I am no philosopher, nor a philosopher’s son. I am not even a herdsman or nor a dresser of sycamore trees. I refer to myself as the utility infielder of the religion and philosophy department at the liberal arts college down the street. When asked if I could teach Philosophy 101, I responded, “Well, I think I know more than the freshmen. Or at least I can read faster”—my insecurities and incompetencies quickly surfacing.
I tell myself that having a “non-expert” teach an introductory course is a good thing, especially since the vast majority of my students will not major in philosophy. My simplified, make-connections-to-the-real-world approach, will be more valuable in their real-world futures. To accomplish this I rely on the most-overdrawn contrasts and embarrassing caricatures. I aim to teach to the college freshman that I once was. Most of the time I had trouble distinguishing between philosophy and psychology. Both began with P, ended with Y, and had something to do with the mind. Are you sensing my feelings of inadequacy yet?
It is a cliché that the teacher is the one who learns most. I’ve also come to wonder if all teaching isn’t really autobiography, just hidden and wrapped up in objective and academic garb.