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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Should teachers of controversial issues disclose their opinions?

By Harry
Originally posted March 3, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

For some of the issues I teach, it is not that hard to find out my views, if you really want to, and are a minimally competent googler. But I take a pretty hard line on the disclosure question. I don’t disclose my views about the issues I teach. Here’s why.

First, all of the issues I teach are issues on which there are powerful arguments on more than one side. I do not see my job as presenting technical scholarly applied ethics so that they will become interested in the major, but in introducing them to a particular practice that requires certain intellectual resources that my discipline has developed: the practice of moral reason giving and taking. So it makes no sense to teach issues about which, though there is a public debate, the reasons are one-sided. This is why, for example, I do not teach same-sex marriage (I tried, it didn’t work) or gun rights and why, if I lived in the UK, I would not teach about the legitimacy of the monarchy. I want students really to understand that there are reasons on both sides, and worry that disclosing would give them the impression that, contrary to fact, I regard the issues as settled. (I should add: it might make complete sense to teach such issues in a social studies high school class, especially if the focus is on getting the students to articulate and defend their own positions; the aims of such a class might be different from mine).

The entire blog post is here.

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