexualisation and abuses of powers they witnessed or experienced during their studies (264). The role of lived experiences moves from individual problems to ones that confront structures. Complaint, then, becomes a form of social and collective action.

Ahmed’s last sentence is a gesture to a similarly framed sentiment about citations: that they are ‘how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured because we deviated from the paths we were told to follow’ (2017, 15-16). Complaint is complementary to citation, in that ‘a complaint can open the door to those who came before’ (310). Both concepts recognise the need for collectivity.

Some months have passed since Harvard’s letter scandal, one that captivated our attention because of recurring predatorial behaviours, professorial networks that sustain power and the role of ‘star scholars’. On Twitter, I saw scholars proclaiming the need to purge letter signatories from their citational practices, a statement that I find gestures to an individual response and practice rather than a structural one. And, of course, Ahmed’s work was in constant circulation, which I find both encouraging as much as it raises suspicion. This observation is not an indictment of Ahmed’s incredible work – I don’t think she needs to solve the problems on which she writes and reflects so thoughtfully. She, after all, has left the physical spaces of academia and continues to write without institutional support. But I question the role of citations and their strategically performative and nonperformative use by those who have power in universities.

Solidarity and actual institutional change must move beyond citations. Creating lists of important books to read to educate oneself is just a starting point. Creating Equality, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives does not actually include those who remain opposed to and harmed by the neoliberal university. White women proclaiming their departments as inclusive and safe spaces lack awareness. What, then, is the function of the university, these external committees and the role of a professor? I ask these rhetorical questions with Ahmed’s poignant gesture to the role of power in mind: ‘those who challenge how power works come to know how power works’ (47). Many of us have encountered these acts of power many, many times, and I’m certain we will see more demonstrations and manifestations of it despite what Ahmed’s work should be provoking, which is change to a particular but resistant institution and culture.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Banner Image Credit: Photo by ron dyar on Unsplash.


What Happened When France Sent Low-Income Kids to Wealthy Schools

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

In 2004, Maxence Arcy moved with his family to Bellefontaine, a poor suburb of the French city of Toulouse. Limited by what he could afford, the father of six bought a place on a sprawling housing estate in the neighborhood which had catchment schools with the worst educational record in the region.

“At the time, there were only Mahgrebians and Africans living on the estate and going to these schools,” says Arcy, who originally migrated from Morocco in search of work in 1984. “It was a kind of segregation in the 21st century.”

But in January 2017, local authorities closed those schools in France’s fourth biggest city and instead bussed the 1,140 affected pupils to high-achieving facilities in the prosperous downtown in an attempt to write a new chapter of education equality.

The theory, according to Georges Méric, president of the Haute-Garonne region that includes Toulouse, was that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” Put another way, by inserting the students from Bellefontaine and two other suburbs, La Reynerie and Mirail, into schools of proven success, social determinism would be countered and all children would benefit.

“There are districts in Toulouse with 90 or 95 percent immigrant populations,” says Méric, who helped develop the scheme. “They are very poor and opportunities are hard to come by. But the young children living there have the right to success in life.”

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Under Méric’s €56 million project, buses take the pupils — aged 11 to 15 — to nearly a dozen different schools in the city center in journeys that take less than an hour. The school principals and teachers are supported by six “social mix masters” who help facilitate logistics such as transport and tackle any problems that arise, such as dealing with parent concerns.

Five years on, the test results have been noteworthy. Before the bus scheme began, the drop-out rate for students living on the three estates after taking the Brevet — France’s national diploma for 15-year-olds — was almost 50 percent. That rate has now fallen to less than six percent and grades have risen by nearly 15 percent on average. Some 94 percent of pupils have stayed in the same school, calming fears that the scheme would lead wealthier families to move their children into the private sector.

“The welcoming colleges had a very good academic level already, that was important,” says Méric. “It’s worked very well. There has not been segregation in them and it’s promoting the wider acceptance of diversity across the city.” (Middle school is the U.S. equivalent of what is called college in France.)

Georges Méric, president of the Haute-Garonne regionGeorges Méric, president of the Haute-Garonne region, speaking about the school diversity project at a press conference. Credit: Aurélien Ferreira.

Eduardo Mosqueda, a professor who specializes in access to education at the University of California, Santa Cruz, acknowledges the successes of the Toulouse project. But, he says, consideration must be given to the amount of funding it requires. 

“I can’t help to wonder what the differences are in resources [that were] available to students in Bellefontaine compared to students in the schools where they are being bussed in terms of quality curriculum and adequately prepared teachers,” he says. “If the project to bus students costs €56 million, how much would student achievement improve if that money was invested into improving the schools that were closed?”

