Thursday, August 13, 2009

Convincing Colleagues of the Value of Philosophy

Here are comments from survey respondents describing how, if at all, they have dealt with the issue of convincing colleagues--either other faculty or administrators--of the value of philosophy.

  • Our school is small. The teachers know from what students say my basic approach. They have their own opinions of the value of what I do and there is not much I can do to change that. I ask them to speak to my "World Philosophies" class about what they think is the relation between faith and reason, or faith and science. They appreciate the opportunity to stand on their soapboxes and they disagree profoundly with each other. They know I am committed to liberal education: the examination of many different viewpoints and the ability to analyze and synthesize them into one's own point of view. always being tolerant of differences while still retaining a belief that some values are better than others and having reasons for preferring some values over others.
  • We have sponsored interdisciplinary colloquia, debates, and seminars that involve philosophers in conversation with people in other disciplines about an issue of common interest.
  • We share news articles, essays, etc., written by nonphilosophers about the relevance of philosophy to other fields.
  • By trying to be versatile, well-informed, and accessible discussants on topics that interest colleagues in other departments. By trying to be good institutional citizens, demonstrating the value of a philosophical education for college service tasks. By clearly tying our educational goals (both in service courses and in the major) to the mission and history of the college.
  • Innovative teaching approach. Stress on methods rather than content.
  • In my institution, philosophy is only taught because the state requires humanities courses for accreditation. Administrators and colleagues see no real value in the liberal arts other than to satisfy this or that agency. Thus, I have given up trying to convince them of the relevance of our work.
  • We are fortunate that our dept. is valued and the members of it are respected. But if we had to dig in for a fight, we would stress the importance of philosophy for liberal arts education and cite recent media reports about the upswing in phil. enrollments, the college-wide benefits to a thriving and active phil. dept.
  • By referring them either to (a) the numbers currently studying it; or to (b) the number of high-grade research publications and activities the staff are involved in and thus bring credit to the institution tthrough.
  • Point to the success of our department's teaching evaluations and placement record.
  • External research dollars, books with hard covers.
  • For some reason, other faculty and administrators are greatly appreciate of philosophy and our program.
  • We are active in every cross-discipline on our campus; our administrators seem to understand the cross-disciplinary connections much more easily than the value of philo. per se. Also, our college took an aggressive turn toward sending every student abroad at some point; we are natural players in a study-abroad initiative, with two Asian philosophy specialists, and a classicist.
  • Ethics, ethics, ethics. Interdisciplinarity as well.
  • I don't really care what they think.
  • Faculty often are impressed by statistics about philosophy majors' success getting into law schools, for instance. Most of our faculty teach in professional programs such as nursing and occupational therapy. Many of these have a very practical outlook, and, like many students, they think of education primarily as job preparation. With some of these colleagues, defending the importance of all the humanities is a constant uphill battle. Some faculty, on the other hand, are impressed with ideas about the importance of philosophy for cultivating independent thinking and its importance for responsible citizenship.
  • statistical data news articles student testimony
  • I haven't done so
  • same as earlier comments re students
  • I am honest about it, and about what I think about other things.
  • There is a university-wide "Strategic Plan" afoot. We have just started consulting with each other about the implications of this. There are several other branches of our [state system] that are without a philosophy major or minor. In those institutions, there are usually a couple of philosophers who must teach exclusively intro-level GE courses in philosophy. We feel very fortunate by comparison, but we are constantly aware of the possibility of being cut back to that unenviable position at some point in the future.
  • This is SOOO difficult. We're been compiling numbers -- they appreciate quantitative reports. We've been looking for statistics.
  • By doing service, and focusing on service that puts our skills into play, like serving on ethics committees, speaking to community groups, writing books that are of general interest and not just scholarly interest.
  • My colleague and I try to advertise to the academic community the philosophy speakers that we bring in.
  • Most of them already know.
  • By being a active and frank participant in campus discussions. By asserting the value whenever the opportunity arises.
  • Largely by teaching more and more "applied" philosophy classes.
  • My faculty colleagues and administrators are friendly to philosophy in this old-school liberal arts college.
  • I am not sure this issue has been addressed well by our department. As mentioned, having few faculty gives us little voice with the administration, and any dissent between us is rather disastrous in terms of asking for funding or support in a unified, cohesive way.
  • I teach courses with titles like Ethics, Applied Ethics, and Comparative Religion (not my expertise, but no one will teach it if I don't). I also want us to introduce a course called Critical Thinking. Many people (including, I suspect, the school president and the head of my department) don't value philosophy, largely because they don't know what it is. But they won't stand up and oppose the teaching of ethics or critical thinking, or teaching students about Islam, say.
  • Trying to offer a wider range of courses which makes us look less neolithic.
  • Have not found any.
  • They are already convinced, since this is a small liberal arts college. Also, the students tell other faculty how much they love our challenging courses, so they are the best advertisement.
  • Demonstrate intellectual seriousness and responsibility, ask good questions, make yourself indispensable.
  • Arguing, ad nauseum, on committees, etc.
  • This department has a good track record of placing graduates in philosophical and legal studies; the administration is content to make occasional "Potemkin Village" use of that circumstance.
  • No comment. Not much seems to work. We are a small school with professional programs in business, engineering and education. We don't agree on why people should be educated; hence we don't agree on what courses should constitute a curriculum.
  • White lies.
  • We are lucky in that they do not need to be convinced. Our department was created before there were any philosophers here. I take that to be rare.
  • Again, not an issue.
  • this was impossible; they thought that philosophy was silly subjective stuff.
  • This is done informally through common room discussions. (I have found my colleagues very receptive.) I have appeared before a review committee investigating the core program of the university making the case for continuing teaching the history of ethics and political philosophy course in this program. Again, I found a receptive audience. This was a very easy case to make.
  • Giving public lectures at the university.
  • I have met with faculty members from other departments to talk to them about the value of philosophy, especially ethics, for their major.
  • The administrators of the university consider philosophy as very vital in the faculty of humanities. They do not need any convincing.

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