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Seeking Feedback on “Good Practices Guide” – Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/05/2022 - 8:00pm in


policies, teaching

This is the second of several posts soliciting 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.

This post includes the sections on conferences (and other events) and teaching. As before, suggestions, criticisms, and comments are welcome.

Good Practice Policy: Conferences and Events

1. When chairing a session ensure that the discussion is welcoming and inclusive.

a. Ensure that nobody contributes without permission and that no member of the audience interrupts others, is aggressive or rude, or takes up too much time of the discussion

b. Allow for a break between talks and Q&A sessions in order for participants to gather their thoughts and/or to have time to attend to their different needs.

c. Carefully select the order in which you call on questioners. Keep in mind that beginning the Q&A session with a member of an underrepresented group often leads to a more inclusive discussion.

d. Encourage the participation of those who are more reluctant to speak (e.g., graduate students, or people sitting in the back)

e. Do not allow questioners follow up questions if others have not been given a chance to speak or limit to one follow up.

2. As a member of the audience, be respectful of the speaker and the other people in the room.

a. Keep questions short. If you want further clarification or wish to expand on your point you may do so with the speaker in private after the talk or over email.

b. Try to ask constructive questions that will help the presenter. Set a respectful tone by thanking the presenter and acknowledge points made by previous questioners.

c. Try to read the room to assess whether your question will benefit the discussion.

d. Do not dominate the discussion—ask only one question per question and make that question as short and concise as possible.

e. Be mindful of your body language and what it signals.

3. Organizers should make every reasonable effort to make the conference as inclusive as possible.

a. Departments should ensure that this policy is available to staff and students who are organizing events in a permanent format (e.g., intranet, handbooks) and that they are aware of it.

b. Departments should, on a regular (e.g., annual) basis, monitor the proportions of members of under-represented groups at conferences and seminar series organized by colleagues within the department, and, if significant imbalance emerges, take steps to strengthen their policies.

c. When drawing up a list of potential invited speakers, take reasonable steps to ensure that sufficient representation (see also Implicit Bias).

d. Where possible, consult the members of underrepresented groups on your list before fixing the date of the conference, to ensure that speakers are not just invited but will actually attend.

e. Organizers should ensure that members of all groups are treated equally as speakers on publicity material and the conference program (e.g., to avoid the situation where a male speaker is described as ‘Professor in philosophy at …’ but a female speaker, also a Professor, is described as ‘teaches philosophy at …’; or where the male speaker’s title (Dr, Prof.) is included by the female speaker’s isn’t).

f. Where possible try to include local scholars.

g. Signal willingness to accommodate scholars with disabilities or other particularized needs.

i. Provide in the call for papers/conference announcement information such as what kinds of accommodations you will be able to provide in order to enable and encourage scholars to attend.

ii. Whenever possible, do not require participants to disclose their needs as that can make them feel that they are a burden on the conference organizers.

iii. Ensure that they are made to feel at ease to ask questions about accommodations.

h. Ensure that the venue of the conference is accessible and that there is staff to assist people with disabilities.

i. Ensure that speakers and attendees know whom to contact to address any questions or needs that may arise.

j. Ensure there are sufficient breaks within the day, and stick to the announced schedule for these breaks.

k. Be aware of implicit biases when thinking of who to invite.

i. Chances are that the first people that come to mind will be people without historical disadvantage.

ii. Consider invitations to junior and less well-established philosophers from underrepresented groups to avoid holding these philosophers to higher standards  (e.g., women must be famous, but not so men). See the Up Directory for possibilities.

l. When possible, offer funding to members of underrepresented groups and those with specialized needs. Underrepresented groups may well be at lower-prestige institutions and/or in lower-ranked jobs. They may therefore have less access to institutional funding. If you cannot fund all speakers, ask bigger-name speakers whether they can fund their own travel (they can always say no), freeing up resources for less well-known speakers.

m. Offer free registration rate for a companion assisting an attendee with a disability and abide by all other ADA policies.

n. When possible, have a quiet room for rest. This is important for a range of disabilities and for participants who have medical needs or are breastfeeding etc.

o. Investigate whether the provision of childcare facilities for the duration of the conference is possible.

i. Many universities have day care facilities on or near campus, which may be able to offer a day rate for conference delegates.

ii. For larger conferences, if campus facilities are not available consider hosting the conference at a hotel that offers childcare and babysitting services.

iii. Consider setting aside funding to subsidize the use of childcare facilities by delegates.

iv. Be mindful of who is and who isn’t asked to care for children (see Implicit Bias).

p. Encourage speakers to make their material accessible to all participants and make sure you know how to operate equipment in order to help speakers.

q. If there is food served, make sure to collect information about any relevant dietary restrictions of conference participants.

