Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Let's get competent

Bumped up from yesterday's comments:

Anonymous 4:25p said:
When some places advertise an AOC (or less often, AOS) in "History of Philosophy," what am I supposed to think? Do they mean ALL periods of the history of philosophy? Or just one or more? What, exactly?

There's a related question. Sometimes you see an AOC in "critical thinking." Does anyone have an official AOC in "Critical Thinking"? I've never heard of it. If they're just looking for someone who can teach Intro to Logic and such, that's just about everyone with a PhD in philosophy, no?
My guess is that when History of Philosophy is an AOC they want you to be able to teach a few historical classes and it's fine if they're in some particular area. If it's an AOS they expect you to be an expert in one area in the history of philosophy but they don't have a specific preference as to what period. Sound right?

Also, wouldn't it be nice if posters used some anonymous name so we're not always referring to each other by the time stamp. It smacks too much of Parfit for me..

-- Second Suitor

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

My my, how far this formerly mighty blog has fallen. Look what now passes for interesting posts:

AOS in History of Philosophy? My God, my mind has been blown. Someone please help!

My program wants to stop mailing out my shit FIVE FUCKING YEARS after I graduated. My life is ruined! The injustice! The global injustice of it all!

Where are the "Minorities Stole My Job" posts? "Women Stole My Job" posts? "Pedigree Stole My Job" posts? "Economy Stole My Job" posts? "Smarter, Less-Whiny People Stole My Job" posts?

Fuel, I say, fuel for the flames! Higher! Higher!

Parfait said...

If they're just looking for someone who can teach Intro to Logic and such, that's just about everyone with a PhD in philosophy, no?

No. Just because you had to pass one course in Logic or such doesn't mean you're able to teach it. I took a course on Nietzsche, but I'd have to be an Ubermensch to teach that.

There's a presumption that philosophers are especially careful, logical in their work; but that clearly isn't the case, if you survey the number of contradictory theories on any given subject. And don't get me started on Continental philosophy.

Logic is a completely different animal than any other philosophy class, and it's more akin to math (obviously). So if there exist individuals who are differently disposed to math thinking versus non-analytical -- and there are -- then of course some philosophers will be drawn to logic and others will not.

Some anonymous name said...

When we've advertised AOS in history, it's been that we've wanted a specialist in any area from ancient to modern, ending with Kant. If we wanted more modern history, we'd say something different. We'd make it clear if we wanted one area over another (so if we wanted ancient, and not medieval, e.g., we'd say so), but we usually don't - usually it's just a case of: bloody hell, we don't have any historians, better get one!

ML said...

Adverts for an AOC in "History of Philosophy" are hard to read. The hiring committee might be looking for someone who can teach this or that period. But they could just as well be looking for someone to cover all or most of the historical bases (except non-Western).

But Second Suitor is right that a search for someone with an AOS in History of Philosophy should be read as a request for someone who specializes in certain historical areas, put in the form of an inclusive disjunction.

I'm less certain about an AOC in critical thinking, even though I myself have conducted a search for someone of this description. My view (which some might dispute) is that you fit the bill if you can teach baby logic and have demonstrated an ability to work with non-philosophy majors (crit. thinking is often a general ed. requirement). Yes, most philosophy PhD's fit the bill without even trying, although it's a bonus if you've actually taught a course by that name in the past.

Porphyry said...

I am going to list critical thinking as an AOC when I go on the market. I know what you mean about everyone being able to teach it, but not everyone will enjoy doing so. There is a case to be made that an ability to convey enthusiasm is part of the job description, and that this is what someone is really saying when they list it as an AOC. That's what I'm trying to say with my AOCs at least.

Anonymous said...

I have an AOC in critical thinking. there are other kinds of reasoning courses that get taught in philosophy departments besides straightup logic. Critical reasoning just includes those courses.

gut punch (aka anon 10:37) said...

(Adapted from what I wrote on the last thread)

Probably the sort of school that advertises 'critical thinking' as an AOC is basically communicating something like the following: We want to you to exclaim, enthusiastically, Boy, I'd LOVE to teach critical thinking!

In general, it seems that different schools mean different things when listing an AOC in their job descriptions. For some, giving an AOC merely means that you could cobble together a passable course in that area. So, even if your AOS is metaethics, you could nevertheless manage to teach a lower-division undergraduate survey course on Rationalism and Empiricism.

For other schools, claiming to have AOC means you should be capable of publishing an article in that area of study. I was (long ago) explicitly offered this criterion by one of my graduate advisors. I think his view reflected the expectations of that particular Ph.D-granting institution.

