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Post-Panel Q&A with Ian Altman


You earned your undergraduate degree in Philosophy at UGA, why did you pursue a graduate degree in Language & Literacy Education?

I remained an undergraduate for a very long time just so I could keep taking more classes in Comparative Literature, English, and Classics. The initial decision to major in philosophy was the result of being simply unwilling to be satisfied with answers to basic questions that most others seem at ease with.  I don't know how people go through life not questioning important things

How did your study of philosophy at UGA in particular guide your career path? How do you apply your knowledge of philosophy to your current career teaching high-school English Language Arts, as well as to your work with other teachers and with the UGA Institutional Review Board?

It did not exactly guide my career path, but it does affect it in both good and bad ways. Seeing through bad arguments for bad policies and basic misunderstandings of what it means to learn literature (i.e. the Standards movement) can make me very cynical about the profession sometimes. On the other hand, I am able to do more, for more students, than many others can precisely because of that understanding.

There were some questions on the panel about how the philosophy major has helped, or at least affected, my work as a high school English teacher.  That is something I think about a great deal and have not fully disentangled, but it was good that they recognized the importance of that question and asked it.  

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) has a very specific set of procedures and codes to follow, so typically the proposals that I review dealing with vulnerable populations are straightforward, but certainly the philosophy major has informed the ways I interpret the ethical questions, and I have been able on a couple of occasions to help the IRB see problems with proposals that they might have overlooked.

Do you recommend the study of philosophy to your current students?

I do recommend it to some students. I don't tell them it will help them with their careers, because there are far too many other variables in each case for that to be a useful argument, but I do tell them they should consider it and, at the very least, take a few classes in philosophy.

The panel was a very nice experience. It was nice to meet the other panelists, and the undergraduates there were interesting and had some good questions about the value of the program, both from a utilitarian perspective (What might I do with these studies that so fascinate me?), and from a broader perspective about how studying philosophy has shaped our understanding of what we do? I would certainly do something like this again.


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