Good Practice Policy: Teaching

The aim of these practices is to make teaching effective and inclusive. With this aim in mind the following guidelines focus on classroom dynamics and management in order to foster a sense of community in the classroom conducive to learning and critical and creative thinking in the class. Consider suggesting some or all of the following.

1. Aim to increase the diversity of authors included in syllabi. Consult resources but also colleagues and the students themselves for suggestions.

2. Departments should ensure that those involved in teaching know about the workings of implicit bias. Information about and discussion of implicit bias should be included in any training or induction sessions run by the department for staff, including teaching assistants.

3. Make the aims of each class clear at the outset. Set the tone for a collaborative, creative and inclusive class.

4. Whenever possible, get students to introduce themselves. Try to remember their names (with correct pronunciation) and preferred pronouns and expect their classmates to do the same.

a. Consider having students fill in questionnaires about pronouns, disabilities and questionnaires to make the process easier for students.

b. Allow students to opt out of divulging personal information they prefer not to share.

5. Treat students as individuals and not as representatives of a category, e.g., “LGBTQ”, “African.” Do not assume that the person’s place of origin, for example, makes them an expert on that particular place.

6. Seek participation from everyone and encourage those who are more hesitant. Give everyone a chance to talk.

a. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in class.

b. Ensure that students understand how to participate in class discussion.

c. Make sure no one dominates class discussions.

d. If a student is more advanced, ensure to give other participants the background knowledge required to understand the discussion.

e. Encourage questions of clarification.

f. Jokes, thought experiments and examples should resonate with the whole class and not only a subgroup within the class. If that is not possible, explain them to everyone.

g. Try a variety of teaching techniques and classroom activities to stimulate class discussion and to encourage student participation in ways they are more comfortable with (e.g., some students struggle with speaking in front of the entire class but do well in small groups).

h. Consider how implicit bias may affect your interaction with students and try to be as just and equitable as possible – this includes time given to the students to talk in class but also the distribution of negative and positive feedback.

7. Encourage students to address each other thus fostering politeness and collaboration in class.

a. Encourage students to listen carefully to their interlocutor.

b. Encourage students to help each other in class to develop ideas, contribute their knowledge and so on.

c. Make sure that students are respectful and courteous.

d. Quickly address language that is insensitive, dismissive, aggressive or rude

e. Create an environment in which students can discuss their experiences and identities without being treated as though those experiences and identities define them.

8. Ensure that students are informed about available services for students (e.g., counseling, disabilities, studying support).

9. Ensure that all aspects of the class are accessible to everyone – for instance, that classrooms are big enough and accessible by wheelchair, that there are captions in videos, that extra time and private rooms are available for students that need them during exams.

10. Encourage feedback on the class and involve students in suggesting ways to improve it.

11. In graduate student placement, make every effort to familiarize your placement officer with issues that candidates from underrepresented groups or with disabilities face.

a. Meet early and often with students.

b. Actively encourage students to talk about these issues and try to find effective ways to address them.

c. Make sure that everyone is aware of protocols and responsibilities for reporting problems in these areas.

d. Consider creating a team of placement mentors covering a range of sub-disciplines.

e. Actively support students during their job search.

f. Maintain a collection of job search materials that is accessible to all graduate students.

g. Make available to students resources that can enable them to have effective electronic interviews. (e.g., rooms for interviewing with high speed internet connection)

h. Encourage students to become members of professional societies and consider making funds available to help subsidize such memberships.

i. Prove financial support to students who need resources to lessen the financial burden of the job market (traveling, dossier services, child care etc.)

