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Do philosophy professors have much discretion as to what they teach?

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BRG253
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That depends on the institution. The basic answer is "you can teach what you want", and if you teach anything that you don't want to teach, that's because you feel that somehow you shouldn't. Generally, any course has a vaguely describe "topic" which is on file in the university, so if the topic of 150 is "Logic" then you cannot decide to teach a class in aesthetics or welding. Theoretically, you can play the "academic freedom" card in interpreting how, exactly, you will teach "Logic". Some schools may be less tolerant of deviation than others. You can teach welding in Phil 150, but if you are untenured you will probably not get tenured. If you are tenured, your chair can reassign you to teaching something else, and ultimately they can move to detenure and fire you.

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Do professors of philosophy enjoy the privilege of being able to teach their own ideas, or do they typically have to teach standard university courses as the department dictates?

You have a lot of freedom, but it's freedom you properly should use sparingly. The department is not hiring you to teach your own ideas. They're hiring you to teach about a variety of views on a given subject. You often can't help but slant things, but if you're just using the course as a platform for your own views, you're not doing your job and not giving the students what they paid for.

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Not long now until I'm a lecturer myself!

Obama's America is much less attractive than Ayn Rand's, but I'd consider a switch to USA. I'm actually trying to find out about how it differs, I always assumed they used the British model.

I have been warned myself exactly as the previous poster worded it that you are paid to teach the subject, not your take on it. Stick in the muds.... ;)

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You have a lot of freedom, but it's freedom you properly should use sparingly. The department is not hiring you to teach your own ideas. They're hiring you to teach about a variety of views on a given subject. You often can't help but slant things, but if you're just using the course as a platform for your own views, you're not doing your job and not giving the students what they paid for.
Can you give an argument to support the underlined claim? I find that to be too specific, and not supported by facts that I've ever encountered. Maybe I don't understand what you mean by that statement.

The university will have rules pertaining to your obligations as a professor, such as the requirement to teach, do research, and do service. I have never seen (in an Arts & Sciences context -- apart from Medicine and similar areas where there are explicit contracts on this) any specific contract terms or university rules that pertain to subject matter. In normal hiring practices, in my experience, there is no suggestion that "this is what we're hiring you to do: do this, and nothing else". There is certainly no notification at the point of signing the initial contract that "This is what you are to teach", other than saying what the course load is.

I would say that one should use that freedom maximally, to one's benefit. Just because your predecessor taught the course in a "Here are the 5 leading theories" non-judgmental fashion does not constitute a contractual or moral obligation for you to do the same thing. Obviously, when faced with a direct order to follow your predecessor, you must decide whether teaching your own ideas is so important that you're willing to take the risk of being faced with the detenuring process. Equally obviously, it would be morally wrong to lie about whether you were conforming to an order to toe the line.

As for "what the students paid for", the hopes and goals of others are not your primary concern. If students want a particular viewpoint -- or lack of viewpoint -- to be taught in a class, they can assert their viewpoint by not taking that course, or not patronizing that university. There is no content-based statement "Here's what you are to teach" in your employment agreement with the institution, and there is even less of such a statement from students to the effect "Here is what I'm hiring you to teach me". (Because, of course, students do not hire faculty to teach them anything, they pay the university in the hopes that the university will pay someone else to give them something of value).

I do expect that within a couple of decades, a system of fairly explicit content requirements tied to the contract will take hold. At present, such requirements exist only to the extent that the chair or similar university authority is willing to intervene and control course content and limit academic freedom. In lieu of any such intervention, I don't see where even a moral obligation to act against your judgment would come from.

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