Even so, despite their poor academic performance, the Bellefontaine schools already had a high student to teacher ratio of around four to one, which came at a significant cost.

Mosqueda also believes bussing might lead to added pressures on pupils. “Students that are bussed are also in new school environments where it may be difficult to integrate given the racial, income, cultural and linguistic differences,” he says.

Yet Maxence Arcy’s 13-year-old son, Adam, who switched from a Bellefontaine school to one in Saint Aubin, has had few issues to date. “There’s a bus that comes to pick him up 200 meters from our house,” says Arcy. “He’s mixing with other students. He’s happy, he has improved his grades. He wants to be an engineer.”

For Arcy, the initiative is a textbook example of how to improve social diversity and the opportunities of future generations. “We were always for the project,” he says. “We wanted our child to see other nationalities and cultures. We were just concerned about the distance to the new school, but the bus works well.”

Adam ArcyAdam Arcy, a student from Bellefontaine who now goes to school near Toulouse’s city center. Credit: Maxence Arcy.

One crucial learning from the scheme has been the need for extensive dialogue between all parties involved. As many as 80 meetings, including 50 public meetings, were held before the bussing project was launched, helping address the concerns of those who voiced opposition to the project. 

The latter included parents worried about the distances the children would have to travel and a handful of teachers who were resistant enough to the idea of changes in the student makeup that they went on strike to try and prevent it.

“It wasn’t comfortable at the beginning,” says Méric. “There was resistance both through administration and the local level. But we listened to their concerns.”

These lessons could be invaluable, according to Malika Baadoud, director of L’École et Nous, a Bellefontaine-based parents association, given that schooling segregation is present across France and other countries. Often resulting from societal divides, she says, it has led to high dropout rates, school violence, racism and teacher burnout. “In certain areas of France, social and racial diversity simply doesn’t exist,” says Baadoud, who has held her role since 2003 and was last year awarded the prestigious National Order of Merit for her work. 

One of the initial concerns for parents whose children were set to be bussed further afield, according to Baadoud, was the fact that many families don’t own cars. But that was resolved by providing parents with free bus passes to travel from the estates to the schools to meet their children. “Slowly it was proved that all of these fears were unfounded,” says Baadoud. “They know it’s an opportunity for their children. It’s something that is unprecedented.”

The project is here to stay. Already this year two new schools have been built away from the estates’ traditional catchment areas in other, more privileged parts of Toulouse to ensure permanent social mixing in the classrooms and promote a more diverse staff. 

Encouraged by the results, several other cities and towns across France are now studying ways to launch their own bussing initiatives, according to Méric, with the Ministry of National Education helping to coordinate.

“Others have contacted us — regional departments and ministerial officials have come to see us,” he says. “I hope the scheme multiplies.”

The post What Happened When France Sent Low-Income Kids to Wealthy Schools appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Implicit Attitudes, Science, and Philosophy (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 12:03am in

“Philosophers, including myself, have for decades been too credulous about science, being misled by scientists’ marketing and ignoring the unavoidable uncertainties that affect the scientific process…”

The following is a guest post* by Edouard Machery, Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the university’s Center for Philosophy of Science. It is the first in a series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.

[Anni Albers, “Intersection” (detail)]

Implicit Attitudes, Science, and Philosophy
by Edouard Machery

How can we be responsible and savvy consumers of science, particularly when it gives us morally and politically pleasing narratives? Philosophers’ fascination with the psychology of attitudes is an object lesson.

Some of the most exciting philosophy in the 21st century has been done with an eye towards philosophically significant developments in science. Social psychology has been a reliable source of insights: consider only how much ink has been spilled on situationism and virtue ethics or on Greene’s dual-process model of moral judgment and deontology.

That people can have, at the same time, perhaps without being aware of it, two distinct and possibly conflicting attitudes toward the same object (a brand like Apple, an abstract idea like capitalism, an individual like Obama, or a group such as the elderly or women philosophers) is one of the most remarkable ideas to come from social psychology: in addition to the attitude we can report (usually called “explicit”), people can harbor an unconscious attitude that influences behavior automatically (their “implicit” attitude)—or so we were told. We have all grown familiar with (and perhaps now we have all grown tired of) the well-meaning liberal who unbeknownst to them harbors negative attitudes toward some minority or other: women or African Americans, for instance.