Philosopher Wins State-Wide Teaching Award in Texas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 7:30pm in


award, teaching

Manuela Alejandra Gomez, professor of philosophy at El Paso Community College (EPCC), was named a 2022 Piper Professor, an honor bestowed by the government of Texas to recognize excellence in teaching.

The Piper Professor Program, launched in 1958, aims to reward “outstanding professors from two and four-year colleges and universities, public and private” for their “superior teaching at the college level.”

According to a press release from EPCC, the Piper Professorship “is one of the most prestigious, state-wide awards for teaching excellence in higher education.” It includes a $5000 prize.

Professor Gomez specializes in philosophical pedagogy, ethics, feminism, and Latin American philosophy. A former student says she “embodies hope, resilience, hard work, and excellence.” In addition to her work in the class, according to EPCC, Professor Gomez

also helps [students] outside of the classroom with community work and is the faculty sponsor for the extracurricular student Philosophy Club. Gomez and her students have raised more $40,000 for community projects as well as held drives for clothing, sewn masks during COVID and other projects.

Regarding the award, she says:

Being selected as one of the best professors in the state of Texas is a huge honor to me because there are not many women in philosophy, much less women from the U.S.-Mexico border. As a philosophy professor at EPCC, the same institution where I first learned English as a second language decades ago, I get to encourage my students to be critical, to seek justice, and to discover the power of putting philosophy into action to improve our community. Most of my academic research and philosophical pedagogy focus on creating a representation of diverse voices in philosophy and including those who have been neglected. Through the years, I have found that philosophy is a dynamic tool for healing and transformation.

You can read more about Professor Gomez here.

Encouraging Participation in the Classroom

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/04/2022 - 10:08pm in

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” an advertising slogan for Las Vegas tourism, has been adopted by a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College as a motto for one of his courses, as a way of creating a “safe space” for students who might be worried about their comments in class getting taken out of context, or showing up on social media.

Knowing that “what happens in Government 137B, stays in Government 137B” couldn’t be the sole norm of classroom discussion, there are others that Jon Shields asks his students to adopt: “Some (like being respectful and listening to others attentively) are not objectionable. But others arguably are. For example, I also encourage my students to assume that their peers are making arguments in good faith,” he writes in The New York Times.

Professor Shields thinks that worries about being labeled a bigot are what inhibit students from speaking their minds. That may be true some of the time, but my sense of my students is that they’re more concerned about being unkind to each other. They’re also sometimes nervous about sharing their own opinions on difficult issues out loud, regardless of their content, because they’re just not used to doing so. They’re still learning what they think, how to express their views, and how to argue well (including how to make distinctions that might help them express their views more carefully). And like most people, they have to overcome the hesitation captured in the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

So what do you do to encourage your students to speak in the classroom, especially on challenging or controversial issues?

Book Review: Subversive Pedagogies: Radical Possibility in the Academy edited by Kate Schick and Claire Timperley

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/04/2022 - 8:00pm in

In Subversive Pedagogies: Radical Possibility in the Academy, Kate Schick and Claire Timperley bring together contributors to explore teaching as a subversive space of radical possibility, drawing attention to pedagogies that are situated, embodied, caring and decidedly political. Judith Leijdekkers and Sander Hölsgens offer a conversation around the book, reading the collection as an invitation for fellow pedagogues to scrutinise, transform and resist the … Continued

Comparatively Lower Grades in Philosophy Courses: Facts, Explanation, Effects, Fixes?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/03/2022 - 9:00pm in

Informal conversations with students and professors suggest that it is harder to get a higher grade in philosophy courses than in courses offered by many other departments.

One chair of a philosophy department writes in an email, “I look at grades every semester (one of the joys of being chair) and our dept’s are lower than any others, mainly b/c fewer A+’s and as many B’s as A’s. Other depts are inflating like crazy!”

There are a few questions it would be useful to hear from readers on:

  1. At your university or college, are philosophy department grades lower than most other departments? (—especially, but not exclusively, other departments in the humanities?)
  2. If the answer to (1) is Yes, what do you think explains this?
  3. What do you think are the effects of the perception (and perhaps reality) that grades in philosophy courses are comparatively lower? (The chair who wrote in said, on this point, “I worry it hurts us getting majors, perhaps esp with the honors students.”)
  4. What, if anything, ought to be done in light of the perceived or actual lower grades in philosophy courses?

