My primary aim as teacher is to help students learn to think critically. Developing a truly critical perspective often requires unlearning much of what we (think we) know. Unlearning entails challenging our beliefs and assumptions, confronting our fears and biases, and entertaining new and sometimes uncomfortable ideas. It requires courage, hard work, a sense of humor, and – most of all – humility before the immense diversity and complexity of our world
My courses are intellectually demanding and, I hope, practically relevant. I present the material at a sophisticated level, challenging students to stretch themselves to the fullest. We don’t shy away from difficult texts or controversial topics. At the same time, I try to maintain a relaxed classroom atmosphere that encourages frank discussion and cultivates curiosity. While topics vary, I emphasize critical thinking and clear argumentation (both oral and written) in all of my courses. I like to think of a course in political theory as a kind of StairMaster for the brain – a device for making it stronger, healthier, and more flexible. I try to get students actively involved in their own learning, even in large lecture courses. I expect a lot and provide as much support as I can to make sure that everyone who wants to can flourish.
My course in American Political Thought (PS 1607) recently won the Provost’s Award for Diversity in the Curriculum; the course was redesigned to highlight the crucial role that slavery plays in shaping the American conception of freedom; the course now features works by pro-slavery thinkers (including some of the founders) and critical works highlighting how racialized slavery became a constitutive doctrine of American thought. See my 28 December 2018 blog post for more.
Check out the (admittedly slightly goofy) video below, produced several years ago by the University of Pittsburgh, to learn more.