While it was first discussed in the late 2000s—Tamar Gendler discussed the Implicit Association Test in her papers on aliefs and Dan Kelly, Luc Faucher, and I discussed how implicit attitudes bear on issues in the philosophy of race—this idea crystallized as an important philosophical topic through the series of conferences Implicit Bias & Philosophy, organized by Jennifer Saul in the early 2010s at Sheffield. This conference series led to two groundbreaking volumes edited by Michael Brownstein and Jennifer Saul (Implicit Bias and Philosophy, Volumes 1 and 2, Oxford University Press). By then, philosophers’ fascination with implicit attitudes was in sync with the obsession with the topic in the society at large: implicit attitudes were discussed in dozens of articles and open-eds in the New York Times, by then President Obama, and by Hilary Clinton during her presidential campaign. We were lectured to be on the lookout for our unconscious prejudices by deans and provosts, well-paid consultants on “debiasing,” and journalists.

Most remarkable is the range of areas of philosophy that engaged with implicit attitudes. Here is a small sample:

  • Moral philosophy: Can people be held responsible for their implicit attitudes?
  • Social and political philosophy: Should social inequalities be explained by means of structural/social or psychological factors?
  • Metaphysics of mind: What kind of things are attitudes? How to think of beliefs in light of implicit attitudes?
  • Philosophy of cognitive science: Are implicit attitudes propositional or associations?
  • Epistemology: How should implicit bias impact our trust in our own faculties?

The social psychology of implicit attitudes in philosophy had also another kind of impact: it provided a ready explanation of women’s embarrassing underrepresentation and of the perduring inequalities between men and women philosophers. Jennifer Saul published a series of important articles on this theme, including “Ranking Exercises in Philosophy and Implicit Bias” in 2012 and “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat, and Women in Philosophy” in 2013. In the first article, after summarizing “what we know about implicit bias” (my emphasis), Saul concluded her discussion of the Philosophical Gourmet Report as follows:

There is plenty of room for implicit bias to detrimentally affect rankings of both areas and whole departments. However, it seems to me that this worry is much more acute in the case of whole department rankings. With that in mind, I offer what is sure to be a controversial suggestion: abandon the portion of the Gourmet Report that asks rankers to evaluate whole departments.

The British Philosophical Association was receptive to explaining gender inequalities in philosophy by means of implicit biases and to this day implicit attitudes are mentioned on its website. Of course, by doing so, philosophers were just following broader social trends in English-speaking countries.

Looking back, it is hard not to find this enthusiasm puzzling since the shortcomings of the scientific research on implicit attitudes have become glaring. In “Anomalies in Implicit Attitudes Research,” recently published in WIREs Cognitive Science, I have identified four fundamental shortcomings, which are still not addressed after nearly 25 years of research:

  • It isn’t yet clear whether the indirect measurement of attitudes (via, e.g., the IAT) and their direct measurement measure different things; in fact, it seems increasingly dubious that we need to postulate implicit attitudes in addition to explicit attitudes.
  • The indirect measurement of attitudes predicts individuals’ behavior very poorly, and it isn’t clear under what conditions their predictive power can be improved.
  • Indirect measures of attitudes are temporally unstable.
  • There is no evidence that whatever it is that indirect measures of attitudes happen to measure causally impact behavior.

These four shortcomings should lead us to question whether the concept of indirect attitudes refers to anything at all (or as psychologists or philosophers of science put it, to question its construct validity). To my surprise, leading researchers in this area such as psychologist Bertram Gawronski and philosophers Michael Brownstein and Alex Madva agree with the main thrust of my discussion (see “Anomalies in Implicit Attitudes Research: Not so Easily Dismissed”): indirect measures of attitudes do not measure stable traits that predict individuals’ behavior.

It thus appears that many of the beliefs that motivated philosophical discussion of implicit attitudes are either erroneous or scientifically uncertain—why worry about how to limit the influence of implicit attitudes in philosophy when they might not have any influence on anything at all?—and that philosophers have been way too quick to reify measures (the indirect measures of attitudes) into psychological entities (implicit attitudes).

Hindsight is of course 20/20, and it would be ill-advised to blame philosophers (including my former self) for taking seriously science in the making. On the other hand, philosophers failed to even listen and a fortiori to give a fair hearing to the dissenting voices challenging the relentless hype by implicit-attitudes cheerleaders. The lesson is not limited to implicit attitudes: the neuroscience of meditation, the neuroscience of oxytocin, the so-called love molecule, the experimental research on epigenetics in humans, and the research on gene x environment interaction in human genetics also come to mind.

Philosophers, including myself, have for decades been too credulous about science, being misled by scientists’ marketing and ignoring the unavoidable uncertainties that affect the scientific process: the frontier of science is replete with unreplicable results, it is affected by hype and exaggeration (COVID researchers, I am looking at you!), and its course is shaped by deeply rooted cognitive and motivational biases. In fact, we should be particularly mindful of the uncertainty of science when it appears to provide a simple explanation for, and promises a simple solution to, the moral, social, and political ills that we find repugnant such as the underrepresentation of women in philosophy and elsewhere and enduring racial inequalities in the broader society.


