[VIDEO]: You Should Study the ‘Philosophy of Education’ (EPE525/640) in Fall 2020

Snag a seat!

Graduate students and advanced undergraduates at the University of Kentucky, watch this VIDEO (4m29s) about why you should take my EPE 525 / 640 course in the fall of 2020 on the Philosophy of Education. The EPE 525 course is the undergraduate version of the EPE 640 class, which is for graduate students, and both meet at the same time and in the same room.

If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

Why study the Philosophy of Education?

Photo with students at the University of Mississippi.a) Educators and leaders are expected to have a meaningful grasp of their own philosophies of education;

b) All research is rooted in frameworks of ideas that support and contextualize our work and thought, and that can clarify and help us to focus or be conflicted and confuse us if not carefully considered;

c) Everyone working in educational administration contributes to a system that functions with respect to or in conflict with underlying philosophical ideas. That calls for appreciating and always keeping in mind what we ought to be doing in education.

What you’ll get out of it / create:

Eric Thomas Weber, author of "Uniting Mississippi: Democracy and Leadership in the South" speaks at Sturgis Hall October 19, 2015. Photo Credit: Jacob Slaton

Photo Credit: Jacob Slaton

1) A short “teaching statement,” “Statement on Educational Philosophy,” or related document commonly requested in academic job applications, as well as for administrative positions that often involve teaching courses or otherwise supporting them;

2) A book review for possible publication (optional route for students’ presentation);

3) A conference-length paper ready for submission to professional calls for papers;

4) A full-length research paper suitable for submission to journals and that could support your other projects;

John Dewey, standing.

John Dewey, concerned that you’re not yet signed up for the course.

5) An op-ed-length version of the research paper for possible submission to newspapers or educational periodicals (optional);

6) Credits that can contribute to the Graduate Certificate in College Teaching and Learning.

When & Where?

It’ll be on Mondays from 4-6:30pm in Dickey Hall rm 127. It is possible that we may start the semester with online meetings via Zoom, but details on such arrangements are yet to be determined. Decisions will follow the University of Kentucky’s guidelines for the sake of safety in the midst or wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Former Students’ Success

Maria Richie, Andrew Nelson, and Dr. Eric Thomas Weber at the 2019 Midwest Educational Research Association conference in Cincinnatti, Ohio.In Fall 2019, 3 of 6 grad students in my EPE 640 class submitted their papers to conferences and had them accepted for presentation. They included: Joseph Barry and Josh Smith presented their papers at the 2020 Southeastern Philosophy of Education Society conference at the University of Georgia in February 2020. Also, Samer Jan had his paper accepted for presentation at the 2020 conference of the Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World. Josh Smith also will be publishing his book review of Teaching In the Now by Jeff Frank in Columbia University’s Teachers College Record. The photo on right features Weber with two students from his Spring 2019 Ethics and Educational Decision Making course, Andrew Nelson and Maria Richie, whose papers from that class were accepted for presentation at the 2019 Midwest Educational Research Association conference

 

Questions? Email me at eric.t.weber@uky.edu. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & Academia.edu.

“The Pragmatist’s Call to Democratic Activism in Higher Education” is now out

Published in Essays in Philosophy 21, Issue 1/2 (2020): 29-45.

I’m excited to announce that my latest paper has been published in the journal, Essays in Philosophy, volume 21, issue 1/2, in 2020. If you want to read the paper, you can click on the image below or click here.

Image of the top of my paper, 'The Pragmatist's Call to Democratic Activism in Higher Education,' published in Essays in Philosophy.

My abstract for the paper reads as follows:

This essay defends the Pragmatist’s call to activism in higher education, understanding it as a necessary development of good democratic inquiry. Some criticisms of activism have merit, but I distinguish crass or uncritical activism from judicious activism. I then argue that judicious activism in higher education and in philosophy is not only defensible, but both called for implicitly in the task of democratic education as well as an aspect of what John Dewey has articulated as the supreme intellectual obligation, namely to ensure that inquiry is put to use for the benefit of life.

I’m very grateful to Dr. Ramona Ilea for her excellent work as editor of the journal.

