- You are an author, speaker, and interdisciplinary scholar and received a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies: Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from FAU. What inspired you to pursue these degrees?
I dropped out of high school quite dissatisfied with my education experience. After obtaining a GED, I returned to community college and discovered the humanities. This set me on a path that led to a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies at Rollins College. In searching for doctoral programs, I quite accidentally discovered FAU’s Comparative Studies program. It was a wonderful fit with my previous education experience in that it allowed students to explore fundamental questions of human existence and society in an interdisciplinary manner. As someone who had long identified as a feminist, I was attracted to a course taught by Jane Caputi on feminist theory. The course broadened my understanding of feminist philosophical analysis of the structures of society and culture. One course led to another and I soon decided to alter my research focus from examining atheist culture in the United States to examining the cultural conception and representation of women, pregnancy and childbirth. I was also inspired by the important insights feminist theory had to offer about men’s lives, socialization, and identity, and began researching men and masculinity.
- Why do you like teaching lifelong learning students? How does teaching them differ from teaching traditional college students?
This will be my second time teaching for the lifelong learning program. I enjoy the opportunity to engage people of all ages. Recently, I visited a group of at-risk 8th graders to discuss masculinity. My typical classroom is comprised of students ranging in age from 16 to 45. Lifelong learning students, from my experience, bring not only a wealth of experience and existing knowledge, but also an openness to considering new ideas. What inspires me as an educator, whether I am teaching pre-teens or octogenarians, is the opportunity to engage those who have the courage and desire to confront unfamiliar questions and perspectives. I’ll also note that I believe one of the most significant problems our education system faces is its compulsory nature. Learning is a natural phenomenon for human beings. We learn every day in a variety of settings, most of which are not classrooms. When education is mandated and controlled almost exclusively by the educators, it can drive away the spirit of inquiry in even the brightest of students. Obviously, there are many different aspects that make education systems challenging to effectively create and maintain. My point, as it relates to programs like FAU’s Lifelong Learning Society, is that the ideal educational environment, even if not always achievable, is one where the student is significantly empowered and meaningfully involved in the classroom setting. This is clearly the case with lifelong learning students.
- For your upcoming lecture “Why Can’t We Eat the Cat?” at LLS Jupiter on April 18 at 12 p.m., you explore the case for veganism. Why did you want to examine this subject? What do you hope that LLS students will take away from this class?
Of the many issues I explore in my college classes, animal rights is among a handful of topics that tends to have a significant impact on students. This includes those who had previously given the subject little to no thought. The reason I think it impacts people so forcefully is that most have deep connections to animals such as dogs and cats. What’s more, most of us have a basic sense of what it means to be logically consistent. Yet, we exist in a culture where common sense has us sign petitions and speak with outrage over mistreatment of cats or dogs, where a person is sentenced to prison for fighting dogs for sport, but where the very people most outraged by such abuses articulate those outraged feelings over pleasantly prepared meals comprised of factory farmed animals who endured inexplicable suffering. As is the case with all my philosophy courses, I do not tell my students what position they should accept. Rather, I simply aim to present them with what I refer to as the “moral mirror” with which to honestly, fairly, and rationally examine their choices and beliefs with their own fundamental moral standards. As contemporary philosopher and public intellectual Cornel West has said, paraphrasing William Butler Yates, “It takes more courage to search the dark corner of your own soul than it does for the soldier to fight on the battlefield.” What I enjoy about teaching this topic is that it presents us with an opportunity to seriously and quite personally test our commitment to moral integrity—to ensure that our fundamental values align with the various aspects of our lives. As the instructor, I simply present the arguments and counter-arguments. The soul searching is left up to the student. In that process, which begins to present itself in classroom dialogue, I have often witnessed individuals bravely and compassionately take to those dark corners and light candles of humility, self-knowledge, and even personal transformation.
Why Can’t We Eat the Cat? The Ethical Case for Veganism or Why Eating Animals May Not Only Be Bad For Your Health, But Also Immoral
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 – 12-1:30 p.m.