One thing that philosophy seems to struggle with is wider public influence and understanding. How do we get people before they get to college or independent of college to know about and appreciate philosophy?
Given that information, one might wonder how many Congressmen were or are associated with the Boy Scouts America (BSA). A BSA list for the 113th Congress provides the following totals: youth members (174), Eagle Scouts (28), and adult volunteers (57). According to Congressional Research Service report there were 432 men in the 113th Congress, which means 40% of men in Congress were in the BSA with 13% active as adults.
If you want to increase early knowledge of philosophy AND possibly have lawmakers with some passing familiarity, then get philosophy into Scouting, both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure to talk with Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Robin Wilson on a couple of occasions about promoting philosophy and the role of faculty senates on campus. She has a nice three part series titled “Avoiding the Ax.” All are behind a pay wall, but they include: An interview with APA director Amy Ferrer, a discussion about avoiding elimination where my colleague and former department chair, Grodon Pettit, is interviewed, and three suggestions on supporting philosophy.
Some of these topics may seem familiar to regular readers of the Leiter Reports from some of my previous posts over the last two years. Here are just a few that readers who missed them might find instructive.
I am using Rod Girle’s Modal Logics and Philosophy (second edition) this semester. I find it to be a really nice introductory text for those students who want to study modal logic, but may not have much formal logic background, which isn’t uncommon in a small program.
The main issue with the second edition concerns the printing errors that slipped past the original editing process. For anyone who would like to have an errata page, I am asking you to join with me in crowdsourcing it. You can comment below, email me, or Professor Girle to help create an errata page. When completed, we will ask the publisher, McGill-Queen’s, to host it on their website.
Additionally, I recently contacted Professor Girle and he kindly gave me a workbook he uses with the text; it is extremely useful. If we can get the errata page completed and hosted, then perhaps Professor Girle could be encouraged to make the workbook available via the publisher’s site as well.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has some famous athletes who are expressing the belief that the Earth is flat, with Dr. Shaquille O’Neil being one of them.
Kyrie Irving who made the game winning shot for the Cleveland Cavaliers in game 7 of the NBA finals last year believes the Earth is flat. Kyrie Irving did attend Duke University for one year. You might think this is a great argument against the one-and-done rule for the NBA, but that doesn’t explain Shaq's beliefs.
Dr. Shaquille O’Neil, who has an Ed.D. from Barry University, recently defended Kyrie Irving and the belief that the Earth is flat by claiming the Earth is flat.
Luckily falsely believing the Earth is flat doesn’t have the same consequences that anti-vaxxers false beliefs have, but we should still be worried that famous, successful, public figures have such a basic false belief. Why? Because they vote!
At my university a decade long enrollment decline has reached a crisis point, and for twenty months (and counting) Illinois has operated without a state budget. The university is now focusing on increasing both enrollment and non-state funding, but this effort has done little to quell faculty unrest from some administrative decisions—namely layoffs.
During this tumultuous time, I have been Faculty Senate Chair. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me is that the vast majority of faculty do not know what’s happening on campus—I call them free-riders. Free-riding faculty take little responsibility for anything beyond their classes and research. They don’t understand that student recruitment and retention is part of the job—that, in fact, our survival depends upon it.
With little faculty input, the day to day running of the university is left to administrators (often career non-academic administrators). Faculty, however, should be proactive rather than reactive to administrative decisions with which they disagree. Naturally, it is difficult to impress this upon colleagues in boom times when growth is good, and we rarely think of lean times (lay-offs, downsizing, and budget cuts).
Exacerbating the problem is a faculty tendency to forget the ideal of shared governance. Faculty must help govern the university else we become subject to administrators who may not understand the value of philosophy as a major or as part of general education curriculum.
Don’t be a free-rider:
Understand your university’s curriculum and philosophy’s place in it.
Actively participate in faculty governance.
Know the external forces that impact the health of your college or university.
Promote a positive image of faculty in your community.
I'm delighted to welcome three guest-bloggers next week: two familiar voices--Darlene Deas and Christopher Pynes--plus a new guest-blogger, philosopher Barry Lam from Vassaar, who will be blogging about his Hi-Phi Nation podcast project. I'll probably have a couple of items next week too, but these three will be the main attractions!