Let’s Get the Facts First

Guest View article on pain medicine & the opioid epidemic by Dr. Paul T. Davis in the The Courier (Findlay, OH), November 5, 2019, A4.

A moving & humane argument concerning medicare and opioid prescriptions*


This is a thumbnail photo of Dr. Davis's essay, published in 'The Courier' of Findlay, OH.

Printable PDF

There is no question that every reasonable and effective method to stop the opioid epidemic should be investigated, and if proven effective, implemented. The horrors and wrecked lives this epidemic have caused are all too real to many people of all ages.

However, we must remember that the opioid epidemic was primarily caused by prescribing these medicines for those with chronic pain not caused by cancer.

In the “Other View” op ed published on Nov 2, 2019, Senators Shelley Capito and Jeanne Shaheen are featured claiming that Medicare encourages over-prescribing of opioids. They are correct in that there have been articles published showing that the number of prescriptions in the Medicare population is rising.

They are also correct that their publicizing this problem has great “optics” and could help their political careers.

However, what is missing from the reports is very important. How many of these prescriptions were written for treatment of cancer pain?

In the 1970’s I watched my friend die in agony with pancreatic cancer because his doctors were afraid of losing their licenses if they gave him adequate pain medicine. They would not treat his pain because of the fear they would addict him.

In his last six weeks of life, he never slept more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time because of the severe, unrelenting pain.

Fast forward to the early part of this century when I had to watch another friend suffer needlessly. He had multiple myeloma, a cancer that causes severe bone pain all over the body. He was getting adequate amounts of pain medicine until well-meaning politicians crafted laws that restricted access to these medicines. It affected everyone, regardless of legitimate need.

These laws did little to curb the over-prescribing of opioids judging by how bad the epidemic got even after they were passed.

But what it did do what make it very difficult for him to get the pain medicine he needed. Anything less than a narcotic, in a big dose was totally worthless.

This is a plea for more information before this gets worse. Medicare-age patients are the most likely to have cancer, and treatment of cancer pain has been a great medical victory in the last 40 years.

Well-meaning laws enacted without considering the collateral damage that could be done to those with a true need would be a horrible tragedy. Or should I say, make a horrible tragedy even worse than it is for the cancer-patients in need.

By all means make it less financially rewarding for inappropriately prescribing opioids for non-cancer pain, but it is too easy to craft a bad policy than it is to fix it later.

We as a society must protect those in the greatest need.

We must ensure that the right drugs are available to the right patients in a timely manner, while keeping harmful treatments of any kind away from everyone.

Get the facts before writing a bad law.

Dr. Paul T. Davis

Dr. Paul T. Davis.

Dr. Paul T. Davis of Findlay, OH, is a retired family physician and former Program Director of the University of Findlay’s Physician Assistant Master’s program. See also the coverage on NPR.org of Dr. Davis and his daughter, Liz Moreno, after she received a bill calling for payment of $17,850 for a urine test.


* I (Eric Thomas Weber) received and read a scan of the printed version of this article in early November and was deeply moved. Wanting to share it, I visitedThe Courier’s’ Web site, and then reached out to them when I could not find it there. I learned that they do not post the essays of guest columnists online, and so I requested permission to share the essay here. As I have lived in Mississippi and presently now live in Kentucky, two states deeply affected by drug addiction, I believe it all the more important that our lawmakers and policymakers think carefully and humanely about the kinds of rules that they establish concerning opioids.

This article is republished here with the permission of the author and of the staff of The Courier of Findlay, Ohio. 

Take EPE 628, Ethics & Educational Decision Making, S’20

In the spring of 2020, I’ll be teaching Ethics and Educational Decision Making, EPE 628, with both face-to-face AND synchronously online sections! The class meets on Tuesday from 4-6:30pm. Consider signing up or tell your friends who might.

Image of a road that forks, next to the text of the name of the course, 'Ethics and Educational Decision Making.'

Why study Ethics and Educational Decision Making?

  1. Ethics is essential for leadership in the educational policy context;
  2. The course fulfills an elective requirement for the Graduate Certificate in College Teaching and Learning;
  3. The course includes options for customizing assignments for conference and journal submissions;
  4. Two students from last semester had their papers accepted for presentation at the 2019 Midwest Educational Research Association conference;
  5. It’s really fun.

