Friday, October 07, 2005

Why the "Philosophy Factory"

Every blog should, in my opinion, start with a post explaining the name and purpose of the blog...

I teach in the Philosophy Factory. We are community college in a northern state with a fair-sized philosophy department. Teaching philosophy to a bunch of people who are more or less interested in actually doing philosophy has provided me with a unique point of view. I think it is time to share that point of view with the rest of the world :)....

I also coach debate for this community college -- which is an odd combination, but then again, maybe I'm an odd combination. There are plenty of challenges in coaching debate at my college -- and I suppose those challenges will also be the subject of future posts.

In addition to teaching and coaching I'm also writing a dissertation on Just War Theory --- which leaves little time for fun stuff, but, being called "Dr. Steck" by my grad department (i don't care if anybody else calls me that, ever) will be worth the trouble.

So--- I'm going to try to keep this as officially anonymous as possible, so that I can be as honest as possible. The idea is that my friends will know who I am --- but the administration of my school will have a hard time proving who I am in time to deny me tenure :) --- not that I'm going to say things that radical, or reveal student information here -- but, one of my favorite blogs is the "Phantom Professor", and I don't want any of the trouble at my school that she saw at SMU.

I suppose now you are wondering why, the "Philosophy Factory" -- kind of an odd title, since philosophy is about ideas and theories, not making stuff.. Teaching philosophy at my school is much like working in a factory --

We are in a union, and it is a strong one. Being elected union president is a big political deal, and the administration is pretty much afraid that we'll complain to the union about things -- so they keep us in decent working conditions. Of course, our union dues are outrageous ($43.00 per paycheck), and those at the top of the union heirarchy don't give a crap about us worker bees... so it is pretty much the same as working in a unionized factory

Our contract requires us to teach 15 credits per semester -- at some colleges their teaching load is 15 credits PER YEAR. In our department we also have 3 courses with class limits of 50 students. So, some semesters I teach 250 students. At most colleges my contemporaries teach 90 students per semester. In a year I'll grade 500 students, they'll grade 180 --

Like factory workers, teachers at community colleges don't get respect from those in 4 year schools. We are seen as providing opportunities for technical education, not higher thought. The thing is, with the ability to inflience 500 students per year -- we are haviing a much higher impact on the world than the bozos in the ivory tower.

That is all for now --- generally I'll use nicknames for my friends, husband, colleages and students --- but first I have to think them up -- for now, I'm writing from a hotel room at a debate tournament in the middle of hick-ville... and it is time to get going for the day.

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