[Philosophy] Philosophy Course Review

Richard O'Donovan rodonovan at fhs.vic.edu.au
Wed Mar 1 15:10:51 EST 2006

Thanks for your thoughts Rodney.  I understand your sentiment about the rigour of the course, and in some ways we're trapped by the fact that it is nigh impossible to externally apply a standard measure of philosophical development in students, hence having the exam so closely tied to the texts.  But the problem for me is that there seems to be barely enough time to read through/explain the texts much less discuss them in depth.  And given the texts are being examined in such a pedantic fashion, we are doing a disservice to our students if we're not preparing them for those questions.  That's why I like the idea of freeing us up somewhat in terms of text selection.  If we make some of them optional - with a few core ones - then we can tailor our classes toward those we are more comfortable/competent/confident with, or whichever seems to best suit our cohort of students. For instance, I'm not surprised that you're keen on King Rodney (no reverse pun intended) given your penchant for oration - that sounds vaguely rude...Rodney (pun kind of intended there) - and more strength to your arm.... or voice.  Similarly with Murdoch.  If we have a choice of texts the kids are also potentially free to specialise in the ones that suit them.  Then the exam can demand a more rigorous understanding of the concepts in each text - encouraging us to explore the issues in more depth, and giving us the time to do so.  At the moment we can't simply rely on students to read the texts out of class because for the vast majority, through no fault of their own, they can't.  I'm a former Specialist Maths teacher, and in my view it's one of the dullest, most tedious, and least useful subjects on the planet.  I find philosophy vastly superior, requiring far greater depth of thought/analysis/understanding than Specialist does, and it's actually profoundly useful to those who are open to a bit of reflection.  However I don't see this course really fulfilling the "philosophical oath" (whatever that is!!) as it seems to be far more text focussed than philosophy focussed - if that makes sense.  And I don't think we have to ram texts down kids throats just to be seen to be rigorous.  We just have to attract the kind of clientelle who are geneuinely interested in doing philosophy.  Typically these are the people who are genuinely interested in doing well in VCE anyway, and as a result will produce the kind of scaling that Specialist Maths & Latin boast about.  I know several excellent students who have been turned off Yr 12 Philosophy because of the heavy text burden - which is such a disappointing contrast with Yr 11 Philosophy.
It's probably best I shut up now - although one last thing, I think Kuhn is essential too, I'd just trim him a bit, and I think part of the last chapter of Feyerabend's 'Against Method' would be a fabulous addition.


From: philosophy-bounces at edulists.com.au on behalf of Rodney Latham
Sent: Wed 01-Mar-06 9:18 AM
To: Year 12 Philosophy Teachers' Mailing List
Subject: [Philosophy] Philosophy Course Review

Hello all,
I just wanted to send a short email to say thank you all for your comments and ideas over recent weeks.  This list / forum has become a highlight for me to check my email.
I also wanted to weigh in somewhat on the course review debate.  We had our first Yr 12 class complete Philosophy Units 3 & 4 last year.  They did reasonably well, although, to me, I was most encouraged by one young lady who has just commenced at Latrobe Uni doing a double degree in Philosophy and French.
Regarding the course review, I have been thinking, but I am not able to articulate all my ideas just yet.  As for the texts, I would agree with Lyn that King should remain.  The texts on the good life are quite diverse and they provide a good counterpoint to one another.  
While I understand that overall 14 texts is a lot, I would rather keep that amount than actually reduce the number.  Philosophy should be rigorous and should be seen as such.  I am still incensed by the the VCAA's view on specialist mathematics (which I also understand to be rigorous) while there view on the rigor of reading, understanding, responding to and interacting with 14 university level texts is nothing if not extremely rigourous.  I am not an elitist, but I strongly believe that we in the humanities need to highlight the level of difficulty of our various humanities subjects.
As for Murdoch, I do find her a very odd choice and I understand the need to have some gender balancing, I would have thought there might have been some other options.  Yet, in a perverse sort of way, I found Murdoch stimulating and several of my students found (somehow) the Murdoch text useful -- most found it obscure.
In Unit 4, I would like to see Kuhn remain also because he lays the groundwork for undermining the absolute confidence in science.  Kuhn is seminal to understanding the wider post-modernism debate.
These are my thoughts for the moment, but I hope to contribute more ideas in the near future.  
Thanks again for all of your (collective) contributions.
Rodney Latham

Philosophy and Economics Teacher

Ph 03 9749-1522 Fax (03) 9748-6247

email rlatham at heathdale.vic.edu.au

The contents of this email are confidential. Any unauthorised use of the contents is expressly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please advise immediately by forwarding it to: webmaster at heathdale.vic.edu.au or by voice phone (reverse charges):+61 3 97491522 and then delete/destroy the email and any printed copies. Thank you.

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/ms-tnef
Size: 9390 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://www.edulists.com.au/pipermail/philosophy/attachments/20060301/718ba849/attachment.bin

More information about the philosophy mailing list