Before entering the classroom to teach on the first day of each new semester, I recall how I felt during the first philosophy class I ever took. It was one in which I was intellectually invigorated like never before, and it changed my life forever. Though not every student will be as engaged as I was, I continue to believe in the ability of the material I teach to change people's lives.
I am more interested in getting students to feel the "pull" of philosophical questions than I am in pushing students toward particular answers. I try to challenge all views, and to keep my own views occluded. I want students to arrive freely at the conclusions that they on reflection find most plausible. I aim to minimize lecturing as far as possible and instead to engage students in discussion, which I believe packs tremendous pedagogical power. Ideally we reach a point in class where I am just subtly guiding discussion, or even participating alongside the students. I try hard to choose readings that students will find relevant to their lives, including newspaper and magazine pieces, and to use interesting web content and films to make the course topics more vivid.
Philosophy, if taught well, equips students with tools that carry over into nearly every aspect of their educations and lives. It helps students understand and assess their current or prospective commitments, concepts, and ideas about politics, family, work, religion, and much more. My reward is not just in seeing the students grow, but also in the new interpretations and deeper comprehension toward which they push me.
Personal website: http://www1.pacific.edu/~traterma
Associate Professor of Philosophy; Chair