Thumbnail image of a flyer for EPE 628. Clicking on this image opens a PDF of the flyer, which is text searchable. Here’s a flyer for the course, and here’s a short bio about the instructor:

Dr. Eric Thomas Weber is Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation. He also serves as Executive Director of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) and co-host of the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast, and is the author of Uniting Mississippi and Democracy and Leadership.

Consider joining the class or sharing this post with your networks! 

‘Ethics & Public Policy’ course in Fall ’18

For the Fall semester of 2018, I’m planning an upper level course here at the University of Kentucky in ‘Ethics and Public Policy,’ PHI 531, Section 1, which will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 – 4:45 pm. The course will begin with an examination of major moral traditions as well as ethical problems that are special challenges for leadership in the policy sphere. We will then survey a variety of policy areas and documents in which moral consideration is deeply important and needed.

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

A stack of newspapers.Areas of interest and application for the course will include:

  • Educational Aims & Policies
  • Mass lncarceration
  • Healthcare Ethics
  • Economic Development Policies
  • Climate Change
  • Human Rights
  • Research Ethics
  • Animal Rights
Image of a flyer for the course, featuring the information described on the present page.

Flyer for the course.

My former students who have studied ethics and public policy with me have gone on to work in the White House, under both the present and previous administrations, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the State Department, the F.B.I., the Heritage Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and numerous think-tanks, as well as a variety of offices in state government. There is need for study of the kind addressed in this course also for countless advocacy groups and organizations, as well as in current events journalism.

For those interested, here is the University of Kentucky’s page with information about how to register for courses for the Fall of 2018.

For those interested in more information now, you can check out my books on ethics and public policy, including:

Cover for 'Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy.'

 

Morality, Leadership, & Public Policy (London: Bloomsbury, 2010)

 

Photo of the paperback and hardback editions of 'Democracy and Leadership.'Democracy and Leadership: On Pragmatism and Virtue (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013)

and

Paperback editions featuring the cover of 'Uniting Mississippi.'Uniting Mississippi: Democracy and Leadership in the South (Jackson, MS: The University Press of Mississippi, 2015)

 

The logo for Philosophy Bakes Bread, which involves to slices of bread with tails, making them look like dialogue bubbles.In addition, for those who are unfamiliar, I co-host the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show & podcast that airs on WRFL Lexington, 88.1 FM and in the show we cover a number of public policy topics. Give it a listen!

Talking Leadership with Grad Students

Logo for the Graduate Student Congress at the University of Kentucky.Today I had the honor of having been invited to speak at the University of Kentucky’s Graduate Student Leadership Conference. My talk was called “Democracy and Leadership in Higher Education: A Talk for Graduate Students.” I seconded some of the prior speaker’s remarks, which concerned the value of networking, including online and via social media. One student had expressed her aversion to social media. I explained that at least one wants to have a good Web site, as people do want to look you up some when getting to know you. One avenue that can help are social media profiles, but a good Web site can do wonders too. I would encourage some of the same things. He had said that Facebook isn’t a great medium, but that’s because he was thinking of one’s personal Facebook profile. And obviously he hasn’t read my post about why scholars need Facebook author pages (and since I wrote that piece, my author page following has grown from ~2k to ~141k).

Eric Weber delivering a different talk years earlier, not the one mentioned in this post.

Photo of the paperback and hardback editions of 'Democracy and Leadership.'I wasn’t there today to talk about social media, though. Instead, I spoke mainly about my 2013 book, Democracy and Leadership, and showed what I think we still have to learn from Plato, even if it needs updating for the modern and democratic era. I find a lot of value in reminding myself of what Plato’s Socrates says in the first book of the Republic. There, Socrates says that good people won’t be willing to lead. They’d rather others do it. But, some compulsion weighs on good people, inspiring them to be leaders against their inclinations. That compulsion is the fact, in his way of thinking, that worse people will lead. In the democratic era, the language of good people and bad people generally rings as unpleasant at best. My translation for democracy is to say that the compulsion could be instead that good people care about problems, injustices, that could be ameliorated with effort. Good people don’t want to be at the top for its own sake, but accept positions of responsibility because of what would happen if other people would not stand up to address key problems.

