Inclusiveness by Adrian Currie

Adrian Currie writes, “I’m a confident, cis, white, English-speaking, healthy, middle-class, male philosopher (a cchewmmp?). So I’m one of *those* philosophers. I even have a beard. I also care deeply about philosophy’s lack of inclusiveness: it’s embarrassing; philosophy as a discipline suffers if its pool of potential awesomeness is restricted; people who could thrive philosophically miss out. However, working out how to help is hard, especially given that my capacity to be part of the problem is very real. I am one more cchewmmp, after all. Roughly, then, I’m trying to learn how to “be an ally” (for me this involves going beyond recognizing the problem and trying to affect positive change).”

Read more about what you can do to promote diversity and inclusivity in Philosophy here:
https://sites.google.com/site/adrianmitchellcurrie/inclusiveness

10 thoughts on “Inclusiveness by Adrian Currie

  1. What are reasonable benchmarks for diversity? We talk a lot about wanting more of it, but there are real limits to this notion. For example, if Blacks or African-Americans make up 13.7% (U.S. Census) of the population and only 27% of that number receives a college degree (this is a little over 3% of the original 13.7% and it’s undergrad–not PhD)–that means ONLY 3% of the Black or African American population has a college degree. I think we can reasonably assume that just based on the numbers above the number for PhDs will be miniscule. In fact, in 2009-2010 only 10,417 Blacks or African-Americans received PhDs or EdDs (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72). That is .027% of the population or a quarter of a percent!

    Of that 10k relatively few have PhDs in Philosophy. The problem isn’t philosophy, per se, but that few Blacks or African-Americans are getting graduate degrees. Given the current numbers some departments will NEVER reflect diversity not bc philo necessarily discourages minorities (it may or may not), but because the numbers aren’t there to begin with.

    If we’re talking about other minorities, then the numbers are more problematic for Hispanics and Asians. See here: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72

  2. What are reasonable benchmarks for diversity? We talk a lot about wanting more of it, but there are real limits to this notion. For example, if Blacks or African-Americans make up 13.7% (U.S. Census) of the population and only 27% of that number receives a college degree (this is a little over 3% of the original 13.7% and it’s undergrad–not PhD)–that means ONLY 3% of the Black or African American population has a college degree. I think we can reasonably assume that just based on the numbers above the number for PhDs will be miniscule. In fact, in 2009-2010 only 10,417 Blacks or African-Americans received PhDs or EdDs (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72). That is .027% of the population or a quarter of a percent!

    Of that 10k relatively few have PhDs in Philosophy. The problem isn’t philosophy, per se, but that few Blacks or African-Americans are getting graduate degrees. Given the current numbers some departments will NEVER reflect diversity not bc philo necessarily discourages minorities (it may or may not), but because the numbers aren’t there to begin with.

    If we’re talking about other minorities, then the numbers are more problematic for Hispanics and Asians. See here: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72

  3. The problem, 9:54, is the entire pipeline. We may not be able to get many more philosophers of color, but perhaps we can motivate some to not drop out halfway through college. I had a very different experience in college than many of my cchewmmp peers. And I know a lot of people from my community that never graduated. Likely, many of these problems are systemic. My mother is a middle-school teacher and she always frets about her students’ lack of preparation and motivation. We, as instructors, get students in their final attempts at an education. The least we could do is try to speak to them: to make them care about the material and to feel like insiders in a discipline that cares about them.

    (We might need a neologism, but I don’t think ‘cchewmmp’ will work. Sorry, Adrian. I gave it a shot!)

  4. Hi 9.54! You’re of course right that there are much broader, societal reasons for philosophy’s lack of diversity which are not to do with philosophy per se. And, to be honest, I don’t know enough about these issues (particularly race issues in the US) to comment. Its pretty hard to try and be inclusive of a minority group if there are so few actually engaged with philosophy in the first place (this is not the issue for women in philosophy!). I take it I was mostly interested in local actions which privileged philosophers can take to make for more inclusive, welcoming (and thriving) environments. Questions about how we might make those broader changes are much bigger.

    Carlos, you’ll be delighted to know that the neologism is now ‘cchhewmmp’ (I added an ‘h’ for ‘hetero’). I think you’ll find this small change massively increases its user-friendliness.

