A Ku Indeed!

Philosophy Kicks Ass

Posted in Academia, philosophy by Chris on January 6, 2009

It is unavoidable that philosophy professors look out into a class and catch those students who sit there with their best impression of the gum-chomping “WTF is all of this s&*(t for, anyway?” pose. Well, sometimes they actually say it verbally too, or text it under the table to the student on the other side of the room. I always think of those students when studies come out that suggest that philosophy, as a job, actually rocks. Here’s the latest, from the Wall Street Journal, which ranks philosophy as the #12th best job in existence.

Word to your mother.


Sabbatical Reading

Posted in Academia, Analects, Chinese Philosophy, Ethics, virtue ethics by Chris on December 28, 2008

An unmistakable sense of lightness has come over me. I wonder: am I no longer chained to the wheel of samsara? Have I achieved enlightenment? In alignment with the Tao? Seamlessly integrated into my role-ethical obligations? Nothing so grandiose, but somewhat analogous: I’m on sabbatical for the calendar 2009 year. I have a lot planned for the year — research articles, specifically — but first things first. A lot of cool reading! Below the fold I’ve listed the books that are in front of me in the “sabbatical pile” that has been building up for the last few weeks (regular and steady arrivals from Amazon mostly). I’m curious to know if anyone has an opinion on any of these books. Which one would you start with?


Local Knowledge, Effective Teaching

Posted in Academia, Course Material, Pedagogy by Chris on December 20, 2008

Reading Daniel Bell’s book it has struck me that his points about East-West human rights dialogue can be generalized to other areas of one’s life where successful communication between parties is required. The most immediate connection that came to my mind while reading was the teacher-student relationship – how should we, as teachers, approach our students with the lessons that we have prepared for them to learn?


The Doors of Academic Freedom

Posted in Academia by Chris on November 6, 2008

One of my students (h/t: Jonathan B) sent me this story about a professor who got in trouble for having the famous claim by Nietzsche that “God is Dead!” on the door of his office. According to the notice he received from the “higher ups” in administration:

“Temple College as a public institution cannot be represented as showing preference toward any religious philosophy/perspective or toward the opposite, being atheism. The same practice goes for politics. The decision to have the quote removed was that the quote can be considered very controversial and offensive to others. In fact, other people have already expressed that the wording is offensive!”


Update: Temple College has apparently reversed itself. See the information below the fold in the comments section by “Brandon.”


Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Posted in Academia, Pedagogy by Chris on July 17, 2008

Many times when I read ancient texts I am struck by the similarity of concerns that they had and the ones we presently have. At the very least, encountering these sorts of historical continuities leads to make a person a bit less smug about the wisdom of his/her own generation, given that we (or at least I) tend to spout off (false) platitudes about how it was (better) “back in the day.” When you learn that back in the serious day the same problems existed that you claim didn’t exist so much for you and your peers — well, you start to entertain the notion that reconstructed memories can be an amazing thing. Anyway — in this case I’m thinking of Chu Hsi and his frequent complaints about education, below.


Conference on Ethics and the Family

Posted in Academia, philosophy by Chris on July 15, 2008

My friend Adam is co-directing a conference (the 10th International Conference on Ethics Across the Curriculum) this fall (November 14th to 16th at Towson University in Maryland) on the theme “The Ethics of the Family” (natural topic for a Confucius paper!). The call for papers is still going on, and Adam posted a link to the call in a thread, but I figured I’d move it up to a full post so it wasn’t hidden. I presented at the conference two years ago (on integrating Confucius into core ethics courses) at Dartmouth, and found the environment and conversation to be very productive and stimulating (and fun, which is always a plus at a conference!). I’d present this year myself, but I think this present NEH seminar has used up my “away from wife and family” vouchers for 2008. Well, probably for 2009 too.

For more information on this year’s call for papers, click here. Adam can be reached at potthast@umr.edu if you have any questions.

The Eagle Has Landed

Posted in Academia, Life by Chris on July 6, 2008

I’m in Connecticut at Wesleyan, settled in for the NEH seminar (aka Confucian Virtue Ethics Boot Camp). I’ve met some of the other participants, and it looks like a good group. Should be a lot of fun. I know some old friends of CT sometimes stop by here — if so, and you want to meet up for lunch, drop me an email.

I have a post I want to make on Jiyuan Yu’s notion of dao and its relationship to eudaimonia in Aristotle, but I’ll wait until later tonight when things calm down a bit.,

I Hate Expensive Philosophy Books

Posted in Academia by Chris on June 25, 2008

I was doing a little research on narrative ethics and found a pretty cool anthology of essays that I was ready to buy. Well, that is until I got to Amazon and saw that the book cost $135.00! Time to turn to the used books! Oops. They are selling for $118.00 a copy at the cheapest. Next stop: university library. Bah. They don’t have it, nor is the book locatable through their system, so no inter-library loan on this one. Translation: no book for me.


Is College Really for Everyone?

Posted in Academia by Chris on June 3, 2008

This recent piece from The Atlantic is a must-read. Many issues are raised that are central to what we do as educators. Among other things, the piece highlights a difficult question: Is college really for everyone? Are we really doing people a service by making college necessary? The money quote:

America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.

(h/t: Les Potter)

Update: There are a lot of people out there talking about ol’ Professor X (some not so kindly).  Click for Matt Yglesias, Sherman Dorn, Michael Ayers, EdPolicyThoughts, Armed Liberal, Flypaper, Ross Douthat.

Ah, Living the Vita Academia

Posted in Academia by Chris on April 3, 2008

I’m out of town for a few days in Cincinnati attending a conference, China in a Global Context (sponsored and run by the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center). Academia doesn’t pay much, but this is one of the great perks. You get funded to fly around to different places to listen to great speakers and engage in cool conversations with folks on topics close to your scholarly interests (or, of course, give papers of your own). Living the vita academia.

Update #2: Conference over! Great talks, all of them. Lots of food for further thought. Roger Ames’ talk was entirely on Confucianism, of course; he argued for his (and Rosemont’s) suggestion that Confucianism is a “role ethic”. Some of you know I’ve written to both him and Rosemont on this, arguing against their attempt to make role ethics a fourth independent theory (alongside the traditional Western three). In all fairness, his talk today wasn’t technical, and so wasn’t specifically trying to argue for that thesis, but still, after hearing him, I find the “no virtue” argument unpersuasive. But that’s a whole different post.

Cracking the Code: Student Recommendation Letters

Posted in Academia, Life by Chris on January 18, 2008

I’ve been filling out student recommendations for graduate school lately. Nowadays, most of the recommendations are online (thankfully), so it’s pretty easy to do. One thing stuck out at me, however. When you get to the part at the end where it asks you just how much you really are recommending this person, it asks you to check off the appropriate box to signal your intention. I noticed that two online recommendations had the following boxes:


Drastic Causes Require Drastic Measures

Posted in Academia by Chris on January 8, 2008

In all of my classes (some more than others) there are always students who seem to suffer from absenteeism problems. Sometimes they are absent one, two, three days in a row. Usually, I figure that they must have really bad flus or colds. It never occurred to me that there might be a different reason.

Sometimes I guess you just gotta do what you gotta do.