Philosophy’s tears

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 Hey U of R, let’s not cut philosophy, okay?

Hey U of R, let’s not cut philosophy, okay?

Big hearts but missing the bucks

Article: Destiny Kaus – A&C Writer

When I took a philosophy class last year, I realized that I sincerely lacked the ability to think critically (so discouraging). Thus, because of my bitterness, I deemed philosophy as a useless field of study.

Over the last little while, I have come to discover that philosophy is actually pretty cool. And, thanks to Dr. David Elliott, an associate professor for the University of Regina’s philosophy program, I now know what philosophy is.

“Philosophy, I think, is a rational discipline that focuses on critical thinking and that develops at least two different kinds of skills…analytical thinking and, secondly, evaluation,” says Elliott

Boom. There it is. At the beginning of his career, Elliott taught philosophy to gifted teens who were not in high school but who wanted to pursue university and a career. Sadly, this was probably one of Elliott’s worst experiences.

“That experience decided for me that I was a terrible teacher of non-adults,” says Elliott. “I had absolutely no skill or confidence in that and found it one of the most painful experiences of my life.”

This statement makes me chuckle because it speaks the truth. Teens can be difficult little critters to teach.

Nevertheless, Elliott moved on from this disaster, bounced around for a few years with contractual appointments, and finally found his groove when the University of Regina offered him a position to teach.

Dr. Elliott says, “I was very fortunate. I think that’s the way to put it. I was very lucky.”

By saying that he got lucky landing a job as a professor of philosophy, does he perhaps allude to the fact that finding a job relating to philosophy in Regina is ridiculously hard? I think so! The man says so himself:

“The jobs aren’t here. There’s just a limited job market.”

Dang. Poor little Regina’s limited job market crushes the dreams of budding philosophy students. Heck, in bigger, less isolated areas like Vancouver or Toronto, philosophers could probably find an ideal job no problem. But, what kind of jobs are actually out there?

Well, according to Elliott, many students who get their BA degrees in philosophy move on to law degrees or various other MA programs.

Other potential jobs include government positions or civil service positions in communication or policy or becoming noted academics. Yay! You can actually do something with a philosophy degree besides teaching other people philosophy.

But, let me clarify. Just because Dr. Elliott chose to solely become a philosophy teacher, it does not in any way mean that he did not make something out of himself. He loves teaching; that is his passion, so power to him.

In my opinion, while taking higher education in order to get a higher paying, ideal job is totally legit, studying a subject that you actually enjoy despite job opportunities is more important; philosophy students have the heart to do this. Many of them do.

In fact, according to Elliott, people who study philosophy do so as “a kind of labour of love.”

Judging from this statement, it seems to me like these students study philosophy simply because they love it. I can understand this ‘cause, heck, I write because I love it. Making millions off of an article or getting a million-dollar book deal is not my main goal.

In reality, writers and philosophers need to put in massive amounts of work just to take one little step forward.

As Elliott says, “You don’t get to be a philosophy major who’s done well…you’re kind of a unique kind of person who makes your own way and so you’ll make your degree work when you get out.”

Such champs. I sincerely admire these unique people for making something of themselves no matter what obstacles come their way.

However, a new obstacle has recently popped up that causes both philosophy professors and students great concern: the University of Regina’s philosophy program may get cut. Yes, I said it. Cut.

Since there are only roughly 20-40 philosophy majors at the University and even less in the honours program, the program is at risk.

“[The] program is under fire,” says Elliott. “It’s not looking very promising for us.”

Unfortunately, the University may choose to allocate resources and funding to other programs that are more popular by demand. This honestly makes me sad. It’s never fun to see a valuable program at risk.

“We just hope something isn’t lost in that, especially for students and for their education.”

I don’t think anybody wants to see a program get cut because every program has value no matter how many students are enrolled in it.

“We think that what we have is valuable,” Elliott says, “And, we hope that we’ll be able to maintain that in some sort of way.”

I hope so too! Heck, anybody can benefit from critical thinking skills, especially philosophy students, because they actually like learning that stuff.

The President of the Philosophy Students Society and current philosophy honours student, Jocelynn Marsden, has definitely benefited from the University of Regina’s philosophy program.

Though she started university interested in the political science and sociology programs, she ended up choosing philosophy. Why the heck did she do this?

“[I] realized that the things about those programs which I found most appealing were things which fall in the philosophical realm,” says Marsden.

With this choice of study, Marsden often gets less than desirable reactions from people that, for the most part, line up with my initial thoughts and questions about philosophy.

“People often react as though you must be either very smart or very impractical,” says Marsden. “People frequently turn it into a question about my personal philosophy, a joke about never getting a job, something about God, or just end the conversation immediately.”

People can be so rude. But, when Marsden reaches her goal of obtaining her PhD and teaching, she can just tell those rude people to shove it.

As a passionate philosophy student, Marsden echoes Elliott’s thoughts on pursuing an enjoyable field of study rather than a career.

“I think there is a rather pervasive myth going around that the only way for a person to succeed is to get a hands on degree, do mediocre at it, and then get out into the world, instead of studying something difficult and being passionate about learning.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement; a passion for learning is key and is worth more than the big bucks.

Jordan Pod, a political science major and philosophy minor, shares this same passion. He first became interested in philosophy when he read some old book by some guy with an odd name.

“When I began to read a dusty novel written by Nietzsche, the odd language seemed both formidable and enjoyable all at once,” Pod says. “It was a unique read that I’ve never laid eyes upon before.”

Sounds to me like love at first read. Like Marsden, he, too, gets some interesting reactions when he tells people of his philosophical studies.

“Most people find it boring, or too “Old English” of a style to really absorb the material at hand or what I have to say about it.”

Yes, some people may not find philosophy interesting, but they could at least pretend and have the guts to pursue a decent discussion.

Ideally, Pod seeks to become a diplomat. Will he ever accomplish this goal?

Pod simply says, “It depends on how much one wants it.”

If you want something bad enough, you will, without a doubt, get it sooner or later.

In an eloquent statement, Pod sums up just why philosophy is so dang awesome, quoting Socrates: “Because an unexamined life is not worth living, to be enlightened is to be new.”

All in all, in my opinion, philosophy is an area of study that requires passion, heart, and the ability to think critically to an incredibly deep level. I have all those abilities except for the latter. Thus, I will stick to Secondary English Education.

Image: Michael Chmielewski

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