Thursday, July 12, 2018

No Philosophy 101 Course At TUSD. For Now

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 11:52 AM

The TUSD Governing Board decided to table a vote on reinstating the course, Phil 101: Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship. The course was created by UA's Koch Brothers-infused Freedom Center and has met with controversy and skepticism since people found out about it.

It looks like the main reason for delaying the vote is the textbook. New textbooks are supposed go through a review process and be on display in the district office for 60 days before the board votes on adoption, which hasn't happened. Up to this point, the district has played fast and loose with the course. The board wasn't even involved in approving it. It would have been difficult to justify fast tracking the textbook after all the prior shenanigans.

So, no Phil 101 course at TUSD. For now. The issue will almost certainly come to a board vote sometime during this school year after the textbook has gone through the 60 day review process, which means the board could decide to reinstate the course.

That's the end of the news. Now, for your amusement...

Let's take a look at whether Phil 101's Freedom Center-created textbook is a primary or supplementary text. That's important because, if the book is a supplementary text, it may not need the same 60 day review period. So that's the story we're hearing, that the Freedom Center-created book is a supplementary text.

It's so obvious it's the primary text, it shouldn't even bear mentioning. Still, we're being told it's a supplementary text. And that's where the amusement part comes in, for me anyway. The word "ethics," features prominently in the Phil 101 course title, but it looks like the folks pushing the course aren't very good at practicing the ethics they claim to be preaching to their students.

So let's see how the "supplementary text" assertion stands up under scrutiny.

The title of the course is "Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship." The title of the textbook they want to call supplementary is also Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship. Same name. Kinda makes you think either the course was designed around the book or the book was designed around the course. Actually, it's a little of both. In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, the authors say the first time they taught a version of the course at UA, they used a draft of the textbook. The next time they taught it, they refined the book to its final version. The text was tailor made to fit the course.

But maybe the TUSD version of the course is different enough from the original, the textbook no longer occupies a primary role. To figure out if that's true, let's take a look at the course syllabus on file with TUSD and see how closely it corresponds to the textbook. The syllabus is divided into 8 parts, each with a heading and a number of sub-topics. The textbook's Table of Contents is also divided into 8 parts with headings and sub-topics. The 8 headings are identical in the syllabus and the textbook, word for word. The 65 sub-topics in the syllabus are different from those in the textbook in maybe a dozen places: an addition here, an omission there, a changed order in another place. They're so similar, you have to go though the sub-topics line by line to find the differences.

The course is designed around the book. The book is written for the course. A textbook doesn't get any more "primary" than that.

Whoever tried to pass off Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship as a supplementary text committed what can be described as an ethical lapse, if you want to be kind. I'd call it lying. When people pushing a course with ethics as one of its core components lie, well, I don't know about you, but I find that amusing, maybe because that feels better than being infuriated.

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