Today the moon must be right or something... or, perhaps they are feeling more comfortable in the semester --because today I had three odd encounters with students.
The first was with an older student who is auditing my ethics course. He kind of looks like I envisioned Socrates to look... long white hair, white beard and a thoughtful but contentious demeanor... on break today he asked me today what I think the soul is. I had a non-answer for him, and he pressed it... so I gave him a vaguely religious answer -- which seemed to satisfy him.
The second was immediately after class. Usually students with these kinds of questions come to my office, but she came to ask me in the same way she would ask about a hard concept in class... -- she had an ethical question concerning her interactions with her abusive spouse and whether or not she was doing the ethically wrong thing in planning to divorce him. It was kind of a complicated situation (as these often are) and there is one very strict reading of the situation in which she would be wrong in divorcing him.
Before you get too worried --- I explained to her how he wasn't holding up his end of the agreement, which was a condition of her keeping her side of the bargan.... at the end of our short and rather public conversation, she seemed to understand that it would be ethical to divorce him -- whew.... I didn't sign on to be a marriage ethicsist (if there is such a thing...)
The third was at the end of my office hours, a student came to me because they wanted to move out of the course of a teacher in another discipline who did not seem to be a good teacher. This is not news to me, and the tactics this person used on this student in the first couple of weekes of class seem to be in line with reports from other students and other semesters. This student and I discussed the disadvantages of joining the class late, but since there was an extenuating circumstance, I allowed him to register.
I'm most comfortable with my discussion with my abused student -- I know that was right -- and she was looking for my position as an ethicist.... the others, I'm less happy with. I'm not sure I should have given my personal opinion on the nature of the soul, and I'm not sure I should have allowed the third student into my course -- mostly because I let them miss an opportunity to learn from someone who is very politically different than he is.
What do you think?