"We never discuss our personal lives."
As Ackerman observes, this rule may surprise some, since philosophy is thought to be "personal," especially the philosophical questions she addresses in bioethics. But here's Ackerman's rationale:
- "Intellectual discussion requires the unconstrained exchange of views," and the sharing of personal information, especially about "sources of distress" in people's lives, impedes such discussion. Ackerman uses this example: "How freely will students criticize a fictional rape victim for not reporting the rape if they know that one of their classmates is agonizing over having made the same choice?"
- Whatever benefit sharing personal experiences might bring to class discussion, it's outweighed by its risk of "derailing intellectual interchange." Students from diverse backgrounds can bring their personal knowledge to bear on such discussions without discussing personal facts about themselves.
- Discussion of students' personal lives may "reinforce the validity of personal experiences," but Ackerman's goal as a teacher is not reinforce said validity, but to "make students more rigorous thinkers about philosophical issues."
- Teachers who share personal experiences might be more effective role models, but Ackerman disavows students modelling themselves on her.
- It may sometimes be true that students better appreciate abstract issues by relating them to personal experience, but this is more constraining than enabling. "People are already interested in themselves. Education should stimulate their interest in other things. Not all roads lead to oneself."
I have my own reactions to Ackerman that I may share later in comments, but I'm curious to know if others endorse her 'never discuss your personal life' rule for teaching. What are the pedagogical merits or drawbacks of such a rule?