Seeking Feedback on “Good Practices Guide” – Part 4

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 10:51pm in

This is the last in a series of posts asking for comments on a draft “Good Practices Guide” for advancing diversity in philosophy.

The first in the series, published on Monday, concerned practices regarding sexual harassment, caregivers, and staff-student relationships; the second covered the sections of the guide on conferences and teaching; the third was about the sections on hiring and tenure evaluation.

Today’s post asks for feedback on the sections regarding journals, research projects, and learned societies.

Good Practice Policy: Philosophy Journals

Publication in philosophy journals plays a major role in the reputation and career progression of their authors, as—to a lesser extent —does participation in the selection process through membership of editorial boards, refereeing, etc. The recommendations below aim to ensure that, as far as possible, members of under-represented groups are not disadvantaged in either capacity by their identity. 

1. The editorial board should review the extent to which editorial and refereeing processes are anonymous. 

a. Where the process is not anonymous, the board should consider whether to introduce anonymity (philosophy journals with Interdisciplinary content are most likely to benefit from anonymized peer-review and editorial practices, while some data suggest that more prestigious philosophy journals benefit less – the data are not clear on why). 

2. Diversify representatives—editors, editorial board members, referees, trustees, staff, etc.—to include more people from under-represented groups (including philosophers residing in non-Anglophone majority countries) and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers, utilizing a diverse range of methods.

a. Commit to inclusion with influence. 

b. Ensure that member contributions are recognized and, where possible, appropriately compensated and rewarded.

3. Set specific, achievable targets to make progress in increasing diversity in authorship and content in your journal.

a. Consider publishing and promoting work by people from under-represented groups at least in proportion to their presence in the part of the discipline that your journal covers.

b. Consider including at least one special issue or symposium engaging with works by underrepresented philosophers or in underrepresented areas of philosophy in your journal.

c. Collect data on diversity relevant publishing practices, e.g. submission and publication rates for members of under-represented groups, referee and editorial board composition, etc. and track progress in increasing diversity in your journal.

d. Issue yearly reports on new commitments to diversity in the journals and report on progress towards achieving targets.

i. Consider including data on the journal’s demographics, makeup of editorial board, referee pool, authorships, and submissions. 

4. Implement promising practices to meet these targets and increase diversity in your journal, such as:

a. Solicit submissions of promising work by members of under-represented groups (PhilPeople might be a useful resource). When inviting authors, always bear in mind the importance of increasing diversity in the field (potentially via special issues).

b. Aim to include a fair representation of relevant work by members of under-represented groups.

c. Consider reserving more space for articles by members of under-represented groups to help meet specific targets.

d. Consider publishing more papers of interest to under-represented groups in philosophy and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers. This might include increasing the proportions of articles published in value theory, history, feminism, race, disability, and philosophical work in less commonly studied philosophical traditions.

e. Weigh the value of anonymity and non-anonymous editorial discretion, bearing in mind that evidence is mixed regarding the effectiveness of anonymous review in increasing diversity. Take special care to ensure that any non-anonymous parts of the review process do not omit or unfairly disadvantage authors from under-represented groups.

f. Attend to your regional context as well as the overall global context (e.g. the importance of including adequate geographical and indigenous representation in your journal).

5. Implement diversity-supporting referee practices, such as:

a. Encourage referees and authors to avoid using language that is insensitive to cultural differences or that inappropriately excludes or offends any group of people based on their ability/disability, age, ethnicity and race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, nationality, etc.

b. Encourage referees and authors to check that papers cite and discuss related work and that work by people from underrepresented groups have not been overlooked.

c. Request referees to not google paper titles or request that they alert the editor prior to refereeing the paper if they know or have a strong suspicion about who wrote it.

d. Encourage referees to not reject promising papers on grounds of writing quality, if the concerns are merely stylistic, can be repaired to an adequate level, and the philosophical content is good. This helps ensure fair consideration of work by philosophers who are not native speakers of English.

e. Encourage referees to consider accepting papers on topics of   under-represented groups in philosophy and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers. 

f. Encourage timely and developmental reviews, since members of vulnerable groups are especially disadvantaged by long delays before publication.

g. The editorial board should consider providing referees with an explicit editorial policy on refereeing

i. See, for example, the journal Cognition Referee Guidelines

6. Implement promising practices to increase accessibility in journals, such as:

a. Create structurally-tagged content.

b. Utilize text-to-speech capability for print-impaired users in the absence of an audio book.

c. Include a navigable table of contents within your publications, and provide a defined reading order (including, for example, appropriate links between the main flow of the text and any sidebar or box out text) to help those reading through audio to navigate their way through the article

d. Include Alt-text descriptions to explain illustrations for readers with reduced access to graphic information.

e. Give readers control over the font (size, style, and color), background color, and line spacing for online publications, and/or make them available in html.

f. Consider trying to make your journal more accessible for those in developing countries by making your journal open access in those regions.

g. Employ W3C web accessibility standards where feasible, and check for web accessibility.

