22 September 2008

On a philosophy of teaching philosophy

Talking to a friend recently about a course on entrepreneurship at a business school, he summed up the confusion surrounding it as, "They don't know whether they're teaching about it or for it." Is this etic examination of the topic from without, or emic preparation from within? (No, it's not quite the same question as whether it is education or training.)

It's a central question in professionally/vocational curriculum areas. It beset our degree in "Educational Studies" for years and probably still does. It was not accredited as a teaching qualification in its own right, but it found little to say about education. (Sadly; there was so much which could have been said but wasn't.)

The linked article is about a professor who has taken the for approach to teaching philosophy;

Jolley says he thinks of his relationships with his students less as teacher-student than as master-apprentice. His goal, as he sees it, isn’t to teach students about philosophy; it is to show them what it means to think philosophically, to actually be a philosopher. When the approach works, the effect can be significant. Several years ago, a student named Zack Loveless wandered into one of Jolley’s classes and very nearly dropped it after the first day. “I was expecting a survey course, and in walks this big scary guy, using words I’d never heard before, talking about Hume as background for Kant, telling us how hard the class was going to be,” Loveless told me.

Loveless, ... is now getting a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago. He describes Jolley as more of a collaborator than a professor; rather than answer his questions, Loveless said, Jolley tried to work through philosophical problems with him.

Do you share the article author's admiration for this approach?


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