Then, I suspect, there's everything in between. Good luck sorting out which schools want what. However, it's probably safe to suggest that teaching-oriented programs list an AOC because they are at the very least going to ask you to teach an introductory-level course in that area.

Anonymous said...

This is slightly off topic, but I just wanted to know from the people on this blog:


Should department placement directors tell students not to apply to schools where they have no chance of getting their application read? (Say, a student with middling letters from a non-leiter-top-50 school applying for an open job at Rutgers).

On the one hand, it saves the students time and money that they would otherwise be wasting.

On the other hand, its discouraging to hear, and the candidates have enough discouragement heading their way as it is.

Anonymous said...

When I was on the job market, my advisors told me that an AOS was something in which you had published or in which you could write a publishable paper without further reading. And (presumably this follows) that you could teach a graduate course in it. (Also that having 4 or 5 of these as a fresh Ph.D. starts to look suspicious...) An AOC was something in which you could teach an undergraduate course without further preparation (or something in which you were willing to teach an undergrad course, because if you claim it as an AOC, it's fair game for them to ask you to teach it).

holyoke said...

Am I the only one who's seen people get "mercy passes" for the logic requirements for their PhDs?

Plenty of philosophers can't teach intro logic. Plenty. I leave it to you to decide whether that makes them bad philosophers.

And, as I tried to point out in the other thread, "critical thinking" courses often bump into probability and statistics, sheer terror for the math-phobic types that are flummoxed by symbolic logic.

Anonymous said...

A school that lists critical thinking as an AOS probably has a tone of critical thinking sections because it serves some sort of Gen-Ed requirement at the school. The chair asks the Dean for some actual hires, since these sections shouldn't be taught exclusively by TA's and adjuncts. The Dean reluctantly agrees, but insists that since the justification of the hire is to fill the university's critical thinking needs, Critical Thinking needs to be the AOS. The chair knows better than to argue with the Dean about this sort of thing, and the add goes out.

VAP said...

An AOC in critical thinking likely means "Look if we hire you, you are going to teach a shit load of critical thing. It is a gen ed requirement and 2 out of 3 of your courses will be in that. So don't apply if you are going to be constantly pissing and moaning about it."

I currently teach at a place where my only real responsibility is to teach critical thinking. However, it is not supposed to be logic. The guidelines actually say not to use formal methods. That is in there because there is such a demand for the course that Communications and Business departments teach it as well. And those people throw a fit about logic. Of course, i just teach baby logic anyway, but that is not what the course is intended to be.

Anonymous said...

My sense is that 'AOC: Critical Thinking' means AOC: Teaching Informal Logic in the Analytic Tradition. So, if you teach postmodern (e.g. Heideggerean) critical thinking/logic, you need not apply. If you think that a 'truth table' refers to a table's essential Being, you probably should not apply.

Anon 8:31, why are you so bitter? Did someone steal your job?

Curious, may regret asking said...

What is Heideggerian critical thinking?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I've seen a couple of people here say that critical thinking is wider than logic, and less formal. Maybe I'm being dense, but I'm still not exactly clear on what goes on in such a class. Are you analyzing the arguments of popular press? Read analytical arguments about publicly debated questions? When I first saw "critical thinking", I started thinking in terms of one of those sort of looser rhetoric departments, or the New School, or whatever.

lookin' for a fight said...

I do also kinda miss the grand ol' days last year where the comments section ran past the hundred marker and the vitriol levels were off the chart. I think there was something cathartic about it for us as a field.

It also invited, for those who didn't participate and/or were utterly disgusted by the display of some philosophers in an anonymous context, a useful kind of reflection about ourselves as a field. The bile was always there., before this blog came along. This blog just helped drag out the ugly mess into the sunlight. That's always useful, it makes the rest of us better colleagues to know that we don't want to be that commenter.

So - let's get something controversial going on.

Anonymous said...

I come from a program where they make you take qualifying exams after which you could teach a survey course covering the ancients and the moderns (admittedly, with a gap in the middle) like you were born teaching them. If you took a few courses on one of those 'batches' more than on the other, you oculd probably teach a higher level survey too. I belive this is exactly an AOC in History of Philosophy.

Sober said...

Anon 11:46, it's the general question of how much connection with reality you want to have. (=Do we want our parents to tell us that we are the most objectively gifted people on earth and that everything will always work out the way we want it, or do we want to know what to expect and hopefully be able to deal with it?)

