Monday, February 25, 2008

The Blueprint Vol. 2

A follow-up on an earlier post from my boy, Second Suitor. --PGS

While I’m sure publishing now won’t hurt my job prospects, a lot of schools seemed to focus more on teaching. This poses a problem in preparing for the job market. Unless you have some nice deal, you’re like me and don’t have much control over what you get to teach/TA before the holiday fun ensues. The good news is that even if I don’t have that much control over the syllabus, I still get to run my recitations.

As I see it, the kids on the job market got a lot of questions about two things. First, how do you approach teaching students with diverse cultural and educational backgrounds? And second, how would you include interdisciplinary material into the courses you teach?

Well fuck it. I’m going to make sure that my recitation on Hegelian metaphysics relates to critical race theory. Seriously, it seems like the best way to answer this question is to be able to talk about how you’ve included these perspectives in class before. Do I have any in depth knowledge of feminist critiques or the latest fMRI research? No. But I’m sure as hell going to teach them before Christmas.

--Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

The interdisciplinary question is bullshit, so any polite answer will suffice. This is just the latest fad and nobody really knows what they mean when they ask the question, they just know to ask it. It's all about looking like you take it seriously and not drooling too much.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

but --- at teaching schools, the question about how to handle diversity in the classroom isn't bull... The question is more about how you are going to deal with the 'boy-genius high school student' who sits next to the 'kid who is barely aware enough to find the classroom'. Making the class work for both of them is one of the largest challenges I face -- and as a committee member, I've taken answers to that question seriously. Applicants who don't know what the question means (i.e. who think it is about interdisciplinarity) don't get hired.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:56 - Actually, I think you are making a mistake here, substituting your views for those of your interviewers. While there are many aspects to interdisciplinary study and thus many different ways of answering such a broad question, this does not mean that no one knows what they are asking. There are certainly answers that will get you crossed off the list, at least at my department. Indeed, one otherwise promising candidate was axed because they gave a polite and innocuous answer that showed that they had not seriously considered how our department interacted with other disciplines.

Anonymous said...

actually, s.s., i think your approach is exactly right. if you can foresee having to answer questions like "how would you teach xyz", then by all means take the upcoming opportunities to teach xyz. no answer to "how would you teach xyz?" will be more persuasive to an s.c. than "here's how i *did* teach it."

so, i know you're being partly snarky and all, and i agree that there is something bullshit about the questions, but, that said, i think your answer is exactly right.

there's also another angle to this that might be worth thinking about. many of the s.c.'s that ask you about diversity don't really, personally, give a good goddamn about racial diversity or improving world justice. but they really, honestly do give a good goddamn about having teachers who can reach students and get non-horrendous course-evals and non-shrinking enrollments.

if they teach at a large non-elite institution with a lot of non-prep-school kids, and you come from an elite institution with a lot of prep-school kids, then part of what they honest to god want to know about you is: are you going to turn up your nose at the great unwashed masses? cause if you think you are too good for our students, then we don't need you.

this isn't about race so much as about class, socio-economics, educational background, etc. but it may well be perfectly sincere. prepping for that line of questions is a little different, but also worth thinking about.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:10, actually I'm very interdisciplinary, so much so that most people aren't sure how to classify me. So I think I know something about interdisciplinarity. And my judgment is that most people who talk about it don't really know what it means to be interdisciplinary.

But I'm interested in your answer that (when you ask the question) it's about how you interact with people in other departments. Maybe that's a different sense of the term than what I mean. Could you say more about this, what kinds of interactions you have with other departments and how that counts as interdisciplinarity?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:28, thanks for the comments. It's the best I've been able to come up with so far.

Admittedly I think it falls short of answering how would you be able to teach women, minority, etc. Teaching different perspectives itself doesn't mean you know how to teach students with those perspectives. That said, it's a start.

Anonymous said...

So your teaching something on Hegel's metaphysics and you can't think of how to make it interdisciplinary? Its been a while but I recall Hegel relying heavily on the literature, like, say, Antigone. Further, there is Hegel's reliance on Christianity and his earlier theological works would seem interesting juxtaposed to say Biblical accounts.

So interdisciplinary isn't bullshit unless your a closeminded twit who thinks philosophy exists in some sort of bubble. Even Hegel didn't think that.

And heaven forbid you learn to actually teach to students who aren't from good WASP backgrounds! Pretty soon them people 'll get uppity and want to run for president. sigh

Anonymous said...

"And heaven forbid you learn to actually teach to students who aren't from good WASP backgrounds! Pretty soon them people 'll get uppity and want to run for president. sigh"

Heaven forbid one day that one's teaching style need not have to differ in order to accommodate several hundred different mappings of "styles" of intellect. Your comment is ridiculous. No one - yes, universally, NO ONE - treads down the slippery slope you've just absurdly described.

That agent X comes from the urban ghetto and agent Y from the rural cornfields need not entail that X and Y learn differently or (gasp!) require separate learning curves. The assumption otherwise, it seems to me, is that which smacks of ignorance.

"...them people'll get uppity and wanna' run for president. sigh."

I hate to have to resort to this, but...You're a fucking twit.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:14, have you ever taught inner-city students? Have you ever talked to someone who isn't from your own race or background? One teaching style will not do to teach all students.

If you don't believe me read Aristotle's Metaphysics alpha ellaton.

Also, "does not entail" is not universally exclusive. It just means logically there isn't support for the argument. But from my experience, and from a lot of educator's experience, certain students from certain backgrounds need different styles of teaching to reach them. I'm sorry that you somehow think one style fits all or that students from traditionally disenfranchised backgrounds and poor secondary educational institutions are somehow going to magically learn the same way students from good schools and good backgrounds (or even middle class white backgrounds) do.

So this is not simply a question about mapping someone's mind, but about cultural differences and disadvantages. Why do you think there are questions about racial bias in standardized tests? Could it be that college education (particularly philosophy) could also be vulnerable to such biases?

Anonymous said...

Point (partially) taken, 4:01. I can understand the thrust of your point (though racial bias's in standardized tests are, I'm sorry, stupid). But notice that my frustration is largely due to the fact that those of us who happen to think (crazily enough, perhaps, and contrary to "received" politically correct opinion) that everyone be held to the same standards across the board are automatically denigrated as ruthlessly vindictive ("...they'll get all uppity" and such nonsensical bullshit as this).

God forbid that persons from disadvantaged backgrounds simply have to work a little harder than others, right? Which is why we say they come from _disadvantaged_ backgrounds in the first place. My syllabus need not, it seems to me, reflect the fact that I skew my courses toward the middle ground but that I attempt to raise everyone - full stop, everyone - to a higher intellectual standing.

Anonymous said...

"have you ever taught inner-city students? Have you ever talked to someone who isn't from your own race or background? One teaching style will not do to teach all students."

What do you have in mind? What are concrete strategies you use in teaching "inner-city students"?

Anonymous said...

don't feed 'em