Monday, October 31, 2011
Here's such an outcome: In my two intro to ethics classes, 44% of the students are women. I sat down and wrote down the names of the students who, in the two sections, participate most frequently in class. I wrote down names until I reached 25% of the total enrollment. Then I looked at the gender division: Of the top quartile of students in terms of frequency of participation, 53% were women.
Friday, October 28, 2011
One thing I now do to motivate thought experiments and get students to "follow the rules" is compare them to the type of experiments a physicist or chemist might do in the lab. A scientist sets up certain conditions in order to explore reality, test a hypothesis, and so on. In order to get the right data and draw sound conclusions, she will set certain boundaries and engage in particular procedures. Similarly, when we engage in thought experiments we limit options available to agents in the experiment and set up certain rules in order to clarify a concept or test a philosophical theory, even if in so doing we are not talking about something that is likely to happen in "real life".
I'm curious if others have found additional ways to deal with problems in using thought experiments in the philosophy classroom. If you have some helpful tips, please share them in the comments.
Finally, for help on teaching the content of some thought experiments, see these 60 second videos from the Open University. Perhaps a video representation will also help students respect the parameters set up by the experiment.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Smith College students held protests and counter-protests, wrote chalk slogans pro and con on campus walkways, and heaped personal criticism on the manager of dining services over rumors that the school was going vegetarian and would start buying only local produce.
No meat? No coffee?
It turns out it was all a hoax.
Two professors at the prestigious women's college in Northampton cooked up the prank as part of their introductory class in logic.
Nice hoax, of course.
But as reader Matt Pianalto points out, it's not obvious what the pedagogical value of a hoax like this is.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
-- Me (OK, so I cheated. Blogger's privilege!)
No, we can't pay you. But ISW would be interested in hearing from interested parties willing to join the esteemed list of contributors (scroll down, look right). Poking around the blog should give you a good idea of what's expected from contributors, but the minimal requirements are:
- a decent amount of experience teaching this discipline we call philosophy
- a thoughtful and conscientious approach to said teaching
- the ability to write cogently and provocatively about teaching
- a desire to share your ideas about teaching with others and participate in a collaborative community
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
I'm currently TAing for intro to moral and political philosophy and Rawls is only two or three weeks away. I was curious if you had any good class activities that put students in somewhat of an original position. I'm never done class activities, but I think one where they end up committing themselves to what Rawls says they would would be very helpful. I haven't thought too hard about it yet, but giving them random envelopes detailing their positions in society and various abilities--but not letting them open them until after they decide on how to distribute goods--would seem to be in the right direction. Any help would be appreciated.Anyone have any ideas here — not only about activities to motivate Rawls' theory of justice, but other theories as well? Harry of course has this classic exercise about justice and gender. Does anyone have other techniques to motivate theories of justice they could share?
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Kathleen Parker argues that colleges are failing to teach basic skills (critical/complex reasoning, writing and communication). I agree that that these skills are essential, and share her concern that college students are not learning those skills at an acceptable level. Parker's analysis of the problem (drawing on misleading studies by ACTA) is that schools lack quality general education curricula, and so should create them.
Parker is wrong - in many universities quality curricula already exist. She's also wrong to think of a curriculum as a conveyor belt that transports students through appropriate subjects until basic skills have been passively assembled. In fact, this passive understanding of education actually helps to create the very problem she is so worried about.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
1) Not knowing how to study. They do not know how to read for comprehension, outline material, and/or take notes. They do not know how to study for exams, even if we give them review questions.
3) Having unrealistic expectations regarding what is expected of them at the college level. ‘My teachers did not expect much from me in HS so they will not in college.’ ‘I can get by with a minimum effort – a D equals a degree.’ ‘I could turn in work late and still get credit and if it was done poorly I could get a ‘do-over.’
4) Not knowing the basics of how to write a sentence/paragraph. Enough said about that elsewhere.
I tell my students that I spent thirty-five years in business and that the economic world is not a forgiving one. I did not start teaching until I was 40 and had twenty years ‘real-world’ experience under my belt. I have downsized organizations and been downsized. I have hired and fired people and been hired and fired myself. Been there, done that. I tell them that as their teacher, I am not their friend, their counselor, or their 'spiritual' adviser. My job is not to make them feel good about themselves (I may look like Santa Claus, but I am notJ. If they want a hug – get a teddy bear. If they want someone to love them – get a dog.) I tell them that my job is to challenge them to push themselves beyond their comfort level and to learn to think critically and to explore possibilities. I tell them that they may end up, at times, hating my guts, but that is OK – they will survive. My job is to help them to develop into people who can be successful at living and meeting the challenges outside the ‘safety’ of the academic world. Doing this constructively well result in them learning to value themselves without relying on others (peers and 'authorities') to give them a sense of self or purpose. Autonomy is the goal, but it should also be part of the journey.
But, starting this process in college is far to late. We need to start in grade school. What ever happened to 'philosophy for children?'