Philosophy Class With a World View

By Matilda Tavares, Office of Development Communications Posted Tue, 02/12/2019 - 04:30

Established in 1976, the Janet and Mortimer Fleishhacker Chair was created by San Francisco donors Frances and Mortimer Fleishhacker III to support the USF Philosophy department and faculty with outstanding records in teaching and research.

Professor David Kim received this distinction in 2017-18 for his leadership on campus and his research on multiculturalism in America. As Fleishhacker Chair, Professor Kim worked alongside colleagues across campus to develop the Global Humanities curriculum within the newly established Honors College.

Here, Professor Kim talks about his work and how it exemplifies the purpose of Jesuit education, placing diversity and inclusion at the forefront of the student experience.

I’ve been at USF for almost 20 years. I’m just now coming to terms with my position as a senior faculty member—  I’m officially an old timer. One reason I’ve stayed at USF is that the mission resonates with me. USF, being a Jesuit university, calls us to be humanistic and encourages us to bring that into the classroom, shaping context in everyday life. It reminds all of us to embody these values and manifest them into a university culture that values diversity of thought and cherishes moral cultivation.

My primary role at USF has always been to teach philosophy. On occasion, I’ll take on other roles and during the academic breaks, I conduct research. My current research is on multiculturalism in the U.S. with an interest in Asians and Asian Americans. I’m looking into the question: Can Asian traditions be modernized?

The importance of USF philosophy courses is that they provide students with a deeper understanding of their own values. Sometimes we don’t know what values we have and we don’t have an articulate way to express them. Students leave a philosophy course at USF understanding the implications of the values they hold and how to use their values when making decisions in everyday life, such as the jobs they seek and the careers they intend to pursue.

Because of the global humanities track, I’ve also had the opportunity to teach a gateway course called Global Humanities. This course and pathway are intended to introduce the humanities from a global perspective. When students are learning history in the K-12 setting, they’re learning a westernized form of history. This course introduces other humanities and traditions such as Confucianism and Buddhism, as well as political thought in Ubuntu in South Africa.

In all the courses that my colleagues and I teach at USF, Jesuit values are essential in developing in students the sensibility to make critically informed decisions. It is our job to cultivate in students both informed curiosity and conceptual empathy. In order to do that, we need to show students the other side of the world and make them more tentative on the idea of truth. We must cultivate in them a mindset of acceptance toward traditions and communities outside their own. Informed curiosity and conceptual empathy, things that a Jesuit education offers, are the skills that will allow our students to engage in the world with a discerning palate.

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