Discussion welcome.

Adventures in Teaching First Year Students.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 7:55pm in

Last week I met with a student, B, who took my class as a freshman in 2007, and was making a brief visit from Australia, where she has settled. Shortly after her freshman class ended she made a suggestion to a classmate, which has been rather fateful for me. She’s forgotten that it was her suggestion.

My university has a program called First Year Interest Groups (FIGs). The design is simple: 20 students opt into a 20-person seminar with a specific theme, and are required to take two other, thematically linked, courses in other departments. B took my first offering, in Fall 2007 on the topic Children Marriage and the Family. (Students also took a sociology course on marriage and the family, and an Ed Psych course on human development.) I would see them all in class twice a week, but they would see each other 5 additional times a week. Students opt into the program, but first generation students and students from low-income backgrounds and other underrepresented groups are heavily counselled into them, so participate disproportionately present. About 20% of the incoming first year students participate.

I’ve written a bit elsewhere about how dreadfully I taught that first FIG, and how the experience influenced my pedagogy in the classroom. It has had just as much influence on my interactions with students beyond the classroom.

Teaching a FIG comes with an expense account of $1000. You can use the money however you like, within reason: research, field trips, whatever. I was telling a friend who was a senior administrator that I didn’t know how to spend it (field trips in Philosophy?), and she suggested, “take them out to dinner: students love free food.” I thought it might be nice to do that in February, a couple of months after the class ended. So I did, and all the students attended. It was fun.

A couple of days later I saw one of the students, let’s call her Emma (more about Emma here). She said that as they walked home together B commented that it would be nice to have another class together, maybe in junior year. When I saw her the next day Emma asked me if that would be possible. I couldn’t see a way of doing it on my regular schedule, but it would be easy enough to teach an extra class in the fall of their junior year. If I taught it for free, on top of my regular classes, I would feel fine restricting enrollment. I’d also feel fine if it didn’t fill. So in Fall 2009 about 10 of them took the additional class. It was exciting for them. But it was also exciting for me. Seeing how they had changed and developed, both as people, and intellectually, over the previous couple of years. And, of course, getting to know them in a way that is difficult when you just see people for a single 15-week stretch. One student in particular had been close to silent as a freshman, but had really come out of herself in a way that amused the whole class. It was like having a different person in the room. [1]

I taught the class again in 2010, during the school year at the end of which the 2007 cohort graduated. By then I knew several of the 2007 students pretty well. One had encountered pretty traumatic and difficult hurdles, and I had helped her get over them; we’re still friends. As detailed in this piece Emma came to the 2010 class once a week to coach my pedagogy and, of course, got to know the 2010 students.

Emma had also identified a problem for the FIG students.

When we were in the FIG we all saw each other 6 times a week, and really got to know each other, and you. It was like high school, but with intellectual rigor, and on a huge campus, so gave us a sense of belonging. But then, in the spring, we were all exclusively in 300 person lectures where we couldn’t get to know our classmates, and our professors had no interest in us.

She made two suggestions for mitigation. First, in October, when the timetable is published, create space in class for students to look at it and work out how to take classes together in clusters of 2-4 (or more). Second, she pointed out that every spring I teach a large-lecture applied ethics course that is entirely intellectually accessible for first year students. Her suggestion was that I add a discussion section that I would lead, just for the FIG students, and that she would encourage the FIG students to sign up for it (she would encourage them so that they would not feel pressure from me). So we did that: about 15 of them took it. And, then, when they were juniors, I offered a class just for them, which only about 8 of them ended up taking.

When the 2010 group were seniors (Fall 2013), I taught another FIG. Two of the 2010 group attended those classes, one to criticize my teaching, and the other to act as a sort of peer mentor to the first years. Almost everyone in the 2013 group took my large lecture in the spring.

In 2015 I taught a junior level class for the 2013 group and then, in 2016, I taught the FIG again, with four of the 2013 group attending to peer mentor. So I had settled into a pattern: teach the FIG once every three years, teach a discussion section for them in a large lecture class during the subsequent spring, teach a full class for them in fall of junior year, and, sometimes, run a reading group in the semester during which they graduate. If you do that then you end up getting to know a substantial group of students pretty well.

