Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2009 Grad Waxes Philosophical in PhD Program

The following was contributed by Josh Cruz, Class of 2009: 

I graduated from Bloom in the spring of 09 with a degree in philosophy and English liberal arts. When I started in 05, I was in English and education, and my parents were concerned about my career options when I dropped the ed portion and took up philosophy. Given my majors, I suppose I didn't leave myself much of a choice but to go off to graduate school. So I did. And while philosophy isn't generally seen as a “practical” course of study, there is no field that has been more informative and helpful for the things I've been doing in my years post-Bloomsburg. The point of this piece is to give a few specific examples of the real-world, real practical value that my philosophy degree has.

The most salient examples come from the last month of my life. At the beginning of August, I started a PhD program at Arizona State University in language, literacies, and technology (it's part of the college of education). They're “training” us to be educational theorists and researchers.

So let's look at some of the classes I'm taking: on Mondays, I have research ethics. The first assignment had us reading Mill, Kant, and Aristotle. I am one of two students in that class with a background in philosophy; guess which two students were really comfortable discussing Aristotelian ethics and started an argument about whether virtue is contingent upon social perceptions. I have another class, qualitative research methods. Currently, we are working on our epistemological identity statements, which are reflective pieces about what we think can and should be considered knowledge. Our beliefs, presumably, will inform the ways that we go about conducting research and designing studies. A quick list of words and phrases that regularly appear in this class: epistemology, phenomenology, (post)positivism, ontology, metaphysical assumptions, discourse analysis, constructivism, truth, power dynamics, lived experiences, post-modern... you get the idea.

And let's not even talk about what I'm doing with my research advisor (okay, let's talk about it a little). We're trying to 1) figure out if it's possible for schizoanalysis (of Deleuze and Guattari fame) to be a legitimate kind of research method and 2) apply a Foucauldian genealogy to capoeira, the Brazilian martial art (think Eddy Gordo from Tekken). The point here is that philosophy not only underpins these activities, but it is present—in very obvious ways—in just about everything I'm doing. I could talk about how philosophy has helped me discover myself as a person and how it helps me live more fully and all that other generic, non-tangible kind of crap, but at the end of the day, in the really-real real world, some of my classmates are already struggling with these classes because they don't have a philosophical background.

This post is getting long—I would love to talk about how Marx, Bourdieu, Horkheimer, Freire and other critical theorists are huge figures in education too, but you'll have to take my word for it. Bottom line: there are places where the philosophy degree is not only valuable but absolutely critical for success. I could never have known how practical it would be to get a BA in philosophy, but at this point, in hindsight, it is possibly the best educational choice I could have made for myself.