Bust of Socrates.

Socrates.

After that, I explained how and why I think it’s important that we continue to learn about leadership from Plato, even while we disagree with and let go of his authoritarian outlook. In other words, how he characterizes the virtues of leadership is problematic, but there’s no doubt that wisdom is important for leadership, for example, including in the democratic era. It just needs to be understood, pursued, and embodied democratically. So, I talked about what I take that to mean in many contexts of leadership today, but focusing on prime challenges for grad students. After all, good people will need compulsion in grad school too. Leadership is generally thankless, or worse. Plus, it takes a great deal of time and effort, which generally means a distraction from one’s other work. As such, engaging in leadership efforts as a grad student may well mean taking longer to finish one’s program. That’s something serious to accept. To want to lead despite that may well take some compulsion. Even if it does, however, grad student leaders would be wisest if they engage in democratic practices, acknowledging the dangers, challenges, and harms that can come from leading. They should also beware not to carry the world on their shoulders, as time is short, even at its longest, in graduate school (or we generally want it to be), and colleges and universities are slow-moving, relatively conservative institutions. So, at best one can make incremental change and pass on to the next group of leaders their chance to make a further difference.

As such, leadership in the grad school context should stay humble and stoic about what’s possible, want to lead for the right reasons, and be award of the costs, challenges, and reasons not to lead, all while going after it anyway in those cases that truly call for such a sacrifice.

————–

P.S. Of course there was more detail in the talk, but this is the gist of what I had to say this morning, and the people in attendance seemed to appreciate thinking through these matters with me, raising some very thoughtful and valuable questions. My thanks go out to James William Lincoln and the Graduate Student Congress for the invitation.

Exciting Growth for Philosophy Bakes Bread

Some of you may recall that I started a podcast in 2015 called Philosophy Bakes Bread. Now that it’s a production of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA), which airs on WRFL Lexington, and with my co-host from afar Dr. Anthony Cashio, the show is picking up steam.

Logo for Philosophy Bakes Bread.

As a stand alone podcast in 2015 and 2016, each episode was scripted and recorded by yours truly. It took a lot of time and it was hard back then to commit to putting out episodes as regularly as I had wanted to. Now that the show has a cohost and is primarily an interview-format and discussion-style show, and now that it’s on the radio each week, it’s been much easier to commit to regular work on it and to put out a steady stream of episodes. The latter is so crucial for developing and growing an audience.

One bit of good news is that we’ve just received our first iTunes reviews for the show, which are both 5 star reviews! We’re thrilled that people are enjoying the show.

Photo of a microphone and a soundboard.It helps for the show to be on the radio, which already has a listening audience base. Plus, the team at the station has been a big help. They’re looking into ways for us to transcribe the episodes, perhaps with grant support. Then, we’ve seen good early numbers for podcast episode downloads. We’ve only been putting them out since the last week of January, with minimal social media distribution efforts and so far we’ve had over 2,000 downloads. We’re looking to start sending out PSA’s and to get with TV news and newspapers about the program. Who knows. It would certainly be awesome eventually to syndicate the program, if interest grows.

The cool thing about a program like Philosophy Bakes Bread is that we can cover so many topics that matter. We can at the same time simply present matters that scholars are researching, that audiences care about, and we can also be advocates about things that matter. We can have people on whom we think ought to be heard more. Soon, we’ll be airing an interview with conference panelists who wrote and spoke about disability and American philosophy. That’s just one of many exciting examples.

Sliced loaf of French bread.I’ll keep you posted from time to time on what we’re up to with the show. For now, if you’ve not already subscribed, what are you waiting for? Go check us out at PhilosophyBakesBread.com. We’re on iTunes and have a regular RSS feed, which you can learn about on our site. We’ve just now submitted our feed to Google Play, which should likely be listing the show soon. And, of course, we’re on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out!