My department and the program would allow me to teach the FIG more often, but realistically I lack the bandwidth to be fully accessible in the way I want to be to the students over the course of their undergraduate career. And that was the big change in my professional life. Usually I’d get to know students in their junior or senior year, usually philosophy majors, and only occasionally might get to know a first year student and keep up with them because they became a major. But now I was getting to know a swathe of 20 first year students, few of whom had any interest in majoring in Philosophy, and with whom I’d keep in touch throughout. I found I could keep track of about 20 at a time, with 3 year spacings.

About half the times I have taught the junior course as an unpaid overload, but the other half of the times I have been allowed to teach it as part of my normal course load, and filled it by topping it up with non-Fig students. In 2019 so many of the 2016 students wanted to be involved in mentoring that I formally allocated each 2016 student to 2 or 3 2019 students. Several would come to each class session, which enabled me to deploy them to monitor small group discussions. This makes those much more productive and provides me with quick information about how good/bad my discussion prompts are, whether I am providing enough/too much time for the small group discussions, which students might need more encouragement, etc, as well as giving the first year students access to a lot of advice that, frankly, I can’t give. I anticipate the same uptake from 2019 students next fall.

Some of the consequences are charming. A 2010 student and 2007 student were bridesmaids at each other’s weddings, and are close friends (they met through the FIG connection). Two pairs of 2007 students (that I know of) are lifelong friends. I just heard from two of the 2016 students who live together in Hawaii (they barely spoke to each other in class). Several other 2016 students, all of whom graduated during covid, are close friends with one another. Those who are not always want to hear about the others when they talk to me. I was recently at the wedding of a 2013 student in Door County, and her photographer (completely unbeknownst to her) was a prior FIG student of mine. One of the few who subsequently majored in philosophy took the FIG because her sister (who hated philosophy) had taken it 6 years previously. Four girls in her cohort majored in Philosophy, and they led the students in the major for a few years.

But some of the consequences are more serious. Obviously, in a group that large, over a 4 year period a number of them face real challenges, some of which seem insurmountable to them. I think they know – well, I know they know – that they can ask for help, and that they trust me to give it. Early on one student thought she needed to drop out because she was failing a class, but if she dropped it her financial aid would lapse: I was pretty confident that she was wrong, and made her see a financial aid counsellor who solved the problem.

Another is amusingly grateful to me because when she was having a series of panic attacks I told her to invite another student out for lunch, who, as I anticipated, provided the ballast she needed: they’ll be lifelong friends. Another stopped coming to class, and, after me chasing her up a few times, it became clear that she was not going to any classes, and on the verge of dropping out. My (possibly reckless) advice included taking, in second semester of freshman year, a very hard upper-level class with one of my most rigorous and demanding colleagues: she flourished in that class, and although I wouldn’t say she enjoyed college, I’m pretty sure that she’s in a better place than if she’d dropped out.

Another wanted support navigating an issue in student politics (around a political issue concerning which she knew there was a good chance I would disagree with her). I helped her figure out exactly what she wanted, and then connected her with the student politician whom she was upset with, knowing that she would get a satisfactory outcome. His immediate reaction when she talked to him, was “I’ve fucked up, I am sorry, what you’re asking for is completely reasonable, can I just apologise to you and do what you’ve requested?” [2]

A number of stories are too personal for me to feel comfortable sharing in print, even with details changed to protect anonymity; but many of them involve simply being sympathetic, listening, smiling at people while they cry in my office, and getting them to the agencies that can provide professional support, which, often, they just don’t realize are there. I’ve convinced several more students not to drop out (all of them ended up enjoying college and being very successful). I failed with one, who dropped out at the end of her freshman year; I encouraged her to stay, but I knew it wasn’t going to work. She says, many years later, that having someone to talk to regularly over that dreadful year was a lifeline. She’s doing well. One student, who never had any problems at all, said that she enjoyed college more knowing that if something did go wrong she had someone to tell about it straightaway. And that she could send her friends my way (which she did).

