published on October 7, 2015
Power-Sharing in the Philosophy Classroom
Prospects and Pitfalls
Many of our students learn to approach their college education as yet another system of external control that places authority and decision-making power in the hands of others. This attitude carries consequences for young people’s growth as independent learners, critical thinkers, and participants in democratic community, which in turn has repercussions on personal, professional and political agency. One of the chief benefits to power-sharing in the philosophy classroom is that it disrupts students’ sense of passive complicity in their own schooling. However, as I explore in this essay, there are many ways we can fail as instructors to create deeply engaging scenarios in our classrooms, not least in part because our methods and manner can unintentionally and subtly continue to encourage student passivity. Drawing on insights emerging from my own experience with classroom power-sharing, in this essay I will both examine the value of classroom power-sharing activities as well as offer ideas for implementing them responsively and effectively in a standard college setting, with particular emphasis on the philosophy classroom.