As far as you and your placement director are concerned, it's more a matter of how trustworthy his/her judgment is regarding the cutoff point of where it is no longer worth your postage fees to send an application, but it is true that there is a cutoff point, for everybody (or almost everybody).

Kenny said...

Anon 2:06 - I think Anon 8:31 is being facetious, and is actually giving a backhanded compliment to the blog at how it now seems to be focusing on minor, but constructive, points as opposed to scapegoating various classes of victims.

Anonymous said...

Unless the job calls for an AOC in critical thinking I would be very cautious about listing it as an AOC. Why? Well, do they offer grad courses in a philosophy program called 'critical thinking'. My didn't, and I would suprised if any did. But seriously, if you grad program did post to that fact (really, I'm trying to be sarcastic).

So if I am right that no one is taking grad courses in such a thing, how it can it be an AOS or AOC? I'm not saying critical thinking shouldn't be taught (it should probably be taught more than it is), but I am saying that I seriously doubt it is really an AOS/AOC.

Is it fair to say that an AOS/AOC ought to have some real connection to graduate coursework (of which I doubt critical thinking as a specific subject area does) or am I just way off in this?

There might be exceptions, like publishing an article but generally shouldn't one at least have grad coursework in X before X is an AOS/AOC. Hell, even an independent study would work, but something.

Ethics N/A said...

I respect Applied Ethics as an AOS (or, at least what I imagine it to entail). And it's hard to ask this question w/o seeming like an asshole, but here goes. I'm going to make totally irresponsible speculation and you guys can tell me why I'm wrong.

It seems like a really easy AOS to "fake." Not because the field itself is ambiguous or whatever, but because there are just SO many ads for applied ethics that there's no way the supply of applicants meets the demand for positions. I'm just going off of my first perusal of the JFP, but if you add up environmental, medical, business, technology, engineering (!) and the rest you get well close to half the jobs. Looking from the demand side you would expect that half of all dissertations are directly about the Ford Memo, NIH guidelines, hacking Sarah Palin's e-mail, or whatever it is AE people are writing about these days.

I want to speculate that, more than any other AOS, these positions get filled by people who "fudge" their interests. Which I would TOTALLY do so I'm not moralizing. Just putting it out there. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Good luck trying to fake an AOS. Most folks will likely only laugh at you, though some might actually get pissed at you for wasting their time. Maybe a few might even contact one of your letter writers to ask how in the fuck you have an AOS in that area. Maybe that shit will come back to haunt you in all sorts of nasty ways. Maybe it isn't worth it for a job that you will never get in the first place.

a-158 said...

What is Critical Thinking? Look at Govier's "Practical Study of Argument". Some schools call this class "informal" logic. That doesn't mean it's just a bunch of fucking around; there is a genuine subject matter that is appropriate for undergraduate general education. It's not difficult to teach, but you'll probably be surprised at how little of it you know the first time you teach it.

Re AOC's. I've heard the bit about "being able to publish in it," but most of the profs at my school said either "three grad courses in it" or "already taught it a bunch of times."

Re "Applied Ethics" AOS. I know some people with this AOS, and participated in a search in it. People claiming this AOS had done dissertations on things like: (a) virtues associated with dying well; (b) an account of the moral value of animals; (c) military wartime ethics; and (d) a moral defense of state sanctioning of gay marriage.

One worry often expressed about Applied Ethics programs is that they do too much case analysis, and not enough philosophy. Some Applied Ethics programs are aware of this and work against it, e.g., by requiring their grad students to get a firm grounding in moral/political theory and the history of philosophy.

Anonymous said...

OK so you can't totally fake an AOS. But here's a slightly more plausible scenario. Applied Ethics hires are often foisted on the department by the dean (rather than being generated by the department itself) because there's a sort of service teaching need that isn't being met. The department would rather have somebody in, say, history of Modern phil. So they go for a candidate who's written on the Second Critique, but who is fine teaching a regular course called "applied ethics," and understands what her role is. There is total transparency of communication between the department and the candidate, but the dean (who's from Chemistry) has her AE hire and the service teaching requirement is taken care of so everybody's happy. I only say it's "faking it" because maybe the candidate is really interested in publishing on the practical syllogism or free will, and not on more straightforwardly "applied" issues (I know--it's not like the practical syllogism is not somehow "applicable"...).

But if the Second Critique candidate can do it, then why not the Rawls candidate, or the linguistic behaviorism candidate, or whoever else would be competent and content to teach the regular applied ethics courses?