Our outgoing Chancellor told me a few years ago that when she was an assistant professor at the university she’s about to return to as President, she was assigned a random 17 students every year with whom she had to meet and keep in touch over the course of their first year; basically as a point person. I figured at one point that 1:17 is round about the ratio that would work at Madison; if each faculty member had a conversational relationship with about 17 undergraduates then every undergraduate could have some faculty member with whom they have a conversational relationship. That doesn’t seem an unreasonable expectation really: I had maybe 5 faculty members throughout my undergraduate years with whom I could chat casually and, if necessary, in a lot of depth. Of course, not everyone is well equipped to provide this kind of support, so it seems reasonable to expect someone like me, who is well positioned, to take on more than 17 (average of 25 through the FIG program, plus another 10-15 students at any given time who know my door is fully open to them).

Of course this is all voluntaristic. It doesn’t solve the systematic problem of the anonymity of the student experience at the large research university. It’s not supposed to. Nor does it solve the problem of anti-intellectualism in the student body. It’s not supposed to. It just mitigates those problems for a handful of students. And of course it carries costs for me: primarily the time costs of teaching extra classes from time to time, and chatting to and getting to know people. And the letters of recommendation, which I imagine I write more of than average (but who would ever know, because I have no idea how many other people write, because we never talk about it!).

But I’m extremely privileged: my job is secure, I have enormous control over how my time is used, and my regular course load (2 courses/semester) is sufficiently light that adding an extra course here and there leaves me plenty of time for research and committee meetings. And of course there’s lots of reward! Students have lots of successes, and it’s a joy to learn of those. And, perhaps, even more of a joy to see them enjoying one another’s successes (I was recently chatting after class with two students who, I knew, had just had very major professional successes, and got to see the thrill on each of their faces as they heard about the other’s). It’s so much easier to teach people well if you know them. You can much more efficiently calibrate the level of challenge to what those specific students need at that particular stage of their intellectual development. You can create discussion groups that are more productive, because less randomly chosen. Far less time needs to be spent establishing the level of trust a classroom needs to foster productive discussions about difficult issues. And I think seeing how particular groups of students changes intellectually over a 4-year period has enabled me to intuit quicker and better where other students are in their development when I teach them.

It wasn’t actually the meeting with B that prompted me to write this. Last Fall I met a few times with a student who had graduated in 1998, having taken the first, really disastrous, course I taught for freshmen (not in the FIG program which didn’t exist then) in 1994. She remembers feeling lost and disoriented during her first two years of her undergraduate degree, and getting help from me in reorienting herself. She asked about my career, and after I described the FIG experience, which I suppose has been the highlight, she told me to write it up for others to read. And emulate, if they have the energy, and are similarly privileged.

I’ll end with a moment that I really valued. Toward the end of one of the junior year classes a black, working class, student countered something I had said with an argument I couldn’t respond to. I hesitated, and then said “I don’t know how to respond to that”. Her response was instantaneous and joyous: she punched the air and cried “Yes! I’ve never done that before!” If she had just had the normal one-semester experience she’d never have had that moment because for her, at least (as for me when I was her age), one semester just wasn’t long enough to have learned the habits of mind that enabled her to do that.

[1] We read Our Underachieving Colleges by Derek Bok. I asked them one thing they had learned from the book and the previously silent student jumped in “Well, I learned why it is that our education sucks”

[2] “My friends asked me, ‘why are you going to talk to your philosophy professor? How is he going to help. What if he’s on the other side?’. I said “I don’t know. I don’t know what side he takes on this issue, but I know that he’ll be on my side and will help me find a resolution”.

SDSU Reassigns Philosophy Professor for Mentioning Racial Epithets in Courses on Racism, Critical Thinking

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/03/2022 - 12:11am in


race, Racism, teaching

The administration of San Diego State University has stripped J. Angelo Corlett, professor of philosophy at San Diego State University, of his critical thinking course and his course on race and racism this semester, following lessons in those courses in which he provided examples of racial epithets.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

Corlett told The San Diego Union-Tribune he used an informational slide in both classes that listed 10 to 12 epithets that have been used against Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian and White people.

“You have to mention the words in order to explain why they are racist and should not be used,” said Corlett, a 63-year-old Latino. “Some students are confused about what counts as racism. And some are more concerned about being offended than learning about the logic and science of language.”