Colin Kaepernick is a multi-millionaire, NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He recently made headlines by refusing to stand for the U.S. National Anthem before the start of NFL games. Lot of people have impassioned opinions on the acceptability of his refusal to stand, even a Supreme Court Justice, who eventually apologized for the remark, have been critical of him.
Last week, one of my students asked me about Kaepernick during class. This was one of those teachable moments we all really look for. Philosophy in the real world making a difference! I said unless someone really understood his reasoning, they couldn’t be critical of the refusal to stand. The student pressed me on my view…
Like all standing committees of the APA, the Status and Future of the Profession Committee receives charges from the Board of Directors. As far as I know, there are no policies and procedures document for running the committee apart from Board charges; however, during the three years I served, the committee was charged with reviewing grant applications, and we were given clear guidelines for that. There were a few additional issues the interested can read about in the committee reports publically available here.
(1) Create policies and procedures documents that govern the work of each committee. These can be updated and changed through the years as the role of the committee changes, but to get the most out of the committees, they need more operating direction than just charges from the board.
(2) Staff committees with members who are more representative of the profession as a whole. This means the members should not come primarily from Ph.D. granting institutions and elite liberal arts colleges. If fact, I claim it would be best to have assigned, specific representation on each committee as well as at-large spots. Representational make up, of course, would be outlined in a policies and procedures document, but here is my suggestion: At least one member from the following: Ph.D. granting program, M.A. (and no Ph.D.) granting program, B.A. granting program, a community college representative, and four at-large seats. Having representation on these committees from a wide variety of constituency groups offers more buy in for all APA members.
Philosophers often use LSAT data as a marketing tool to convince students who want to go to law school that they should major in philosophy. But how do we really know studying philosophy is the key to higher scores? Are the high scores really the result of studying philosophy or is there some other cause? In this post, I am going to suggest that privilege and economic class, rather than studying philosophy, better explain philosophy students’ LSAT results. Even if my suspicions are only partly right, it should make philosophers think twice about selling philosophy merely as a means to higher LSAT scores.
Making a causal connection for or against is very difficult (that alone should make us think twice). We don’t have access to either state level LSAT averages or LSAT scores from individual schools. What we have is the average score by majors. I am going to start with 2014 LSAC applicants by major report. Five of the most popular LSAT taking majors are: Political Science, Criminal Justice, Economics, Philosophy, and Sociology. Here are the LSAT results for those five majors:
Last October, I wrote about accreditation as a way to create support for philosophy at colleges and universities. It generated some good comments, but I wanted to reiterate my support for philosophy accreditation. After the post, I received a supportive email from a philosopher who had recently entered into an academic leadership position. With permission, here is part of what this concerned philosopher wrote:
“I am part of a public university undergrad-only department that likely faces similar issues to yours. I am writing to you specifically to ask if you know anything about efforts to institute an accreditation program for Philosophy programs, since this came up as part of the discussion related to your previous posts.
I fully sympathize with philosophy faculty who argue that the widespread push for data-driven analysis, detailed top-down assessment procedures, and things like curriculum mapping have not caught on in Philosophy for good reason. Our subject matter resists this sort of thing and could even be badly distorted and misrepresented by it, unfortunately.
Most colleges and universities have a general education mathematics requirement with some, including WIU, allowing a gen ed logic classes to satisfy that mathematics requirement. I am most interested in discussing the issue of mathematical reasoning standards for general education--specifically logic classes and students with cognitive or intellectual disabilities.
My main concern is with students who have intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are things like dyscalculia or acalculia, but also IQ levels that are in the 70s. As an educator, I am struggling with methods of teaching and evaluating students who have genuine intellectual disabilities and can’t do the work necessary to pass my class with a grade of ‘C’. The ‘C’ threshold has become a bigger issue for me in the last year since the replacement course grade standard was changed from a ‘D-’ to ‘C’ to be in line with the mathematics course requirement.
It’s nice to be invited back, and I want to thank Brian for letting me blog on his site again. For those of you interested in a follow up story to the elimination of the Western Illinois University philosophy major and the closing of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, let me get you all up to date.
