Friday, November 21, 2014

Ordering Priorities

I've been thinking about the dilemma Siegel and Deven raise about whether justice or truth should be a philosopher's first love (in those at least hypothetical instances where they conflict). It occurs to me that, after all, people do epistemology, whereas epistemology does not do people, and that this fact suggests a lexical ordering. Too flippant by half, of course, but I thought it was kind of clever.

More seriously, the search for truth as such perhaps ought to presume at least baseline decency in human relations. Though we can separate the philosophical power of a Heidegger, for example, from his active participation in the Nazi party, we rightly find some deep inconsiderateness in his having forced us to make the distinction. Since his involvement was not merely that of a person caught in unpleasant circumstances, but active, even enthusiastic participation (as a university administrator he systematically and unapologetically  purged Jews), the task is more than an acknowlegment of human frailty under pressure; it's a real crime against philosophy (even if the content of the philosophy itself bears no Nazi taint).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teaching as Performance?

Here's an interesting, if somewhat light, discussion of the idea of teacher as performer on NPR yesterday:

On Bad Teaching

A good companion piece to the Ravitch article is this review essay. It may be that the author exaggerates the problem somewhat, buying into the crisis mentality unnecessarily, but there's at least a grain of truth to the critique of teacher training:.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Self-fulfilling Failure

The other day I made the point that the difficulty of reaching certain students is a problem for the teacher, even though the students themselves (and various cultural influences) may well be to blame. The argument for this goes beyond a merely idiosyncratic, overdeveloped sense of responsibility. Rather, it runs something like this: to stop trying to find ways to reach students generates a self-fulfilling cycle in which you cannot reach them even in principle. Blaming the student, or social attitudes, etc. may place responsibility where it properly belongs, but it also begs the question against your being able to do anything about it.

So one of the commitments of teaching is constantly to be looking for more effective ideas about how to teach the students with whom you are working. Complacency and despair are equally fatal to your craft.