Thursday, November 29, 2018

Philosophical Community Service Assignment

I try to teach an "Introduction to Philosophical Ethics" course in an interactive, discussion-based and skills-focused manner.

If you understand something, then you explain it to an appropriate audience: you can teach them something. Their final assignment involves students sharing their moral reasoning skills with an audience of people not in our class. Students have to show this audience how to rationally evaluate moral arguments, using examples they provide, and then teach the audience some basic skills at doing this, involving arguments that the audience provides. I call this "philosophical community service."

Here is the assignment (more details and backstory asap):

Philosophical Service Project

For this assignment, you will perform some "philosophical community service." The service you will provide is demonstrating to the community how to think critically about moral issues using the logical methods we've practiced in this class. So, you will model thinking in systematic ways about moral issues, engage some arguments from your audience and help them evaluate these arguments.

Here's what to do:
1. Find a group of 2-3 students, or do the project on your own. 
2. Pick a topic from the syllabus, or develop your own, with approval from Dr. Nobis. Here are some of the topics we’ve covered:

the treatment of disabled newborns, euthanasia and assisted suicide, female genital mutilation, male circumcision, homosexuality, polyamoury and monogamy, abortion, absolute poverty, racism, sexism, and speciesism, vegetarianism and the treatment of animals, drug use and the criminalization of drug use, the ethics of grades and extra credit, at least.

3. Develop at least 5 arguments in logically valid form on this topic. 

4. Find an audience of at least 3 people, not from this class.

5. Present your arguments to this audience. Given them an introduction to what you will do in your presentation. Explain to them what you will do and how you will do it. State and explain your five arguments and evaluate them as sound or not. 

6. Get at least 3 (ideally, at least 5) new arguments, or premises, on the topic from the audience.

7. With the audience, formulate these arguments in logically valid form and determine whether they are sound or not.

8. Formulate any conclusions from your discussion and wrap it up.

9. Write up a report on what happened, using this form:

Philosophical "Community Service" Project:

Report Form

Your Class Time:
1.      Group members:    (note: each member must submit this report via Blackboard).
2.      Your topic:  
3.      Summarize the introduction to what you will do in your presentation. What will you explain to audience what you will do and how you will do it. You need to explain the methods that you will use to identify and evaluate moral arguments.
4.      Present at least 5 arguments on that topic, stated in logically valid form.
5.      Evaluate those 5 arguments as sound or not. Fully explain why they are sound or not: by explaining whether each and every premise is true or false (Note: merely stating whether an argument is sound or not does not explain why it is sound or not: explanation is needed).
6.      Your audience members’s names:
7.      Your audience’s reactions to the arguments that you presented and your evaluation of them:
8.      The 3-5 arguments from the audience:
9.      These arguments stated in logically valid form:
10.  Your, and the audience’s, evaluations of these arguments as sound or not:
11.  Your conclusions and summary of this activity that you presented to the audience.
12.  Your group’s reflections on this experience: what went well? What was interesting? What was surprising? What was challenging? How was this experience, overall? 

Here's a recent final reflection from a student (used with permission):

The whole activity went well. I believe that I explained moral arguments very well because the audience was able to understand the basic concepts of moral arguments. It was interesting to hear what arguments the audience would make. I thought it would be challenging for the audience to get the hang of making moral arguments, but it wasn’t hard for them at all. This was a great experience, I really enjoyed it and the audience enjoyed it as well. I really enjoyed being able to show what I have learned in this class. I also like the fact that I was able to benefit others with my knowledge. 

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