The Philosophy and Religious Studies department has been eliminated along with its two majors. What is left are minors in both philosophy and religious studies and about two dozen philosophy majors that need to be taught out. Over the summer the Provost tasked the faculty in the eliminated departments with finding academic homes. The Religious Studies faculty voted to join the faculty in the eliminated programs and departments of Women’s Studies and African American Studies to become the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences pending IBHE approval. The four remaining philosophers, not including our dean, were keen to find an academic home where we would fit academically AND retain some identifiable presence on campus. Not an easy task, and other departments in our college weren’t particularly interested in taking on four additional faculty members when layoffs were (and are still) a concern. The chair of Mathematics, however, offered to do just that--provide an academic home and a visible presence on campus.
How? The chair, presumably to signal his support of philosophy and its importance to a university education, submitted a request to the Provost to change the department name to: “Mathematics, Logic, and Philosophy.” We are awaiting approval, but if it is approved, philosophy will still have some visibility on campus.
It’s all a bit strange, and being in a new department is like starting a new job. Also I’m no longer recruiting students and discussing the benefits of a major in philosophy, even so, we do realize we need to market our minor. Some readers may remember this. Unfortunately this doesn’t have quite the same ring: “Thinking about a minor, minor in thinking.”
I am opening comments on this thread so that people can share and discuss successful programs and strategies for promoting philosophy minors.
I'm very happy to report that the always popular and insightful Darlene Deas and Christopher Pynes will be returning as guest bloggers this week, starting on Wednesday, October 12 and continuing for about a week. I will have a few posts too, but they will be the main attraction!
Let me begin by thanking all the people who signed the Change.org petition to save the WIU philosophy major. Though I have signed quite a lot of petitions, I used to think signing them was silly, and now I know they are broadly ineffective. But what I didn’t anticipate was the feeling of emotional and psychological support the kind words of friends and strangers from across the globe could provide. So, thank you.
It will come as no surprise to those paying attention that the Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to authorize the elimination of philosophy and three other programs at Western Illinois University, but readers may be interested in how this happened so quickly over the last two weeks.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently appointed John C. Bambenek to the Illinois Board of Higher Education as the sole faculty representative. Many have criticized the move by claiming that Bambenek’s views aren’t representative of most faculty members. I claim this is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Bambenek should not be eligible to serve as the lone faculty representative to the IBHE since he isn’t even eligible to represent the University of Illinois faculty on their Senate.
The Illinois State Senate still has to approve Rauner’s appointment. State Senator Antonio Muñoz is the Chair of the Executive Appointment Committee. Professor Gay is sending letters to both Senator Muñoz and Governor Rauner objecting to Bambenek’s appointment. There is still time for philosophers, faculty, and citizens of Illinois to ask for an actual faculty member who understands the needs and concerns of faculty in Illinois to represent them on the IBHE.
One week ago, I received an email from APA Development Director Robert Audi asking me to donate to the APA, and I posted about it here. Commenting on that post, Joshua Smith, gave some reasonable and constructive advice on the APA’s email practices. Another commenter Curt as well as Brian Leiter made important comments to the APA about donation requests.
The email, which I will provide in full below the fold for context, had the subject line: Help Expand Philosophy’s Influence.
If you have been reading my guest posts, you will know that I am all about expanding the influence of philosophy. The problem I have with this email request from the Executive Director is that the email doesn’t explain what the funds are going to support or how it is going to expand philosophy’s influence. Supporting work that is relevant to philosophers and supporting the work of philosophers is not the same thing as expanding philosophy’s influence. I would suggest that no matter the development goal, tell people what that money is going to support. How are the funds going to “expand” philosophy’s influence or “represent” philosophy in the public arena? If it’s just to support another newsletter, conference, or maintain current activities, then that’s not enough of an explanation. It certainly doesn't justify a second request so soon after Audi's.
Is it too much to ask the Executive Director of the APA to provide a vision for expanding philosophy’s influence before asking for money? I don’t think so. Full letter below. Comments are open.
