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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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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!