My educational experience as spanned from a small liberal arts college as an undergraduate, to state universities and selective private institutions as a graduate student. Based on this experience, I attempt to structure my classroom around a discussion seminar model as much as I can, while attending to the demands of larger groups of students.
I am currently a lecturer in Structured Liberal Education (SLE), a first year residential program that “encourages students to live a life of ideas in an atmosphere that emphasizes critical thinking and interpretation.” I work along with a team of other lectures and permanent instructors who collaborate on strategies for guiding small groups of students through primary texts spanning from the ancient world to the present. Along with their discussion seminars, students are treated to lectures by faculty from Stanford and other nearby Universities, and work with writing tutors selected from previous years’ students to broaden their knowledge of the text and develop their writing skills. My sections combine the experiences gained at Chicago and Roosevelt by oscillating between standard discussion seminars and group activities that help hone particular interpretive skills along the way.
I was a lecturer in the Classics of Social and Political Thought Core sequence from 2010-2013. Classics is equal parts great books seminar, introduction to writing and discussion methods, and meditation on the structure and aims of social communities as the good life. The course takes students through the work of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Machiavelli in the Fall quarter, the Social Contract tradition (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau) in the Winter, and concludes with an overview of the genesis of contemporary social thought in the Spring. Because I frequently teach the third quarter of the sequence, my section of the course asks questions of the relationship between institutions and informal social relations, the tension between political freedom and social justice, and questions of race, gender, and class seen through the lens of phenomenology and pragmatism. Ultimately, I ask that my students interrogate the abstractions that are presupposed in the many attempts to make social life intelligible to determine how these abstractions structure our perceptions of, dispositions towards, and relations with others and begin to ask what may be the necessary steps to construct a harmonious common world.
I have been an adjunct instructor at Roosevelt University since 2010, when I began with a sequence of Great Ideas I, the first semester of a two semester great books sequence. I have also taught two courses in Logic through the philosophy department. Currently, I teach the second course in the Academic Communities of Practice sequence, Primary Texts, which has come to replace Great Ideas as the freshman great books course. The sections are designed by the instructor based on a topic of their choosing. In keeping with my interest in the investigation and use of abstractions for the enrichment of life, my sections, Philosophy as a Way of Life and Creating a Common World have focused on facilitating students the process of articulating their worldviews in a more nuanced way through encounters with philosophical, literary, and social scientific texts.
Made by AK5A. © 2014 Michael L. Thomas.