Diversifying Syllabi

“Given that increasing diversity in the profession is essential to the continuing relevance and vibrancy of Philosophy; and given that one of the apparent barriers to diversity is the lack of diverse philosophers included in Introductory courses; and given that the lack of diverse philosophers in most Intro syllabi is likely caused by lack of familiarity with this work rather than lack of good will; The Graduate Student group Georgetown’s Women in Philosophy Climate Coalition sponsored a summer reading group of work by diverse philosophers. We read selections from various authors appropriate (in terms of topic, level of difficulty, and length) for Intro level courses.

“Our aims were:
1) to increase familiarity with texts by diverse philosophers and to think about their potential pedagogical uses so they can easily be incorporated into our teaching;
2) to do this in a supportive, informal and relaxed setting;
3) to eventually create an online resource for the profession in the form of an annotated bibliography.

“This website fulfills our third goal.”

Feminist Philosophers

This is cool:

The Georgetown‘s Women in Philosophy Climate Coalition (GWPCC) is pleased to announce the launch of a new website, “Diversifying Syllabi” compiling an annotated bibliography of philosophical texts by diverse philosophers, appropriate for teaching in undergraduate courses. The website includes a reading list with text summaries and teaching tips.

We welcome others to join in this initiative by sending in suggestions for additions to the reading list and resources for teaching these texts.

To visit the site, go to http://diversifyingsyllabi.weebly.com

(The website grew out of a summer workshop for Georgetown graduate students that the GWPCC and philosophy department sponsored, “Diversifying Syllabi 101” where we read and discussed papers written by diverse philosophers and discussed pedagogical strategies for incorporating the texts in our own teaching.)

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8 thoughts on “Diversifying Syllabi

  1. JSB

    Have you read much of the writings of Juan Cole on Bahai faith, know about the Talisman crackdown where several prominent Bahai scholars were shunned as covenant breakers? Do you know that Bahai’s built a $250 million temple yet less than 5% of Bahaualla’s tablets remain untranslated and withheld from academic examination? Just wondering about your opinion on all this since you’re a former Bahai.


    1. Yes. I am aware of these facts that you mention, though if I recall, I did not learn about most of the Talisman affair until after I had left the religion. The vast majority of the religion’s prophets’ writings have not been made available to the public, since their release is subject to approval by the Universal House of Justice (who keeps them under lock and key). Bahá’í academics may request physical access to the documents and, from what I understand, they’re usually granted.


      1. JSB

        Read Juan Cole’s response to the reprimand from the UHJ when they didn’t like his translation (bottom). He is an eminent scholar and had worked for 20+ yrs as a Bahai.


      2. I feel sad that Professor Cole was pressured and manipulated into giving up this faith and community that he loved and believed in so dearly. He was not (and still remains opposed to being called) an apostate. I certainly was an apostate. Professor Cole’s discharge from his faith community is a tragedy from top to bottom. We are lucky, I feel, that he continues his academic work for the benefit of secular society.


  2. JSB

    Why are you an apostate?


    1. Although my troubles with the religion began in my questioning its condemnation of gay relationships and denial of human’s common ancestry with non-human apes, I ultimately left the Bahá’í Faith because of the dogmatism it requires of its adherents.

      A dogma is a principle, tenet or teaching, especially an authoritative teaching, and in these senses it is apparent that the Faith has ‘dogmas’.

      (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia, October 16, 1979)

      You see our whole approach to each matter is based on the belief that God sends us divinely inspired Educators; what they tell us is fundamentally true, what science tells us today is true; tomorrow may be entirely changed to better explain a new set of facts.

      (Shoghi Effendi, Arohanui – Letters to New Zealand, p. 85)

      Were He to decree as lawful the thing which from time immemorial had been forbidden, and forbid that which had, at all times, been regarded as lawful, to none is given the right to question His authority. Whoso will hesitate, though it be for less than a moment, should be regarded as a transgressor.

      (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 77)

      Whenever My laws appear like the sun in the heaven of Mine utterance, they must be faithfully obeyed by all, though My decree be such as to cause the heaven of every religion to be cleft asunder. He doth what He pleaseth. He chooseth; and none may question His choice.

      (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 333)

      Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that “He shall not be asked of His doings”. Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed. Fasten your eyes upon it, that haply the whisperings of the rebellious may not cause you to slip. (Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 77).


  3. JSB

    I am dating a Bahai woman and investigating the faith. She claims that it is the basis of her life, yet she knows nothing of these issues of when the scholars Cole, Walbridge, and others were shunned. She actually believes the UHJ is infallible and to think otherwise would invalidate her religion. As you pointed out, it seems very authoritarian. She is a very intelligent person with advanced degrees in science, but talking with her about this is like talking with a religious fundamentalist creationist about evolution.

    I seem to recall you posted earlier on the Bahai administration or UHJ supporting penalties for gay people in Africa. Can you give me a source for that? Also, did the UHJ specifically deny human evolution? Is Bahauallah referring to god as “He” in the quotes, or himself?

    Thanks, your correspondence is appreciated.


    1. Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí who called himself “Bahá’u’lláh” regarded himself as the “Manifestation of God” and considered there to be no distinction between himself and God. Ḥusayn-`Alí claims in his various exegeses that this was an equivalence that all other prophets before him were also trying to make in one way or another:

      Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: “I am God,” He, verily, speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto. For it hath been repeatedly demonstrated that through their Revelation, their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His names and His attributes, are made manifest in the world. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-22.html#pg54

      All levels of the Bahá’í authority except Bahá’u’lláh (the UHJ, Shoghi Effendi,`Abdu’l-Bahá’, Bahá’u’lláh) have denied human common ancestry with non-human apes. Here are some relevant quotations: http://goo.gl/3Svhtu
      I think you may have this story in mind when you speak of “penalties for gay people in Africa”: http://web.archive.org/web/20080515075313/http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/peter_tatchell/2007/09/ugandan_gays_demand_freedom.html
      The UHJ has never publicly supported any legal penalties for gay people anywhere. However, they do echo Shoghi Effendi’s suggestion that “flagrantly” gay Bahá’ís be shunned:

      Regarding the question …about one of the believers who seems to be flagrantly homosexual — although to an extent we must be forbearing …of people’s moral conduct …this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct which is disgracing the Cause. …such acts are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, …he must mend his ways… If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his voting rights taken away.

      Shoghi Effendi, 20 June 1953

      …the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a “natural” or permanent phenomenon. Rather, it sees this as an aberration subject to treatment, however intractable exclusive homosexuality may now seem to be. To the question of alteration of homosexual bents, much study must be given, and doubtless in the future clear principles of prevention and treatment will emerge. As for those now afflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a problem human, but he does, as you rightly state, have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining from homosexual acts.

      The Universal House of Justice, 22 March 1987

      In the Bahá’í Faith, to have one’s “voting rights” taken away is a humiliating and shameful punishment that alienates the one so-prosecuted from the rest of the Bahá’í community. It is, in a word, the Bahá’í equivalent of excommunication. The Universal House of Justice has even equated it with being expelled from the community:

      A Bahá’í who has lost his administrative rights is administratively expelled from the community and therefore is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Spiritual Assembly…

      The Universal House of Justice, 6 April 1982


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