Any teaching philosophy reflects the instructor’s sense of the value of her courses, and of the roles that they can play in her students’ lives. Of course, philosophy’s values are myriad. Those of us who teach philosophy believe that the kinds of curiosity we cultivate and knowledge we pursue are intrinsically valuable. And our method is, at its heart, nothing less than the method of clear and precise reasoning, which has abundant instrumental benefits.

But in addition, I believe that the skills essential to philosophical reading and discussion are as crucial to our freedom as the right to vote. In our classrooms, we practice open, honest, and respectful engagement with views that challenge our own. We learn to read both charitably and critically, and so to push ourselves and our interlocutors to look beyond our own conceptions of the world – to think our ways out of our current assumptions in order to recognize in one another’s words unfamiliar and yet compelling content. These are the very same skills that good citizenship demands of us, and philosophy classes are uniquely suited to their development.

I strive to make acquisition and use of these skills the primary concern of the courses I teach. This guides the way that I structure class time, select and arrange readings across a semester, and construct students’ writing assignments.