Community Engagement

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Dr. Gutmann visits my Public Philosophy & Civic Engagement seminar

As an educator, I have an abiding interest in experiential education & service-learning in higher education, pre-college pedagogy, learning across the lifespan, and moral & civic education. I am committed to forging lasting, democratic, and collaborative partnerships between the academy and the community, and to cultivating the philosophical voices of people of all ages.

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.


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

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I direct the Outreach Program in Philosophy, offered jointly by UNC’s Department of Philosophy and the Parr Center for Ethics. We partner with K-12 schools, community colleges, libraries, correctional facilities, museums, professional organizations, retirement communities, and other community venues and campus units to offer philosophy and ethics programming to the public. Our efforts reach folks across the lifespan, extend from the Triangle Area to distant parts of the country, and come in many different shapes and sizes. Generally speaking, the Outreach Program aims to:

  1. help people in the community think carefully and clearly about a broad range of ideas, commitments, and practices that shape their lives,
  2. expand the scope and breadth of philosophical inquiry by bringing new voices into the fold,
  3. and promote the university’s mission to produce and disseminate knowledge for the public good.

Our efforts are motivated by the conviction that philosophical activity contributes to a flourishing and autonomous life by helping us to develop a sense of ourselves and the world around us through reflection on our beliefs and values. We also believe that the skills and dispositions cultivated by philosophical inquiry are integral to a flourishing civic sphere.

You can read about some of our recent efforts here:

  1. Dialogue and Transformation: Bringing Philosophy to Juvenile Justice Centers in North Carolina (College of Arts & Sciences)
  2. Intergenerational Philosophy and the History of Philosophy (Society for Classical Studies)
  3. Philosophy as Public Service (The Well)
  4. UNC Philosophy & National High School Ethics Bowl Partnership Brings Ethics to Under-Resourced Schools (DailyNous)
  5. UNC Philosophy Department Helps Educate Community during the Pandemic (The Daily Tar Heel)

University of Pennsylvania

As a doctoral student Penn I was awarded the inaugural Provost’s Graduate Academic Engagement Fellowship to design and teach a new Academically Based Community Service course entitled Public Philosophy & Civic Engagement. You can read more about my fellowship activities here, here, here, and here. I was also an active member of Penn’s Project for Philosophy for the Young (P4Y).

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

As a member of Penn P4Y I helped expand the breadth of P4Y outreach opportunities, and over the years the number of Penn students involved has grown considerably. The program now has 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 was 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.