Robert Audi, Chair of the the new APA Development Committee has sent out an email to APA members asking them to donate. As I have written on this blog before, I believe in development as a means for promoting philosophy. I hope that the development committee reaches out to groups and philosophy supporters other than its members as sources of development funding. I have included the full letter below the fold for those who are not current members of the APA who might want to donate. Comments are open for development suggestions.
For readers who don’t know why Illinois doesn’t have a budget 10 months into the fiscal year, it’s because the Illinois General Assembly won’t agree to Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda,” which aims in part to make Illinois a right to work state and weaken unions. This budget impasse has caused many of the state universities to resort to layoffs: Chicago State (900), Eastern Illinois (177), and WIU to name just a few.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) requires that state universities report annually on what used to be called “low productivity programs” in compliance with the Illinois Public Act 097-0610. They then use this information to determine if the contribution of each program is “educationally and economically justified.” The IBHE has no regulatory authority over universities to tell them what programs to offer or eliminate, but the IBHE does make budget recommendations. So university administrators want to appease them.
You might be wondering what constitutes a “low producing” program in Illinois. Here are the IBHE standards (from page 8 of the October 2015 report):
So if a program doesn’t have these averages for enrolled students and graduates over a rolling five-year period, it is considered low producing. When that happens, the IBHE recommends the following actions:
The American Philosophical Association (APA) has taken a beating the last few years in the philosophy blogosphere for a variety of reasons. In particular, there have been lots of objections and concerns about the role, influence, experience, and priorities of the current APA leadership.
As the new President of the Illinois Philosophical Association (IPA), I want to shift the discussion and talk about the role of state and regional philosophical associations. Particularly I want us to discuss expanding the role of these groups beyond just organizing conferences to promoting the interests of philosophy and philosophers in our particular states and regions. Additionally these state and regional organizations can play a bigger part in informing and reporting to the APA what the state and regional members need from the national organization.
I want to begin by thanking Professor Leiter for letting me blog on his platform, and as I did in the fall, I will entertain discussions. I finished last fall with two posts and said there would be a third. I’ll get into some topics later this week that will explain why my attention was diverted away from this third post until now.
If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series, I recommend you get started there. In this post, I am going to discuss ways we can grow the philosophy profession: lobbying/advocacy, public relations/advertising, cultural influence ideas, and using philosophy allies.
(4) Lobbying and Advocacy The APA needs to have a lobbyist (or lobbying firm) to promote the professional interest of APA members both in federal and state government, but also to lobby university and college accrediting agencies for philosophy related concerns. See this IHE story on accreditation and assessment if you haven’t already done so. At the state level promoting philosophy in high schools as part of the common core solution for college and career readiness is one idea. Promoting the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) and groups like Sphere is another. Promoting philosophy is one major reason why development (as discussed in Part 1) and maintaining an active APA membership base is so important—MONEY!
Part 1 of this series focused on (1) development and (2) pre-college philosophy. In part 2, I’ll focus on identifying the geographical distribution of philosophy to get a better understanding of where access inequality occurs and where we can strategically grow the profession. I am going to focus on comparing HBCUs, Women’s colleges, elite universities, and community colleges to help us determine where we should focus those efforts, which are crucial to the long-term success and health of philosophy. Growth at public and private universities with large enrollments and little to no philosophy should be part of the growth and diversification strategy, too.
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.
From the story: The Obama administration is planning new executive action on higher education accreditation in the coming weeks, as part of a push to make accreditors focus more heavily on student outcomes when judging colleges and universities, officials said Monday...
“Accreditors need to do more and need to focus on outcomes,” Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell told reporters Monday. He said the department is still hammering out the details of its plans for accreditation, but he added that “there will be three parts: executive action, potential regulatory reform and legislation we feel is needed.”
For those of you following my recent Leiter Reports posts on accreditation and on the issues of outcome assessment, the comments on those posts will remain open for the rest of the week.
Philosophy is often criticized as being too white, too male, and too privileged. Yes, to all. Now what can we do about it? I claim the current methods of trying to diversify philosophy, though well-meaning, will not work. Syllabi with readings by diverse philosophers, summer seminars for a small group of students, or roundtables at APA meetings are all terrible ways to achieve diversity in philosophy. Terrible. Before I explain how the diversity problem in philosophy gets solved (and you won’t like the solution), let’s talk about privilege.