7. Evaluate progress at regular intervals and revise practices accordingly.

a. Work with researchers to identify particular areas to improve for achieving better representation of authors and marginalized philosophies.

b. Isolate and implement evidence-based practices that increase diversity in the identified areas.

c. Identify barriers to making progress on achieving diversity targets.

d. Communicate, collaborate, and advocate to overcome identified barriers. Certain academic publishers have policies that hinder progress. Assertively engage with the issue where possible.

8. Officially adopt these diversity-promoting practices and widely publicize your journal’s targets and commitment to promoting diversity.

a. Inform all representatives and bind future representatives to uphold these standards.

b. Publicly and explicitly adopt diversity-promoting practices, helping to create a culture of concern that enhances the journal’s reputation for welcoming diversity, attracting more diverse submissions.

Good Practice Policy: Research Projects

Large-scale (and normally externally funded) research projects often engage in activities that fall within the scope of the Good Practice Policy – hiring staff, running conferences, and so on. We recognise that some such projects may wish to sign up to the Policy independently of (or in addition to) the departments of the project’s investigators; this document allows this by, in effect, pulling together the relevant recommendations from the other Good Practice documents. The term ‘management team’ below is used to refer to whoever takes overall responsibility for the project. This might be the PI, the PI together with co-investigators, so some larger group. 

Hiring Panels 

1. Management teams should make sure that members of hiring panels know about the workings of unconscious bias. (A good source of general information for hiring panels is here: wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/docs/BiasBrochure_2ndEd.pdf.)

2. Management teams should ensure that hiring panels (at both shortlisting and interview stages) include at least one, and preferably more than one, member of a marginalized group, unless there are exceptional practical reasons why this is impossible. But they should be aware that the presence of such members on the panel on its own will not correct for bias.

3. Management teams should agree specific hiring criteria (and their weighting) in advance and stick to the agreed criteria (and weighting).

4. As far as possible, management teams should strive to allow sufficient time for non-rushed consideration of job applications.

5. Management teams should consider ways of anonymising parts of their hiring process (e.g. by considering writing samples anonymously), and implement any ways of doing so that are practically feasible.

Conferences and Seminar Series

Management teams should implement all of the recommendations in the ‘Conferences and Events’ section of these Good Practice guidelines. 


Where members of the project team (including research students) have caregiving responsibilities, the management team should implement all of the relevant recommendations in the ‘Caregivers’ section of the document

Publication of Edited Collections 

Large research projects often produce edited collections as outputs. The editorial team should take steps to ensure that individuals from underrepresented groups are well represented amongst the contributors to any such collection. 

Advisory Boards, research Students, and Other Associated People

Where the research project involves the formation of an advisory board, visiting fellowships, PhD studentships, etc. The management team should take concrete steps towards ensuring that individuals from underrepresented groups are well represented amongst the members/applicants.

Good Practice Policy: Learned societies

As national bodies with some influence, especially when it comes to philosophy conferences and journals, learned societies are well placed to make a concrete difference to the representation of underrepresented groups in philosophy. We suggest that learned societies adopt the following policy. 

Executive Committee and Officers 

Learned societies should ensure that a reasonable proportion of underrepresented groups are nominated for positions on their executive committees and for official positions (President, Secretary, etc.). 


1. Where learned societies organize their own conferences and seminar series, they should follow the relevant Good Practice recommendations on Conferences and Events.

2. Where learned societies distribute funding to others to organize conferences and seminar series, they should make it a requirement of funding that the conference organizers follow the relevant Good Practice recommendations on Conferences and Events.

3. Learned societies should consider adopting a formal policy on chairing 20 seminars/conference sessions, for their own events and/or for those that they fund. See again the Good Practice recommendations on Conferences and Events, for some specific proposals you might consider implementing. 

4. Learned societies should monitor the proportion of individuals from under represented groups at conferences and seminar series that they fund. Where a conference or seminar series manifests an obvious imbalance, the learned society should make enquiries about the steps taken to promote representation, in order to satisfy themselves that appropriate steps were taken by the organizers. 