Why Some Progress Is Slow for Accessibility

“What’s with that?” a student asked me. Our classroom this semester was on the third floor of Barker Hall at the University of Kentucky. The flights are tall and there is no elevator. “How is that allowed?”

The young woman was asking about accessibility. It’s 2016. Don’t campus buildings have to be accessible?

This is a photo of a modern staircase designed with ramps running zig zag up the diagonals of the staircase.

New construction can incorporate accessibility features beautifully, as part of the design, and while not making accommodations around back by the trash can. You can walk or roll with your loved ones to the other floor.

A sidewalk that ends in grass.Before moving to Lexington, I advocated for certain accessibility issues at the University of Mississippi. In the process, I learned a lot about what people say when you push on such issues. There were many disappointing responses at times, the most upsetting of which was being ignored for nearly a year. That’s another story.

The experience in Mississippi revealed to me some interesting challenges to consider even when an organization means to do its best to make a social space maximally accessible.

If you want to advocate for change, critical thinking textbooks will tell you, you have to understand your opposition and address it head on. Finding the weakest arguments that oppose your mission and laughing at them won’t convince people who disagree with you. Identifying the smartest things people say in their defense and responding to those might.

How many buildings are on a university campus? It will vary significantly, but let’s imagine that there are 200 at a major research university. If the campus has been around a long time, many of the buildings will have been built long before the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some will be historic buildings. Others in need of repair. Some will be priorities and others won’t.

Classroom space tends to be at a premium in most institutions. When all of the most commonly used spaces have been taken up, you look for further spots not yet in use. My courses were added far later than is usual this past summer, so they were located in classroom space still available. It so happens that that means Barker Hall.

Barker hall today.Barker Hall is historic, built in 1901. The first photo of it is how it looks now, although it is actually surrounded by construction of the new student center at present. The next photo showcases what we mean when we call it historic.

So why isn’t it accessible?

  1. Making spaces accessible as you build them is cheaper than retroactively. So, it’s more expensive than making other, perhaps more spacious new buildings accessible.
  2. Historic photo of Barker Hall.Making historic buildings accessible generally adds cost, because it is desirable to preserve the beauty of historic buildings, while retrofitting. It’s harder, so it costs more.
  3. It probably is not the only remaining space that needs retrofitting.
  4. Money is always limited and judgments are made all-things-considered about where to spend it.
  5. Without many people calling for Barker to change, it won’t any time soon. Though, there may be plans in the works to update it at some point.

But wait, “Isn’t it the law?!”

  1. No, it’s not technically the law that every space has to be accessible to every person. The law says that institutions like mine have an obligation to make reasonable accommodations for people who need them. That means that if any of us had a broken ankle or if a student who uses a mobility device were to have added the course, the university would have had to find some solution to move the class meetings.

This last point is delicate, though. How would it make you feel if 30 other people had a change to their meeting location for a semester because of you? It’s something that couldn’t help but make someone feel singled out. Maybe the first classroom was conveniently located for certain people. Barker Hall is a hop away from Patterson Office Tower, where my office is. So, in the end, this answer is not terribly satisfying.

My point here is not that I think it’s fine to have inaccessible buildings. Hell, the window unit air conditioners made it hard to hear each other in August, a problem for people with hearing impairments, not to mention anyone trying to engage in a classroom discussion.

Man holding his ear because he can't hear the speaker.

No, this professional baseball team executive has nothing to do with the story here, except that he’s struggling to hear someone, as I often did this semester.

So, at some point I’ll gently start to ask questions about what the structure is here for decisions and initiatives regarding accessibility. It was refreshing, I must say, to hear disdain in the student’s voice. I heard passion and initiative in it. You can’t change much for the better without high expectations. At the same time, the challenges are real even when good people are trying to do many things right with limited resources.

Next semester, I’ll be teaching on the second floor of a building with several elevators. And central air.

Follow me on Twitter @EricTWeber and on Facebook @EricThomasWeberAuthor.

The Risks of Public Engagement, Part I

Dr. Shane RalstonI and others may well be guilty of romanticizing public philosophy. Fellow Dewey scholar and a prolific writer, Shane Ralston, has published a warning for people interested in engaging in public philosophy. In “On the Perils of Public Philosophy,” Ralston rightly recognizes both that there is a resurgence in the movement for publicly engaged philosophy and that too few call attention to its risks.

