Disciplinary misconceptions (philosophy version).

Chatting with the chair of the philosophy department at one of the local community colleges:

CC Dept. Chair: Yeah, so I'm scheduled to teach six classes this term.

Me: Six?! While you're the chair?!!

CC Dept. Chair: Yeah, six. We have big enrollments, the full-time faculty are fully scheduled, and I can't find enough part-timers to teach all the sections.

Me: Good grief! So you have to teach them yourself?

CC Dept. Chair: The enrollments are what will get us permission to hire another full-timer, so I can't not teach them.

Me: Yikes!

CC Dept. Chair: Also, I need to counteract the effect of some of the instructors who, erm, are driving the students away.

Me: Driving them away?

CC Dept. Chair: Yeah. Dry lectures, three hour blue-book exams, that sort of thing.

Me: In philosophy? What the hell?!

CC Dept. Chair: Exactly.

Me: Seriously, philosophy class is supposed to be the one that's so engaging that it lures you away from what your parents want you to major in.

CC Dept. Chair: That's my feeling on it.

Me: Have these three-hour-blue-book-exam folks forgotten that our business is corrupting the youth?

CC Dept. Chair: Apparently. Which is why I have six classes worth of youth to corrupt this term.

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I taught many an adjunct community college section as a grad student and they were simulataneously a delight and a horror. The students were wonderful (especially the older returning students) as were the overwhelming majority of my colleagues, but at the same time, they are perpetually on a shoestring because the state universities provide the headlines and get the public higher ed dollars. As a result, there are always a few instructors in the "beggars can't be chooser" category and everyone teaches incredible loads. They truly are the unsung heroes of the higher ed ballgame.

Hm, back in 1995-97, when I was paying attention to goings on at local community colleges, teaching 6 or 8 classes on top of other duties was normal (but for math, science, and engineering - I didn't pay attention to philosophy.)

Hurray community colleges! So nice to be called an unsung hero. Thanks SteveG. The loads are heavy. I taught 13 classes one year but remember that was only three preps. But that presents a challenge as well...how do you avoid getting stale after all those years, all those sections of the same class. I'd like to believe that I have managed but you know it isn't so easy. Maybe some of those instructors that the chair has to save the students from need some sort of infusion of energy. Alas, community colleges are not very good at supporting the sort of infusion that I think philosophers need...interaction with colleagues and intellectual stimulation. They are good at supporting faculty in adopting new pedagogical techniques however. That sometimes can help. But then old dogs, new tricks and all that is sometimes a problem as well.

By Sharon Crasnow (not verified) on 16 Aug 2006 #permalink