Campus Controversies and “Inclusion… in the Activity of Knowledge Seeking”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/04/2022 - 8:30pm in


culture, Diversity

Last September, when the Department of Philosophy at Rhodes College invited Peter Singer (Princeton) to participate in a webinar on pandemic ethics, faculty in other units on campus objected and urged that the event be canceled.

Despite considerable pressure from colleagues and a condemnation by the college administration of a vague caricature of Singer’s views about disability, the Department of Philosophy went on with the event (you can read all about this story here.)

[Paul Klee, “Before the Lightning”]

Recently, two of the Rhodes philosophers involved in that controversy, Daniel Cullen and Rebecca Tuvel, had the opportunity to discuss what it was like being on the receiving end of the campaign to cancel the event, what they were thinking and doing at the time, and their broader reflections on disputes of this kind, on the “Banished” podcast.

Despite polemical promptings from host Amna Khalid (Carleton), the philosophers are quite thoughtful in their discussion. Professor Cullen was particularly good, I thought, at making clear some of the concerns of would-be cancelers, though he disagrees with them in several important ways.

Here are two excerpts from his remarks during the podcast:

It’s a good thing that colleges and universities have become more diverse, and it’s true that in order to create a sense of community one needs to work at sending the message that everybody is accepted and welcome… And yet I think strangely what’s happened is that in our focus on this, we’ve lost sight of the point: “what is the community assembled for, ultimately?” That’s why I keep asking the question, “inclusion in what?” [32:47]

It’s my perspective… that the way to practice, in an intellectual community, inclusion, is to remain focused all the time on inclusion of everyone in the activity of knowledge-seeking, and that can’t proceed without controversy, and it can’t proceed without generating feelings of offense. But the idea that those feelings would be a conversation stopper is the conclusion I think that is manifestly indefensible, if we intend to remain an institution devoted primarily to seeking knowledge. [17:29]

I’m interested in us fleshing out what “inclusion of everyone in the activity of knowledge-seeking” involves, brainstorming strategies for grappling with potentially controversial inquiries that fit with the message that “everybody is accepted and welcome,” and how, if need be, to offend responsibly, so that feelings of offense are less likely to function as “conversation stoppers.”

Inclusion of the sort Professor Cullen mentions, it seems, isn’t achieved through mere invitation (consider, for example, an invitation to seriously entertain the idea of one’s own inherent inferiority), nor by merely telling the potentially offended to toughen up. Inclusion requires preparation, understanding, and care. Inclusion may only be achievable by structuring discussions or events in certain ways. It may require the cultivation of trust, or a supportive background culture, or supportive background institutions. Efforts at inclusion may be more successful as proactive rather than rearguard measures. And what else?

This is all very vague and speculative, I know, but I’m hoping to avoid the dynamic in which I make a specific suggestion in regard to a problem and then nearly all of the comments are about criticizing that suggestion. That’s not because I can’t take the criticism (if you think that, I only have one thing to say to you: “Welcome, brand new reader of Daily Nous!”). Rather, it’s because it would be useful to hear others’ ideas on this. So please share more specific and concrete suggestions for, or good examples of, “inclusion of everyone in the activity of knowledge-seeking.” More general discussion of the issue is also welcome, of course.

Philosophers Create “Pledge to Organize Online-Accessible Philosophy Events” Campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/04/2022 - 4:20am in

The Philosophers for Sustainability group has launched a campaign to get philosophers to pledge to “wherever possible to organize online-accessible research meetings.”

The pledge continues:

Such meetings may be organized either fully online or using a hybrid (online/in-person) model. In both cases, we will aim to make them accessible remotely by anyone who wishes to take part in them while fulfilling other requisite criteria, e.g. has had their paper accepted for a particular meeting, is a scholar in the relevant disciplines etc. We will offer such online accessibility to both presenters and participating audiences, from the start and for all academic presentations or aspects of the event. In doing so, we will take advantage of the accessibility features the online medium affords, such as closed captions, transcriptions etc. Finally, we will require no justifications or explanations of anyone who expresses their wish to take advantage of such online accessibility, nor will we charge unreasonable fees for their online participation.

The pledge is aimed at making academic philosophy “more sustainable, accessible, and inclusive, both globally and locally.” They elaborate:

Online accessibility makes it possible to include more fully a host of philosophy stakeholders whose participation is eminently desirable. Among them are low-income, disabled, neurodivergent, international, and migrant philosophers, caregivers, philosophers with dietary restrictions, and students and scholars with limited access to travel funds. Finally, online-accessible meetings make our practices of gathering to discuss academic ideas more sustainable by reducing expensive and environmentally harmful travel.

