Community Engagement

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Motivations

1. Representation: I am committed to rectifying the representation problem in academia and to cultivating spaces of inquiry for folks who have not been given the opportunity to think about philosophy in an intentional way. As a first generation Cuban-American, I recognize the urgent need to amplify diverse voices in our profession, especially voices that can expand the breadth of philosophical inquiry in new and critical ways—whether that takes the form of encouraging marginalized voices to enter the discipline down the road, or by giving those voices a platform in our professional discourse.

2. Respect: I believe we owe community members the opportunity to be exposed to philosophical thinking, and we owe them the opportunity to cultivate the habits of mind that will empower them to reflect upon and pursue their own conception of the good life and to ponder life’s biggest questions. This is a way of respecting their dignity as persons and a way of affording them equal standing in our ‘democracy of discussion’. In this way outreach in philosophy plays a vital role in promoting a democratic and egalitarian culture. 

3. Recovery: Socrates spent his days conversing and inquiring with folks from all walks of life. And throughout most of our discipline’s history, philosophers have recognized the importance of preserving a way of communicating about and doing philosophy that is accessible and attractive to a wider, non-specialist audience. Sometimes rooted in a belief in the usefulness of philosophy for solving real-world problems, or a desire to share the transformative potential of philosophical reflection with others, or democratic ideals of public deliberation, this is a simple truth that is easily forgotten in our increasingly siloed and specialized education system.

Penn’s Project for Philosophy for the Young (P4Y)

I have been involved with Penn P4Y since 2016. I have helped expand the breadth of P4Y outreach opportunities, and over the years the number of Penn students involved has grown considerably. We now have active projects in several primary and secondary schools across the city of Philadelphia, and our activities now range from facilitating after-school philosophy clubs to coaching ethics bowl teams. Here are some of the projects I have been actively involved with:

  1. Philadelphia Regional Ethics Bowl 
  2. Middle School Philosophy at Benjamin B. Comegys School
  3. Philosophy & Film at Penn Alexander
  4. Philosophy Club at Philadelphia Futures

In January 2020 I co-organized Penn P4Y’s inaugural APA affiliated group session with a panel centered around the theme ‘Models of Dialogue between the Academy and the Community’, which invited questions about the ethical dimensions of and effective strategies for philosophizing with children. The panel was composed of Janice Moskalik (Seattle University), Megan Jane Laverty (Teachers College, Columbia University), and Wendy C. Turgeon (St. Joseph’s College). Topics included the threat of epistemic injustice in communities of inquiry with children, tools for effective facilitating, the centrality of listening, and historical models for the norms that govern authentic, just, and truth-oriented philosophical relationships.

Netter Center for Community Partnerships

1. Phil 148: Public Philosophy and Civic Engagement
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This Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course forged a new community partnership between Penn and Shoemaker High School in order to integrate ethical and moral reflection into the 12th-grade civics and economics curriculum, and to encourage the undergraduates to reflect on the value and importance of public philosophy within the discipline. I worked with Penn undergraduates to facilitate discussions with Shoemaker students on a range of topics, including duties to the poor, inequality, collective action problems, epistemic injustice, and prisons & punishment. Penn President Amy Gutmann visited our seminar to discuss deliberative democracy and the place of community engagement in the mission of our university. This course is one example of my ongoing efforts to integrate philosophical content into existing pre-college curricula, and to use experiential learning as an opportunity to reflect on the proper aims of education. 

2. Phil 249: Philosophy of Education, Teaching Philosophy in Middle Schools

In Fall 2018 I served as Karen Detlefsen’s teaching assistant for this ABCS course which aimed at developing curricula and lesson plans for delivery at Benjamin B. Comegys School in West Philadelphia. One of my primary tasks was to conduct research into philosophical pedagogy in middle schools, and to present this material to the Penn undergrads who were designing lesson plans. I learned that without any jargon or elaborate theories, folks of all ages immediately recognize that philosophy is already part and parcel of their thinking about the world. Moreover, the insights and points of view provided by these young philosophers allow us to look anew at philosophy, which, in its academic form, has been informed by too narrow a segment of the human population for too long.