So far my posts have revolved around inequity caused by university structure, the lack of accreditation for philosophy, the rise of assessment, and university privilege and the problem of diversity in philosophy. I claim that the only solution to the problem of diversity in philosophy is to grow the discipline and profession. There is a lot to offer, so addressing these topics will be a multiple post affair. Let’s begin with development and pre-college philosophy education. Neither of these topics is new, but they deserve more attention, and so I begin with them.
The APA and Development
The job of a university development officer is to get people to give money to the university. Philosophy doesn’t have a development officer, and without money, not much can be achieved in terms of growth and diversity. For those of you who don’t read the agendas and minutes of the APA Board of Officers, you will be happy to know that this past February, the Director, Amy Ferrer proposed a new APA committee on development to raise funds through a major gifts drive and increasing the annual appeals during membership renewal, as recommended by a consulting firm. I think both of these approaches are reasonable ideas, concerns about how this may cause problems with the non-profit status of the organization aside.
To implement these two strategies, Ferrer will need to hire more staff to secure these developed funds, but I’m not sold on an APA development committee doing this work. Getting people and organizations to give money to the APA is a job for development professionals and not professional philosophers who think they can do big time development, but perhaps the APA committee will just be advisory and oversight.
I am worried that these two APA development strategies, even with development professionals at the helm, won’t achieve much. Let me explain why. In Larry Nielsen’s book, Provost, he has a chapter titled “The Provost Ain’t Got No Alumni.” What he explains is that when he became Provost, he didn’t have a development officer. So he hired one because he had one when he was a dean of his college. He thought it would be good for the chief academic officer at the university to have money for provost causes and initiatives, but Nielsen quickly learned why past provosts at NC State never had development officers. No one wants to give to the provost! Amy Ferrer and the Board of Directors need to take Nielsen’s warning seriously because the APA “ain’t got no alumni” either.
There is, however, a third development strategy I would like to see the APA use to grow the discipline. Combine the APA development officer’s (or committee’s) efforts with particular university development directors to raise and allocate support for individual philosophy programs that need support to grow (more on this in my next post). From my point of view, when the APA engages in development it must be in consultation with bodies that have alumni: departments, colleges, and universities.
Yes, the APA needs money for things, but so do individual departments. A major gift drive to universities for particular programs, however, will, in my view, be more enticing to big donors than giving money directly to the APA. As the APA has a hard time keeping members who are willing to pay membership dues, it’s hard to fathom why big donors would give to the APA.
Individual Departments and Development
Everyone in philosophy should follow the APA’s lead and go down the development path, but remember development will need to be tied to alumni in some way to be most effective. As such every philosophy department should have yearly meetings with their university development office to create strategies to increase giving to their program. Help the development officer help you. It won’t be easy at first (you’ll most likely have no idea what you are doing), but your department needs to demonstrate that it is a team player on the broader university team—everyone’s job involves development now.
(2) High School Curriculum, Teacher Education, and Common Core
As someone who has taught high school students at the University of Tennessee for the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Sciences and Engineering, I can tell you that high school students are prime for focused philosophical discussion. Moreover, there is a movement in K-12 education that wants to see academic improvement and philosophy could position itself to offer a means such improvement.
If we can get philosophy into more high schools (outside of mostly private schools or international baccalaureate programs), then teacher education programs will be needed for this area. This will, of course, be linked to accreditation and assessment measures, but teacher education programs in philosophy would not be difficult to create at most universities that already have teacher ed programs in disciplines like, history, math, English, and the natural sciences. You know…all those programs we are competing for scarce resources with.
As for the common core curriculum that we have all been hearing so much about, there is a lot that philosophy could leverage to allow for the growth of our discipline. Take the “Key Shifts in English Language Arts” for example. These are the standards that are being invoked:
(1) Regular practice with complex texts and their academic language
(2) Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and informational
(3) Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
Does philosophy have complex texts? Yes. Does philosophy require reading, writing or speaking that is grounded in evidence from texts? Again, Yes! Does philosophy build knowledge through content-rich nonfiction. Fucking A-right, hell yes it does!!
From the Common Core standards: “In grades 6-12, there is much greater attention on the specific category of literary nonfiction, which is a shift from traditional standards.” That sounds like a place where philosophy can fill an educational need and in the process grow and influence a diverse population in high school students across the U.S.
There are others in our discipline hard at work promoting philosophy in High Schools, and I want to promote what they are doing here. I encourage us all to realize their great work at promoting the discipline at the pre-college level.
Coming up at the Central APA in Chicago there is a panel organized by Dan Fouts (Maine West HS) and Jana Mohr Lone (Washington)
X-O Saturday, March 05, 3:15 PM- 6:15 PM Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy
Building an AP Philosophy Course in High School from the Ground up
Title: “What an AP Philosophy Course Might Look Like”
Speaker: Christopher Freiler (Hinsdale Central High School, Hinsdale, IL)
Title: “Making the Pitch: Selling an AP Philosophy Course to Colleges and Universities””
Speaker: Baron Reed (Northwestern University)
Title: “Where We Are Now and Where We Are Headed---A P”
Speaker: Dan Fouts (Maine West High School, Des Plaines, IL)
And at the upcoming Pacific APA a panel organized by Jonathan Shaheen (Ghent) and Kristopher Phillips (Southern Utah):
Session Title: A Place for Philosophy of Science in High School Curricula?
Speakers: Peter Railton (Michigan), Michael Ruse (Florida State), and Andrea Woody (Washington)
Chair: Evan Fales (Iowa)
But there are additional resources for promoting philosophy in high school. Here are just a few:
(1) The National High School Ethics Bowl run out of the UNC Parr Center for Ethics. You can find them on Facebook too.
(2) The APA statement on pre-college philosophy.
(3) PLATO: Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization
(4) Past stories/discussion on In Socrates Wake and Leiter Reports
(5) Philosophy 12: An open, online high school philosophy class.
So far I have just mentioned two things, development and pre-college philosophy, that people are working on to improve the discipline. But these efforts are going to need all of our support to really achieve a bigger community of working philosophers. These philosophers may have to be high school teachers. But given the current political climate, we need to leverage the goals of K-12 to help promote, grow, and diversify the discipline of philosophy.
I will post more on growing, improving, and diversifying philosophy soon. Comments are open.