[lit-ideas] Re: Can U Read Kant?

  • From: John Wager <john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 09:17:59 -0500

Phil Enns wrote:
. . .The issue for me is not the
'U' but the reference to Kant.  If, as educators, we are supposed to
adopt the ways and manners of our students, leaving behind canonical
texts and big ideas, who cares whether you or 'U' can read Kant?  On
this account, being able to read Kant would be like being able to read
Phoenician, both equally pointless in this YouTube 'communication
environment'.  However, if being able to read Kant is in any way
worthwhile, which seems to be the implication of the title, then how
are the recommendations given, new electronic devices and transforming
universities into YouTube communication environments, relevant to the
Philosophers and philosophy teachers are a subversive lot! If anybody can figure out a way to use technology to do something it isn't supposed to do, I'd say it will probably be philosophers. As a very crude example, I've been teaching an introductory level online ethics class for a few years now, and we do indeed read a few short selections from Kant's "*Grundlegung*" online. I keep getting the same questions from students about the readings, and I keep asking students the same questions when they come to me saying they don't "get" Kant. So I put those questions online, inside the reading, and make students stop and think about what they are reading WHILE they are reading it. Their replies go to my email; every student has to reply to all the questions in all the readings. I've found that this works much better than asking for replies listed at the end of a reading, or on a so- called "study guide" that doesn't produce as close a reading as these tutorial questions produce.

If you want to see a slightly earlier version of this, there is still a page on the department's public website that shows how it works. It's here:

So yes, reading Kant matters, especially to freshmen community college students, and yes, it is
important to adopt to the "ways and manners of our students" as well.

"Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence and ignorance." -------------------------------------------------
John Wager                john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx
                                  Lisle, IL, USA

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