Tuesday, April 28, 2009
A suggestion on what to include in course material
In teaching intro courses there is the standard philosophical readings that most of us use to introduce philosophy to our students. Over the past few years I have been utilizing non-traditional material (as well as the more tradtional readings) in my intro to philosophy and intro to ethics courses. This material has included literature such as The Plague and The Fall by Camus, The Kite Runner by Hosseini, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood. I have also used videos (Youtube is a Godsend) as well as movies. I have found that utilizing this type of material, alongside the more traditional philosophical material, has helped students gain a deeper appreciation for, and understanding of, some of the issues being discussed. I think it is helpful for students to see that philosophical issues arise in the normal context of lives being lived. After all, is that not one of the reasons Plato had for using dialogues that take place in the day to day lives of the people taking part in the discussion. If students can see the ‘naturalness’ of some of the important philosophical issues, I think it makes these issues more real and important for them. They can see how these issues can relate to their own lives. As we think about what material to use next semester I would like to suggest that everyone include at least one non-traditional piece in your required readings. In my intro to ethics courses next Fall I am planning to use The Lakota Way by James M. Marshall III as a way of introducing virtue ethics to my students. This is a collection of short stories within the Lakota Sioux tradition, each one pertaining to a particular virtue or character trait that is desirable for people to possess if they want to lead a flourishing life. Does anyone else have any more suggestions?