A Philosopher's Blog

The Rewards of Teaching

Posted in Philosophy, Universities & Colleges by Michael LaBossiere on May 1, 2013

While finals week is probably not the best time to think about the rewards of teaching, I would be remiss to leave my end-of-the-semester discussion with only a look at the challenges of cheating and other such academic ills.

While teaching philosophy has its challenges, it also has its rewards. One reward is knowing that I have made a small contribution to my students’ education. While it might be a mere 3 credit hours out of 120, at least I have helped them on the way towards graduation and, hopefully, to a life better than it would have been without a college education.

A second reward is seeing a student’s ability in critical thinking and reasoning skills improve over the course of the semester. Students have told me how, for example, they recognized real life examples of fallacies they learned in class. As another example, students have told me that the skills they learned in class helped them on the standardized tests that attempted to stand between them and their dreams of professional school.

A third reward is seeing a student develop a philosophical outlook. This involves being critical of their own beliefs and those of others, while avoiding the trap of prejudice and bickering for the sake of bickering.

A fourth reward is hearing from students after they have graduated and learning that my class or classes were useful or valuable in their chosen life path, be it law school, graduate school or some other option. Past students have gone on the become lawyers, doctors, engineers and some even became professors. It is very rewarding to learn that I had some small role.

A fifth reward is the process of teaching itself-interacting with students and learning from them. While I do not buy into the idea that diversity is intrinsically valuable, I have found that each student can bring their own unique perspective to philosophy. When students participate in class or stop by during my office hours to discuss philosophy, I often gain a new perspective or new idea. While it might be a bit hackneyed, it is true that to be a good teacher one must never stop learning from others.

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11 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on May 1, 2013 at 8:13 am

    “While I do not buy into the idea that diversity is intrinsically valuable, I have found that each student can bring their own unique perspective to philosophy.”

    Exactly. It is the diversity of ideas that matter, and by testing these ideas against one another, and against the universe, that the superior ideas are discerned.

    FAMU is lucky to have you on their faculty, Mike.

    This is in spite of the fact that your definition of a “slippery slope fallacy” is highly subjective and on the level of Potter’s “I know it when I see it” definition🙂

    • T. J. Babson said, on May 1, 2013 at 8:16 am

      The last bit should read:

      “Potter Stewart’s ‘I know it when I see it’ definition of pornography :-)”

      • biomass2 said, on May 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

        Which raises the obvious question: What is your definition of pornography?

        • T. J. Babson said, on May 1, 2013 at 10:15 am

          I think adults should be allowed to view anything as long as no children are involved and no one was hurt or exploited in making it.

          • biomass2 said, on May 1, 2013 at 10:27 am

            When you say “no children are involved” , do you mean, specifically, that no children are involved in the production of the material? What if boobs are accidentally exposed on national television during a program that some children may be watching? If you’re leading your child through a museum and you stop to view Goya’s “The Naked Maja” are you exposing your child to porno? Would the snotty old bitty next to you be justified if she reported you to the authorities?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 1, 2013 at 10:53 am

      I’ll put this comment on my next request for a raise.🙂

      As far as the slippery slope goes, I’m conforming to the standard definition in the field. Naturally, people are free to differ with the standards, but they would need to be clear that they are departing from these standards. Just like with language in general-if you want to call cars “pants”, you can do so. Just be clear about what you mean when you offer a co-worker a ride in your pants.

      In any case, the fallacy is still a fallacy whether it is called by its usual name or not. What is important is that sort of reasoning is defective.

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm

        I was just teasing so that WTP wouldn’t accuse me of sucking up to the teacher🙂

        • WTP said, on May 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm

          Yeah, you need to be a little less transparent that that. Not that I wouldn’t notice. Do you really believe that at FAMU, and especially in the Philosophy Dept, that It is the diversity of ideas that matter, and by testing these ideas against one another, and against the universe, that the superior ideas are discerned.
          ?

      • WTP said, on May 2, 2013 at 9:08 am

        What is important is that sort of reasoning is defective.

        It is only defective when taken to strawman extremes. The accusation of defective reasoning is itself defective when a charge of fallacy is made in regard to something that is not a fallacy. As was pointed out by others here, consideration of where a given policy change might lead is not ipso facto a fallacy.

        In the context of the genesis of this discussion re Alito’s ponderings on a SCOTUS case, opening up the meaning of a word to the mercy of lawyers is precisely the problem you describe with “pants”. If you want to call the association of two individuals a “marriage”, in contrast and conflict with how the word has been legally understood in the US court system for over two centuries, you need to be clear on what the new limitations of that term must be. Otherwise you are undermining communication. The inability of different parties or institutions to communicate leads to conflict. Sometimes dangerous conflict. Language is important. FAMU students would be lucky to have instructors who understand this.

  2. ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Important work, which influences lives forever🙂

  3. unsolicitedtidbits said, on May 2, 2013 at 12:16 am

    I love this, and I completely agree!


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