He explains that “Public philosophers are often criticized, bullied, harassed and even threatened and, unfortunately, some respond in kind when communicating their ideas in the public sphere.” He’s right. In Oxford, MS, while I was working at the University of Mississippi, I was thoroughly harassed by someone who made me feel ill. I won’t go into the details of it, but being publicly engaged has not been easy. People who disagree with you sometimes do so to a degree motivating enough to be threatening.

David - The Death of Socrates

I have reason to believe that this person sent two students to my office with a video camera for a “gotcha” kind of harassing interview. They were surprised when I sat them down to schedule a time to meet up formally. They didn’t show up for that.

Other people have written me with insults. One man, in a single email, called me a eunuch, a gelding, and effeminate. He clearly has strong feelings about gender and opinions. That sort of thing I can laugh off. The person who told me he was meeting with my Chancellor the next day was clearly trying to intimidate me. I was then an untenured assistant professor.

People will be mean. They will be unbelievably uncivil. One said that I should spend more time in the classroom than in the opinion pages.

Ralston is right that we don’t hear enough about the unpleasant side of public engagement.

So, why on Earth do we do it?

First of all, we should remember that it’s no surprise to be criticized or insulted for engaging with people about philosophical issues. Plato noted in his cave metaphor that the philosophers who have seen the light outside the cave have an obligation to go back down in there to help free the others. He did not think that they would welcome this liberation, he explained. If any philosopher “tried to loose another [prisoner in the cave] and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death… No question.”

Plato’s Socrates recognized that people will resist teachers and liberators. The folks in the cave are habituated to that setting. They believe that they have interests there. It’s unpleasant to be turned toward the light. People will be upset. Some might try to kill you.

I see that I have yet to make the case for public engagement. My point so far is that when we do it, we must do so with understanding of dangers. It’s like a battle medic. You head into dangerous territory to save people, not to injure anyone. Nevertheless, you can be targeted and hurt in the process. The part that makes it all the more difficult is that in Plato’s metaphor, it’s those whom you’re trying to save who resist and want you dead. Given that, why think we even have an obligation to them?

Here another line from the Republic is motivating for me. Plato’s Socrates says that the “greatest punishment for those unwilling to rule is to be led by those who are worse.”

Puppet master's hands and strings.If you’re unwilling to fight for the truth and for the liberation of people’s minds, you have chosen to be ruled by ignorance and whatever shadows on the wall the powerful puppet masters choose.

If we are going to mean what we do in love of wisdom, we must do so with our greatest hopes in mind. It isn’t that we should believe that they will be achieved. The point is that if we don’t try, we choose to be doomed to follow ignorance and injustice.

Now we have the greatest need I have witnessed in my lifetime to engage publicly in reasoned, vigorous debate about what is right. There will be risks to doing so. Socrates was killed. It is incredibly unlikely that philosophy professors today could face such risks, but it is not impossible. This is all the more reason why it is important to mean it when we say with Socrates that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

You can follow me on Twitter @EricTWeber and on Facebook @EricThomasWeberAuthor.

Trump’s Blind Faith in Tax Cuts Won’t Work, Just Look at the Evidence

Piece originally published in The Herald Leader, October 13, 2016.

Thumbnail photo of my piece in the Herald Leader, titled, 'Trump's Blind Faith in Tax Cuts Won't Work, Just Look at the Evidence.' The link leads to the article on the Herald Leader's site.

After watching the first Presidential debate, I was struck by how little Donald Trump had to offer in terms of actual policy proposals. He suggested renegotiating trade deals, but that’s not something he can unilaterally do. I’m skeptical. The things government can do on its own, among his recommendations, included lowering taxes for the wealthy and for corporations. It’s his panacea. It’s also something that in many cases has already been shown not to work.

Of course, there can be too much. But for a man proud of paying no taxes, it’s all the more absurd to suggest that taxes are too high on him. Here’s my piece, covering what I take to be the four big mistakes in Donald Trump’s free market fundamentalism.