Diversify Philosophy Curricula at CSUF!
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A recent article published by the New York Times addresses the failure of Academic Philosophy to diversify itself. It notes that “the vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world” (Garfield and Norden, 2016). The article also notes that “most philosophy departments also offer no courses on Africana, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Latin American, Native American or other non-European traditions” (Garfield and Norden, 2016). With some exceptions, California State University, Fullerton’s Philosophy Department’s curriculum generally conforms to the trend of the discipline in being predominantly Eurocentric. The current structure of the CSU-Fullerton philosophy department has resulted in limited dialogues that cap creativity and exclude thoughts.
The possibilities for dialogue and creativity are limited when learning environments restrict themselves to European and American ideas. While a fraction of the faculty incorporate significant philosophical works from outside of the Anglo-American and European Continental traditions in the curricula for their courses, the only course in the CSUF Philosophy curriculum that is devoted to non-European Philosophy is Asian Philosophy. While valuable, this single course is not enough to consider the CSUF Philosophy curriculum “diverse.” The Philosophy department at California State University Fullerton, needs to diversify its curriculum “in order to better serve [its] diverse student population.” as stated by the University’s Strategic Plan. Additionally, CSUF is designated both as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and as a Native American Pacific Islander-Serving institution. CSUF has a 42% Hispanic enrollment, and is ranked number 1 in California and fourth in the nation for conferring degrees to Hispanics. Yet, the CSUF Philosophy Department does not have an expert in either Latin American or Native American philosophy, nor a course devoted to either of those fields.
How harmful is this Eurocentric emphasis and who does it disservice?
· Providing a Eurocentric education is a disservice to all CSUF students. It limits students' intellectual horizons, critical thinking skills, and global awareness by exposing students to, at best, a partial set of global perspectives, at worst, a distorted one. If students are not exposed to a diversity of ideas, histories, and perspectives, they graduate from CSUF with a limited breadth of understanding that does not align with a comprehensive and diverse education, nor with the CSUF Philosophy Department’s expressly articulated goal of enabling all its students “to cultivate a global perspective” (CSUF Philosophy, Student Learning Outcome 4).
· As has been well documented in scholarly research, an especially problematic and hostile dynamic is prompted for students of color and/or non-European origin who are forced to assimilate to Eurocentric ideals while simultaneously having their history and cultures neglected and/or taught as inferior. "Eurocentrism fuels…a subconscious frame of mind that non-European societies have values contrary to American ideals of freedom and individualism, that they practice less legitimate faiths, lack the capacity to be innovative and forward-thinking and have to be ‘saved’ by us [anglo-European, western people]," (Hien Luu, 2011)
Our current Philosophy department offers no stand-alone courses in Latinx/Indigenous, Africana/Indigenous, Middle Eastern/Indigenous, Decolonial, Native American, Eastern/other European, or other non-European Philosophy. This is a disservice to CSUF’s Latinx/Indigenous, Afrikan/Indigenous, Middle Eastern/Indigenous, Native American, Eastern/other European, and other non-European students. Our international body of students is growing and CSUF needs to be equipped to offer philosophical perspectives that speak to these students’ cultural histories
This is why we call for immediate action towards hiring faculty with specialization and active research agendas that center Latinx/Indigenous, Afrikan, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Middle Eastern/Indigenous, Decolonial, Native American, Eastern/other European, or other non-European perspectives in the Philosophy department at CSUF. The faculty need not be Latinx/Indigenous, Afrikan, Native American, Indian, Islamic, or Jewish themselves, but have specialization and active research agendas that center the various international perspectives that have contributed to our understanding of the Philosophical tradition.
It is crucial that the curricula in our departments be as diverse as possible, with as many perspectives as possible. Diversification is needed. Here is what we ask for:
· The formation of a committee with a transparent set of goals and objectives towards hiring a professor(s) with specialization and active research agendas that center Latinx/Indigenous, Pan-African/Indigenous, Middle Eastern/Indigenous, Native American, East/other European, or other Non-European Philosophy at Cal State Fullerton
* If no committee can be formed, then we ask that the department as a whole to materialize a transparent set of goals and objectives towards hiring a professor(s) with specialization and active research agendas that center Latinx/Indigenous, Pan-African/Indigenous, Middle Eastern/Indigenous, Native American, East/other European, or other Non-European Philosophy at Cal State Fullerton.
Philosophy departments must make structural changes that challenge the field’s narrow focus on European and American thought. Paulo Freire reminds us that narrowly focused structures censor and limit discussion; therefore, “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.” We must welcome ethnically and culturally diverse philosophical thoughts into CSU-Fullerton classrooms by offering non-European and Non-American philosophy classes and by including non-European and non-American philosophical texts into our current curriculum. Including non-European and non-American work into our classrooms will push over the walls that are limiting our conversations. These pushed over walls can be used as bridges that connect, rather than restrict. Connected and inclusive conversations are possible if we open up our classrooms to content that has been speaking outside of our four walls. The CSUF Philosophy Department has numerous faculty who are deeply committed to students and to increasing the inclusiveness of philosophy. We ask that the faculty further enact that commitment by including expertise in their ranks that will help students cultivate the global perspective toward which we aspire.
Respectfully submitted Mariela Garcia and Raul Ruano
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