Thursday, September 25, 2014

Declining decline?

While the philosophy blogosphere collapses, or at least undergoes some kind of spasm, I wonder whether this is happening because of a general sense that we are in the last days of the philosophy profession (or what Brian Leiter called "the so-called philosophy 'profession' (it's mostly a circus"--he seems to have removed the post, but if you search for "philosophy profession circus" you can find the fragment I have quoted here). 

With that as background I was just sent an article designed to help college instructors whose students are not doing the assigned reading. It contains fourteen handy tips, the first three of which are as follows:
Tip 1: Not every course is served by requiring a textbook
Consider not having a required textbook...     
Of course textbooks are not always the best books or readings to assign. But this tip does not mention assigned readings other than textbooks. Recommended readings are suggested instead, at least for some courses. Guess how many students read merely recommended material?

Tip 2: “Less is more” applies to course reading
A triaged reading list should contain fewer, carefully chosen selections, thereby reducing student perception of a Herculean workload...
It's all about perception after all.
Tip 3: Aim reading material at “marginally-skilled” students
Assess reading material to determine the level of reading skill students need in order to read the text in a manner and for the ends that the instructor has intended. A text included in the course readings primarily for entertainment purposes, for example, will require a less-strong set of student reading skills than will a text included for content purposes.
So entertainment before content.

I'm not saying it's the end of the world, but if anyone ever wonders whether or how dumbing down occurs then this provides a pretty good example.


  1. are there any undergrad classes being taught on fridays anymore out there in the usa?

    1. Yes, and at 8:00 am too. Important stuff like that is mandated.

    2. heh, anyone not at a military academy teaching on fridays?

    3. Who knows what goes on in the civilian world?

    4. not classes on fridays...

  2. Bad stuff. The blog implosion makes me feel better about having been preoccupied with lots of other things besides my own blog lately...

    1. Me too - although actually I haven't been preoccupied. I've just been struggling to write anything that isn't unspeakable rubbish. Still...