On March 1, an unidentified Black student, who was not registered in Corlett’s critical thinking course, stopped by and repeatedly challenged Corlett’s mention of epithets, particularly one regarded as the most offensive slur against Black people. Corlett said he responded to the visitor, in part, by verbally mentioning epithets to illustrate the nature of the lesson. He claims that he did not encourage his students to do the same.

Later that day, Corlett was notified by the university that he would not be teaching the two courses for the rest of the spring semester. He is still teaching a course on political philosophy…

Corlett says that he has used this teaching technique at SDSU for about 20 years and notes that he has written widely on the subject, including publishing the book “Race, Racism & Reparations.”

“I am not a racist. I neither mention nor use racial epithets beyond the classroom,” Corlett said.

Luke Wood, SDSU’s vice president for student affairs and campus diversity, told the newspaper:

We have had a number of students who have come forward and who’ve complained about their experience in Professor Corlett’s classes… This has happened this semester but has also been a routine experience. … We took that into account… This is really a case of a faculty member who is being reassigned… This is not about free expression or academic freedom, but about teaching assignments… This was about actions, not about freedom of expression.

Since professors’ academic freedom extends to their teaching, it is unclear why Wood would think that the university’s removing of Corlett from his classes based on a lesson he taught is not about academic freedom.

The Tribune did not report which administrator at SDSU was responsible for the decision to violate Professor Corlett’s academic freedom. Perhaps further reporting will reveal whether it was Dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, Monica Casper, Provost Salvador Hector Ochoa, or the university’s President, Adela de la Torre.

Corlett, whose research includes work on philosophy of race and racism, along with writings on a range of topics in moral and political philosophy and epistemology, has not been told by the university what he will be asked to do in lieu of teaching the two courses.

UPDATE: The Academic Freedom Alliance has sent a letter to San Diego State University concerning its administration’s decision to remove Professor Corlett from his courses. An excerpt:

There is no question that the removal of Professor Corlett from the classroom is a form of university sanction. It is also quite obvious that removal or “reassignment” of Professor Corlett in specific response to controversial but instructionally germane material that Professor Corlett introduced into his classroom is not just relevant to his academic freedom but a grievous violation of his academic freedom.

UPDATE (3/11/21): Professor Corlett has written an open letter explaining the teaching that supposedly precipitated the administration’s violation of his academic freedom (via Leiter Reports).


Sharing What You Love

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/02/2022 - 10:19pm in

Several years ago, I was explaining to a colleague the challenges I was having in teaching my class on content area reading and writing. For those that are not literacy educators, this is a class that is taught to (primarily) middle grades and secondary teachers across different content areas (math, science, social studies). In this class, we identify ways to have students read, write, and communicate in their coursework. I usually receive a fair amount of negative evaluations in this course as students did not see the value in embedding reading and writing (or heaven forbid writing poetry) in their classes. They did not learn this way…and they most definitely would not teach this way.

My very wise colleague indicated that I should focus on identifying why pre-service teachers in my class love their field or discipline. From there, embedding literacy practices in the classroom is all about helping to share a love of the discipline with students.

This is not just about helping to build a love of specific content with students. Yes, you could inspire them to pursue a career in microbiology, but this also includes the need to share the knowledge, skills, and dispositions important to the discipline. In plain English, you are sharing not only content in your math course, but you’re also showing students how a mathematician thinks, reads, learns and views the world.

Teaching is all about sharing what you love.

Why do you love your field or discipline?

How can we help you convey that love to others?

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

The post Sharing What You Love first appeared on Dr. Ian O'Byrne.

Philosophy Reading Group “Blueprints” & What’s Not Taught at University

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/02/2022 - 9:00pm in

Students and others may be interested in a philosophical topic, yet not have access to a course on it. One option is for them to form a reading group, but it’s not always easy to figure out what to read, in what order, what to pay attention to in the readings, what questions to discuss, and so on. Now there’s a new resource that provides “blueprints” for readings groups on a range of topics, focusing on ones not especially well-covered by universities.

Reading Group Blueprints are now available from the Diversity Reading List in Philosophy (DRL). They include thoughtfully selected and arranged readings, videos, and podcasts, accompanied by comments and questions to guide the participants. And it is all freely available.