You can view the pledge and add your name to it here. Thanks to Filippo Contesi (Barcelona) for bringing it to my attention.

While I think making philosophy events accessible by making them at least partially online should be encouraged, ideally there would be a variety of philosophical events, including some that are not online at all, even if they could be.

Why think it’s valuable that there be some events that aren’t online at all? One might think it’s good if we can:

  • avoid the inhibitory gaze of the camera
  • minimize the prospects for potentially damaging contextless sharing via recordings
  • foster, through physical proximity, mutual attention, trust, and good will (see here)
  • encourage attendance at most sessions, and reap the benefits of that shared context in other sessions and discussions during the event
  • reduce the ways in which academic speech is monitored and directly mediated by corporations
  • arrange situations that make in-person accessibility more likely (having the option to offload accessibility to the internet may decrease conference organizers’ motivation to help resolve in-person accessibility issues for participants)

Additionally, because there is a value in in-person academic events, we may want to resist contributing to precedent-setting activity that hastens their elimination.

Let me briefly address a few possible objections:

“Not all in-person events have the advantages you’ve ascribed to them.” True. Big events (such as the Divisional Meetings of the American Philosophical Association) may not be any worse for becoming more accessible online. My argument is only that, for the types of meetings that would be better in some reasonable ways by not having an online option, it would be good if some of them did not have an online option.

“Some people, through no fault of their own, have neither the funding, time, or ability to attend in-person events. If events have an online option, these events will be more accessible to these people.” This is also true, and counts as a reason to have a lot of events be accessible via online means. But if I’m right about the goods of just-in-person events, we have reason to have some of those, too. My view is that it is good if we have both kinds of events.

“There’s nothing in principle impossible about there being events with substantial online components in which we get many of the goods of strictly in-person events.” True again. But I am not talking about what is in principle possible. I am talking about how things are likely to be, given my experiences and my understanding of people, and given how various events are likely to be organized. And online versions of these events are likely to be worse in some important ways. Yes, they will be better in some ways, too. So let’s endorse having a variety of types of events, from the completely in-person to the completely online.

“I don’t get anything extra out of attending conferences in person. The supposed value of entirely in-person events you’re talking about sounds like bullshit.” If this is what you think, then don’t go out of your way to attend entirely-in-person conferences. But do understand that people who are at least as smart and reasonable as you recognize the goods I’m talking about.

So what about the pledge? My hope is that a lot of people do sign it, so that it’s more likely that there will be many academic philosophy events that are more easily accessible to more people. Easy accessibility is good. But since it’s not the only thing that’s good, I won’t be signing the pledge, and I hope some other potential conference organizers refrain from doing so, too.

OUP’s Decision to Publish “Gender-Critical” Book Raises Concerns of Scholars and OUP Employees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/04/2022 - 4:45pm in

Two open letters are circulating regarding the decision of Oxford University Press to publish Gender-Critical Feminism, a forthcoming book by Holly Lawford-Smith, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Melbourne.One letter, posted by Eugenia Zuroski of McMaster University (who notes that it was “very much a collaborative effort”), is from “members of the international scholarly community with a relationship of some kind, or several kinds, to Oxford University Press,” including authors, reviewers, series and journal editors, translators, instructors who teach OUP’s books, and readers. In the letter they express their “profound disappointment” with OUP’s decision to publish the book. They note that they are not aiming to “censor ideas” and do not call for the decision to publish the book to be reversed.

Rather, they raise questions about the processes involved in the publication of the book, and call for OUP to answer those questions and take other measures (more on that below).

The authors are troubled by the book because, they write, “‘gender critical’ discourse attempts to deny transgender rights under the guise of scholarly inquiry,” and that it is

not a scholarly field, but a coordinated polemical intervention, unsubstantiated by peer-reviewed research in the fields of gender, sexuality, queer, and trans studies, that promotes itself by the deliberate sowing of public “controversy” without being held accountable for very real and dangerous consequences of these discourses for entire demographics of human beings.

They also note some of the things Lawford-Smith has said that make her, in their eyes, an “anti-trans-rights activist” involved in the “public mobilization of transphobic rhetoric and bigotry”:

In her public interviews and on her website, Lawford-Smith repeatedly describes trangender women as “men,” states that only transgender people have “gender identities” and that gender identities are not real, dismisses the transgender population as “fashionable,” and expresses support for conversion therapy, as well as other scientifically and ethically unconscionable views. Meanwhile, Lawford-Smith, through her YouTube channel and other outlets, has publicly dismissed gender-inclusive rhetoric as “propaganda” and maintained that the defense of biological sex is, in fact, a key rallying point of “gender-critical feminism.” Just last week, her home institution announced that it had to “counsel” her in response to a transphobic post on her social media account that ran “counter to the views and values of the University of Melbourne.”