  5. I’m having a hard time understanding why the low number of both current and prospective Ph.D. students from different minority groups should detract in any way from the desire to make philosophy more inclusive both in its culture and its curriculum. Can someone spell out that argument more clearly, because at the moment it sounds something like “we aren’t going to attract very many people anyway, since the raw numbers are so low, so why bother making a change we don’t feel like making otherwise?” I feel like making that change no matter what, because it’s a change for the better for everyone.

  6. I don’t think anyone has said philo shouldn’t be more inclusive in culture and curriculum. I don’t think anyone has expressed the sentiment, “Why make a change we don’t feel like making.”

    The point is that simply making philo more inclusive doesn’t mean there will be more minority students (the numbers underscore this). And, that creating a “diverse” department (and expecting departments to be able to do this) in terms of racial make-up is nearly impossible given the numbers of minorities who receive PhDs. In addition, pointing to low numbers of minority philo PhDs as evidence that the discipline ISN’T inclusive is problematic given the very low numbers of minorities who seek advanced degrees across ALL disciplines. It may or may not be inclusive, but some other benchmark (other than # of minority PhDs) would need to be used.

    The author says,”I also care deeply about philosophy’s lack of inclusiveness: it’s embarrassing; philosophy as a discipline suffers if its pool of potential awesomeness is restricted; people who could thrive philosophically miss out.” But, as the numbers show the pool of potential minority students seeking graduate degrees s miniscule–extrapolating that the # for Philo is infinitesimal.

  7. Good, I take it the question is whether making philosophical environments better will actually have an effect in making those environments more diverse. In addition to the point that there just aren’t that many minorities in University in the first place, there’s also interesting research coming out of Sydney suggesting that ‘pre-university’ effects play a big role in the retention of students:

    “At the first lecture, disproportionately few female students intended to major. Further, at the first lecture, female students were less interested in philosophy, were less self-confident about philosophy, and were less able to imagine themselves as philosophers. Similarly, female students predicted they would feel more uncomfortable in philosophy classes than male students did.” (see Baron, S., Dougherty, T. & Miller, K. (in press) “Why is there female under-representation among philosophy majors? Evidence of a pre-university effect” Ergo. Preprint here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5mhyEBszjVEajFfLVIySy1nWG8/view).

    If it does turn out that the explanation for a lack of diversity in philosophy has little to do with philosophy (and I take it that unfavorable comparisons between philosophy and other humanities subjects with higher diversity should make us a little skeptical of that), then changing philosophical atmospheres won’t make a big difference to diversity. Here’s my response:

    (1) As Susan points out (and I mention in the original post) there are other reasons to want philosophical environments to have a more inclusive culture.
    (2) Such causal claims are both incredibly complex, and difficult to establish. Even if philosophical culture plays only a small role in contributing to a lack of diversity, it still seems a worthy goal to correct that as far as we can.
    (3) I take it that we hope that more minorities will start going to university, and having better representation in academic circles. It seems like a good idea to make sure that current atmospheres don’t undermine this as, when (and if) it starts happening.


  8. (10) If you can (and this one is really really hard) point out unhelpful behaviors to others. Take them aside, go get a coffee, or whatever, and try to explain what’s going on. This needn’t be particularly confrontational; after all we’re frequently ignorant of how our behaviors affect others. If I was making things uncomfortable for people, I’d be pretty upset if no one told me about it. This can involve pointing things out to people who are in a much more powerful position than you, and sometimes it might be worth seeking out someone who is more suited to the task. ”

    This is all good stuff. However it contains a fatal flaw, too – which I tell you now because you said “I’m happy to update [it].” One never accepts a lesson of what is unhelpful that is forced on them. It is forced. It is never, in such a simplistic approach, going to be accepted without distrust or even revulsion or anger at being talked down to. As a living philosopher I -know- you’ve encountered this.
    However the smart man Yamamoto Tsunetomo said a way that he found to try this another way, and it was to start with yourself. Talk of your own flaws, and see, and hope only, that your master (and friend) may remind himself of his same mistake.

    –Anonymized Voice of Yamamoto Tsunetomo, “Hagakure”

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