So far, there are blueprints for the following topics:

  • Feminist Philosophy (by Anne-Marie McCallion, funded by AHRC)
  • Native North American Ethics (by Sonja Dobroski and Quentin Pharr)
  • Philosopher Queens: Women in Philosophy and the History of Exclusion (by Rebecca Buxton, with thanks to Alix Dietzel)
  • Sex, What is it Good For? (by Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore, funded by The School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies, University of St Andrews)
  • The Wartime Quartet (by Ellie Robson, Sasha Lawson-Frost, Amber Donovan, Anne-Marie McCallion, with special thanks to Clare MacCumhail and Rachael Wiseman)
  • Postcolonial Theory, Race and Caste (by Suddha Guharoy and Andreas Sorger, funded by AHRC)
  • African Languages and African Philosophy (by Sara Peppe and Björn Freter)
  • Reclaiming the System: New Visions for a Future of Work (by Deryn Mair Thomas, funded by The Future of Work and Income Research Network and The Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs)
  • Race, Disability, and Gender in Bioethics (by Chris Blake-Turner)

You can check them out here. More are in the works.

One might wonder: why these specific topics? The answer is that these are topics that are not especially well-covered. The DRL is based in the UK, and they looked into what is and is not typically taught in philosophy curricula there. Anne-Marie McCallion (University of Manchester), with the help of Simon Fokt (HTW Berlin) and other members of the DRL Team, went through 377 modules taught at the top 10 British departments (according to Times Higher Ed), and here’s what they found.

First, very few of the courses are dedicated to topics on “Class, Colonialism, Race, and Gender” (3.1%) or “World Philosophies” (3.8%).

Aware that “the main topic of a module might not be always indicative of its content,” the researchers looked at what was taught in courses not explicitly dedicated to “Class, Colonialism, Race, and Gender” to see how much time/materials were spent on any of those topics. 3% had “significant” content on these topics, 7.6% had “some,” but 89.4% had “minimal or none.”

46 of the 377 modules analysed were on individual thinkers. How diverse an array of thinkers?


Again, recognizing that the official topic of a module might not be reflective of its content, the researchers looked at what was taught in these modules, and again, they found that around 90% of the courses had “minimal or no” content addressing class, colonialism, race, or gender.

For more details about this research, see the report here.

It would be interesting for similar research to be conducted in the United States and elsewhere.

Service-Learning in Philosophy Courses

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/01/2022 - 1:17am in

“Moral problems, like global and local food insecurity, aren’t just abstract problems; they are practical problems with practical solutions. It’s important not just to present students with the problems, but also to empower them with real-world actions they can perform to help alleviate these problems.”

That’s Mylan Engel, professor of philosophy at Northern Illinois University, in an interview at Engaged Philosophy (previously).

Mylan Engel (right) and his Philosophy of Food students packing food at Feed My Starving Children (photo via Engaged Philosophy)

Professor Engel, who teaches courses in, among other things, animal ethics, environmental ethics, and philosophy of food, makes use of service-learning in his instruction. He says:

The students in my “Philosophy of Food” course are expected to complete at least 21 hours of community-engaged service during the course of the semester. Service activities include:

• Volunteering at Feed My Starving Children
• Planting seeds in NIU’s greenhouse
• Working in NIU’s Communiversity Garden
• Preparing and sharing a vegan dish at the end-of-the-semester Sustainable Supper

In addition to the above activities, which we all perform together as a class, students are expected to identify a food-related issue/problem they are passionate about and spend at least 5 hours working on a project designed to address that problem.

Students “gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the practical significance of philosophy. They also gain a sense of empowerment” from the work, Professor Engel says.

In this brief video, he and his students talk about the benefits of this kind of coursework:

You can learn more about the service-learning projects and lessons Professor Engel uses in the full interview.

The Engaged Philosophy website is a useful resource for those interested in bringing service learning and civic engagement into their courses, with information about various service learning projects, sample syllabi, other interviews, and more.

Do you make use of service-learning, civic engagement, or other hands-on projects in your philosophy courses? Let us know about them. Are you trying to figure out how to make use of these teaching tools for a particular philosophical subject? Let’s hear about it. Discussion welcome.