I have been teaching regularly in classroom settings since 2011 when I began instructing at a high school debate camp. Over the next 8 years I went from a camp instructor to a curriculum director within the LD division to the director of the LD division to my current position as the Director of Instructional Design & Curriculum. In my current position, I oversee instructor training and development during the summer and direct camp curriculum design during the year.
In addition to high school debate. I have TAed for five years (two years in undergrad, three years in graduate school) and have taught my own course for two semester (both classes were introduction to philosophy).
INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
One worry I have with topical approaches to intro is that they tend to create an impression in students that philosophical questions are naturally disconnected. We have our metaphysical questions (does God exist, do we have free will etc.) our ethical questions (do animals have moral standing, can you kill one person to save more people etc.) and our epistemological questions (what can we know, what is Descartes's argument etc.). But these questions are rarely put in conversation with one another in any systematic way.
This is unfortunate given how deeply interconnected philosophical questions are, especially those questions that bear on most college student's future lives. I have therefore designed my course to approach just a handful of topics in a great deal of detail and from a wide range of perspectives.
For example, the first unit in my intro class in on death. We talk about issues in ethics (is death bad? would immortality be worse? etc.), in metaphysics (what would it take for me to persist through death and resurrection? are we only our bodies? etc.), in philosophy of religion (is there a life after death?), in epistemology (what can we know about death? can we understand non-existence? etc.), and in political philosophy (should governments fund transhumanst movements to cure aging? should the government value saving the young over the old? etc.). In addition to philosophical texts, we also discuss excerpts from literature (e.g. The Death of Ivan Ilyich), autobiographical reflections (e.g. When Breath Becomes Air), psychological studies on grief, and popular depictions of death in media.
The goal is to help students realize that important parts of their own lives are places for rich and fruitful philosophical reflection. In particular, I hope students both develop a humility about their own ability to easily answer these questions (many of my students seem very confident that they have figure it all out right away), and yet still recognize that they can fruitfully learn and grow in understanding with enough careful engagement.
The first semester i taught this course the three units were death, trust and freedom. This semester the units are death, trust and Plato's Gorgias.
I assign two readings a week. The first is a longer reading (between eight and twelve pages) which the students are expected to read several time carefully before class. There is a fairly difficult quiz on each of those readings. The second reading is short (never more than two pages, often just a paragraph or two) and the students are required to write a short reflection (150-200 words) answering a question I pose about the reading. These questions progress in complexity throughout the semester. At first students must explain the conclusions or broad outlines of the readings, then they are expected to draw connections with previous readings, then they are expect to be able to explain arguments in the texts, then they are expected to be able to assess arguments in light of my objections, then assess the arguments themselves.
I also assign one scaffolded paper which the students spend about 10 weeks on. The scaffold stages are: topic proposal, annotated bibliography, outline, peer presentations of the outline, rough draft, peer reviews, final submission.
Finally, the class includes regular in-class assignments.
DEBATE CURRICULUM DESIGN
THE NEW CREATION
If humans will ultimately live forever in God's perfected kingdom, that destiny should probably impact our current understanding of ethics. Oddly, however, the new creation does not seem to play particularly central role even in religious work on ethics.
One place this is particularly striking is in work on the virtues. Most explanations of the value of the virtues cite the role virtues play in ameliorating evil conditions and maintaining good ones. For example, courage seems to principally helps us deal with a world in which death is a reality. But this poses a problem for the Christian ethicist. It seems that the virtues would lose their value once we enter the new creation. For example, what use is courage when we will no longer confront death nor pain?
In my work, I try to give a principled explanation of how our understanding of the new creation can fruitfully inform our understanding of virtue. In my preliminary work, I have argued that the four cardinal virtues are each necessary to enjoy one aspect of the ideal conditions of paradise. In future work, I plan on expanding on this picture and showing its broader explanatory power (especially on issues like divine judgement).