They also refer to this episode.

They then turn to the editorial and publishing processes:

We are deeply concerned, based on our familiarity with the widely debunked tropes of “gender critical” discourse, that Lawford-Smith’s book promotes such distorted and unsubstantiated claims. Our previous experience with Oxford University Press leads us to wonder by what possible processes of in-house review, peer review, Editorial Board review, and even copyediting an entire book under the title “Gender-Critical Feminism” could have made its way to print. As it is being marketed under both Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities on the OUP website, in the fields of Philosophy, Politics, and Sociology and specifically in the interdisciplinary fields of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, we would expect a press of OUP’s reputation to incorporate the expertise of a wide range of specialists in feminist theory and gender and sexuality studies. Is this book positioned in productive conversation with, for example, OUP’s own recent Gender: What Everyone Needs to Know, and were its authors Laura Erickson-Schroth and Benjamin Davis, invited to participate as peer reviewers? Erickson-Schroth is also the editor of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource by and for Transgender Communities, a second edition of which is scheduled for publication in April. OUP has published the work of transgender authors in the past, and has connections to academic experts in this community should they choose to reach out. Especially given the direct invocation of trans studies in the title of Chapter 5, “Trans/Gender,” we would expect the due diligence of consultation with experts in that field, as well as rigorous copyediting by someone familiar with the editorial style guides developed by trans communities to ensure that published language does not reproduce forms of rhetorical violence directly connected to forms of systemic and material harm. Barring that, we might even simply ask, how is this text in alignment with OUP’s style guidelines for acceptable language, which asks authors to ensure that: “No form of language or expression has been used that could be interpreted by a reader as racist, sexist, derogatory of a particular religion or creed, or otherwise offensive?”

At the end of the letter, they turn to what they hope OUP will do:

We therefore request, as people whose names and intellectual labours are associated with Oxford University Press and its reputation, a clear and detailed account of what measures have been taken to ensure the scholarly quality of this forthcoming publication (while being mindful of the need to maintain reviewers’ anonymity), and what further steps the Press is taking to make itself accountable for the consequences of its publication should the book go forward to print. Measures the press could undertake to offset the harm done by the publication of this work might include soliciting and publishing trans-affirming scholarship by transgender authors, updating the house style guidelines to include specific guidance on language around transgender rights, donating a portion of the book’s profits to supporting transgender rights organizations, and/or developing editorial guidelines for the submission of works that challenge the human rights of any marginalized group. We recommend that these steps for accountability be undertaken in consultation with transgender rights activists and transgender scholars. We hope that this process can help guide OUP in editorial directions that affirm trangender peoples’ humanity and rights.

You can read the whole letter here.

The other letter is from people who are “Oxford University Press employees and authors.” In it, the letter writers say they are “asking management to reconsider their decision to publish this title.”

They write that

at a time when transgender rights are under attack, we believe that the publication of this book will embolden and legitimize the views of transphobes and contribute to the harm that is perpetrated against the trans community globally… We are asking OUP to prioritize the wellbeing of its trans employees, trans authors, and the trans community as a whole over the potential profit that this book may generate.

That letter is here.

(Comments are closed, at least for now, as much of today is full of teaching and meetings, and I have no time to moderate.)

UPDATE (4/12/22): Some have asked why this post does not include my opinion about these letters, and the boring answer is that I didn’t have time to write that part yet. Perhaps I will over the next few days. But briefly, regarding the first letter: it’s good that they’re not calling for the book not to be published, but still, it strikes me as the wrong kind of response to what we should acknowledge are real problems with current discourse surrounding the rights and treatment of trans persons (some of which are touched on in the letter). An important reason it’s the wrong kind of response is that the letter writers have not read the book they’re objecting to (even if they think they know what will be in the book, and even if they believe they have good evidence for that based on what I am sure is excruciating familiarity with a lot of public discourse on this topic and specific things Lawford-Smith has said). “But would people have to wait to read a book defending race-based slavery by someone who seems to be a racist before objecting to plans to publish it?” Good question. “But doesn’t that analogy ignore relevant differences between ‘defending race-based slavery’ and ‘defending ‘gender-critical’ views’?” Another good question. “Aren’t the letter writers just making sure proper procedures and review have been followed, which is something everyone wants?” Fair question. “But would such requests be prompted by plans to publish a book critical of ‘gender-critical’ views?” Not wholly unreasonable to ask… And so you can see why I haven’t had time to write the opinion part yet.