When I was in the Boy Scouts, there was a song that we sang at the start of meetings and around campfires: The Announcements Song. It’s a really long song, but to this day, I still remember how it starts:
Announcements, announcements, announcements. A horrible way to die, a horrible way to die, A horrible way to start the day, A horrible way to die…
All you have to do is replace “announcements” with “assessment” and you will begin to learn how I feel about the outcome assessment movement (okay, I have evolved in my thinking on assessment, but only for practical reasons I explain below). I know I am not the only one who dislikes outcome assessments. But as much as I dislike writing them for general education and for the philosophy major, assessment reports are a modern reality on college campuses. If you haven’t read the APA statement on outcome assessments, you should. Thoughtful philosophers have done recent work on the topic (2008), and everyone in the discipline should understand what is being asked of colleges and universities relating to assessment. Sometimes assessment is crucial to accreditation (see my last post), and sometimes it is based on a misguided assumption of OA proponents that learning outcomes can only improve with change. Ultimately, we have to play along with our assessment overlords or we risk losing out on resources and standing in the academy even more than we currently have. This line from the APA statement on assessment is especially revealing:
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) conducted a survey of business and non profit leaders and came back with some key findings in a 2013 report they titled “It Takes More than a Major.” You can read the full report, but let’s focus on section 5.
“Majorities of employers believe two-year and four-year colleges and universities should place more emphasis on a variety of key learning outcomes to increase graduates’ success in today’s global economy. Few say less emphasis should be placed on any of the learning outcomes tested, but employers overall are most likely to believe there is a need to increase the focus on active skills such as critical thinking, complex problem-solving, communication, and applying knowledge to real- world settings.”
There were 17 learning outcomes surveyed. The five that employers wanted colleges to emphasize most were:
(1) Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills (2) The ability to analyze and solve complex problems (3) The ability to effectively communicate orally (4) The ability to effectively communicate in writing (5) The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings
If only there were majors that develop these skills: philosophy anyone? Assessment data could be used to explain the value of such a major, like philosophy. Speaking of assessment, that’s the topic of my next post.
As I explained in my last post, university structure can promote both success and failure of programs. But university structure is only one source of success and failure that most of us in philosophy don’t generally consider when trying to promote philosophy.
(A) Accreditation Maybe you’ve heard that Illinois is having a serious budget crisis (especially as it relates to higher ed), but even in these difficult economic times, two programs at my university have gotten hires because those hires are neededfor accreditation: Nursing and Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration (RPTA).
According to our external reviewer from a 2013 report, WIU’s philosophy program has an immediate need of two full-time faculty members (and would still be the smallest faculty in the state). Not surprisingly given our budget constraints, we did not get permission to hire. But RPTA is advertising for a therapeutic recreation position that is required for accreditation. Let that sink in.
Some of you may remember me from prior Leiter Reports posts about marketing the philosophy major and reporting on a scam journal run by David Publishing. Continuing in this vein, I will share some thoughts on the philosophy profession, the philosophy major, being a philosopher in a small department at an isolated, state school with both declining state support and declining enrollment, and other topics along the way. Today I’ll be writing about university structure and what it means for philosophy programs and faculty.
The structure of the university and its curriculum is vitally important to the success of a philosophy program (majors and minors) and the philosophy profession. Most faculty members, including philosophers, don’t consider these issues when worrying about the future and health of their profession, department, or program, which means it falls to administrators. Given that I am the chair of my university’s faculty senate this year and given that I have been on several curriculum committees over the years, I want to share how university structure leads to inequity, fewer philosophy classes, and fewer jobs for philosophers. I should also point out that there is no simple solution to these problems, and for any solution to work, it will take a significant amount of sustained effort on the part of those philosophers who have jobs and influence.
(1) The general education curriculum General Education is not something many of us think about very often. This seems reasonable given that general education requirements are already set when we begin working someplace—call this curricular luck. Add to this that changes to Gen Ed rarely occur, unless a college or university is undergoing some review of their general education curriculum, and you’ll see why this issue isn’t always on our radar. But, it should be because the structure of Gen Ed creates student demand. And student demand is leverage for resources like money, space, and faculty lines.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)