Minicourse on Metaphilosophy and Sex Equality

The School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex are very pleased to announce that Professor Michèle Le Doeuff will be giving a minicourse on ‘Metaphilosophy and sex equality’ at Essex on 11th – 13th May 2016. The abstract for the minicourse is as follows:

Metaphilosophy, in the sense of discussing what form of philosophy is valuable and what form is hopeless, is everywhere in our lives. It takes place within highly classical works and in the most informal conversations we have down the pub.

Sex equality happens not to be a major beacon for these discussions, to put it mildly. Who lays down the law to whom? On the other hand, if you consider that sex equality should indeed be among the non-negotiable landmarks of any discussion about philosophy, you might have the feeling that you are stating the obvious, and then discover that it never registers.

Now, if metaphilosophy is about defining what philosophy is (how it works, how it occasionally dysfunctions), it does appear as a most eligible level of discussion for feminists. A sphere in which you could at last appeal to justice is more than appealing. All the same, the question «what is philosophy?» sometimes proves slippery.

​In classes, pupils tend surreptitiously to start discussing the character of the philosopher, certainly male, old, bearded and endowed with encyclopaedic knowledge. A woman engaged in philosophy may find it wise not to discuss the question at all and simply prove her existence by doing her job, just as you can prove the possibility of movement by duly taking a stroll. But is this the end of the story?

The minicourse is made up of three lectures:

Wednesday 11 May, 3-5pm: Lecture – The Price to pay (and for becoming what?)
Thursday 12 May, 3-5pm: Lecture – You said ‘progress’?
Friday 13 May, 3-5pm: Lecture – In Praise of autodidacticism

Further information on the course can be found on the Essex website:

Book a place
Booking is required to attend the minicourse. To book your place please email Katherine Bialey at

Please send any queries or questions about the minicourse to Rosie Worsdale:

Implicit Bias and the Teaching Excellence Framework

The UK government has decided to hastily throw together a framework for assessing teaching quality, which will be linked to funding.  One key feature will be a heavy reliance on existing measures of student satisfaction like the National Student Satisfaction survey. Jules Holroyd and I have an article about this out in the Guardian today, drawing attention to worries about implicit bias in student satisfaction scores (though also noting other problems with these measures!).

Gender stereotypes and the gender gap in higher education

There’s an interesting op-ed on the role of gender stereotypes in gender differences in college participation and performance in the New York Times today by Andrew Reiner who teaches a course on masculinity at Towson University, and I thought our readers might be interested. Here’s a snippet of it:

In many ways, the young men who take my seminar — typically, 20 percent of the class — mirror national trends. Based on their grades and writing assignments, it’s clear that they spend less time on homework than female students; and while every bit as intelligent, they earn lower grades with studied indifference. When I asked one of my male students why he didn’t openly fret about grades the way so many women do, he said: ‘Nothing’s worse for a guy than looking like a Try Hard.’

In a report based on the 2013 book “The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What It Means for American Schools,” the sociologists Thomas A. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann observe: “Boys’ underperformance in school has more to do with society’s norms about masculinity than with anatomy, hormones or brain structure. In fact, boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys. But these cultural activities are often denigrated as un-masculine by preadolescent and adolescent boys.

. . . By the time many young men do reach college, a deep-seeded gender stereotype has taken root that feeds into the stories they have heard about themselves as learners. Better to earn your Man Card than to succeed like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others.