Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Thursday, August 22, 2013

SOME ADVICE FOR YOUNG PROFESSORS JUST STARTING OUT

I taught my first class in 1955 as a graduate student Teaching Fellow in the Harvard Philosophy Department's Introduction to Philosophy, taught by the venerable Raphael Demos [then perhaps fifteen years younger than I am now!]  That year, and the next, I was responsible for three discussion sections each semester.  I taught my last class two years ago, as a professor emeritus, in the UNC Chapel Hill graduate Public Policy Program.  Starting with those discussion sections, each time I taught a class, I would open a manila folder for the class list, the syllabus, any handouts I might produce, and my hand-written record of each student's quizzes, essays, examinations, and class presentations, with little notes to myself about his or her performance and the grade I assigned.  Fifty-six years of course folders sit in my file drawers, arranged chronologically.  They are a complete record of a lifetime in the classroom.

From time to time, I hear from a former student.  A woman whom I taught thirty years ago wants a letter of recommendation.  [Yes, that really does happen, and more often than you might imagine.]  A man who took my course on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason in 1960, and who is now in his seventies, drops me a line to say that he enjoyed the course.  Just last month, a young man who signed up for a course with me in the 1990's but never was able actually to take the course asked me to fill out a retroactive withdrawal form so that he could finally complete his undergraduate degree.

In each such case, a quick trip to my file drawers allows me to recapture exactly what that former student chose as a topic for the final paper or how he or she did on the midterm exam.  Somewhat disingenuously, I am prone, when I hear from a student of thirty years ago, to say in my reply, "Of course, you chose to write a critique of the argument in Hume's Third Dialogue, and although I thought you were wrong, I also thought you did a fine job of it."  Ah, they think, how can he possibly remember me after all these years!

If you are a graduate student or a young Professor, right now start keeping records of all your courses.  I understand that you cannot really imagine still being at this fifty years from now, but trust me, the time will pass, much faster than you might like, and there is a world of pleasure in having ready to hand a record of every young man and woman who passes through your classes.  After all, if you had chosen to be a professional baseball player, every one of your times at bat would be recorded somewhere.  Surely your students are as important as balls and strikes!

3 comments:

Chris said...

Professor, I am doing the same work you did, i.e., I teach 3 breakouts on a friday. I've been told that the best way to get a job after your phd is to start publishing before the phd publishes.

I've published 4 book reviews, and I have 2 articles that have been accepted (pending a few revisions). Is that overkill, or should I keep doing more of the same?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Chris, that is great! Now finish the dissertation. Two pages a day, and soon it will be done.

Magpie said...

** OFF TOPIC **

To the Commerce Division :-)

Prof. Wolff's work attracting the blogosphere's interest:

"Preliminary Thoughts on Volume Two of the Collected Papers of Robert Paul Wolff", by Robert Vienneau
http://robertvienneau.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/preliminary-thoughts-on-volume-two-of.html

Way to go!