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To whom it may concern:

I am writing this short note to explain why I have resigned my teaching post at the
Community College of Aurora this past week. I have taught Intro to Philosophy and Ethics and
Comparative Religions at CCA for about 8 years. I was dismayed at the Ethics class being
changed a few years ago and a substandard text being used. I chose to not teach Ethics since my
students would be effectively hampered in their learning using a text which had omitted one of
the best know views within ethical studies.
That was problematic enough but I continued to enjoy teaching the Intro and
Comparative Religions class, as the texts were adequate and we were given large latitude to
teach in the most competent way we could. As anyone who has taught Intro knows, it is a
serious challenge to address the four major sections of philosophical study (Epistemology,
Ethics, Logic and Metaphysics) within a one semester course. Every class is necessary as there
is so much to introduce the students to. I thought that I did this as best as I could and I also
believed that I did an even better job because of my own education in two different philosophical
traditions; the Analytic tradition which I studied at CU Boulder, and the Continental/Postmodern
version which I had studied at Denver University.
Generally, I had good reviews from my students and several of them had switched their
majors to philosophy, and gone on to study that field at Metro and other schools. Many of my
best students for the past few years have been minority students, and yet had done quite well.
This will become important later on.
This spring some of us on the adjunct staff were called to a meeting where we were told
that the numbers of minority students finishing our classes successfully was too low. Strategies
such as scaffolding, introduction of minority sources and small group emphases were put
forward as possible fixes for the problem. I thought then and still think now that the problem
is not race, or financial status, as many of my students who are one or both of those categories
have excelled in my classes. The problem more likely is that most if not all students coming into
my classes have little to no background with philosophical thinking in any way. They didnt
realize the work and discipline it takes. This obviously is the case with other college courses as
well. But even though this was offered to us as options, I thought the classes would stay intact.
But we were then called to another meeting last Friday the 22nd. We were told it was
imperative that we read some articles related to scaffolding and small group interaction. I noted
that much of the stuff in the articles were based on psychology sources and there was other texts
that I had read on the same approaches. This is not to criticize psychology at this point, but some
of these studies are not really scientific and there has been some serious criticism of the field in
many recent journals. In talking with my immediate supervisor earlier that week it became very
clear that these options in the spring had become mandatory by the summer. We were informed
that our class periods, of which we only had 30 this fall, were to include five of those classes
which would be dedicated to teaching the students how to write short scaffolded papers. The
papers could not be over four pages. This would comprise 40% of their grade.
This is not a college class at that point.

But it got worse. Other classes were to be dedicated to small groups of students who
would do peer review and eventually the small groups would be allowed to teach the class on
some subject or another. This was done in the name of the students owning the material. At
this point it is not a college class either. We were told we needed to bring a list of lectures that
we usually teach in our class, which now were to be cut from the class to give space for the small
group and scaffolding sessions. This had ceased to be a college as much as it was now
seemingly a group encounter led by a facilitator. Since I had taken philosophy at different
universities for way too long, it struck me how radical all of this really was. My students who
have no background in the field, are now magically going to be competent to teach in the field,
within a few weeks of them learning even the briefest of definitions! As I thought about all this I
wondered why I had sought graduate degrees in the field
It was very clear to me at that moment in the meeting that none of this was negotiable.
All of this was required and the deans/supervisors would be making the rounds of our classes
during those five special days to make sure we werent screwing up by doing actual teaching in
our field, but rather were doing the work that writing classes used to do. Of course CCA has
writing classes and psychology classes and tutors for writing etc, but somehow the Philosophy
classes are now needed to do those things as well.
I have taught in the field of philosophy for over thirty years. I realize that officially
makes me a fossil, but my reviews have always been good and virtually every time I have been
observed I have been given a good rating by the visiting prof/chair. Many of my students have
done well in philosophy in other schools. Many of them are in constant communication with me
to this day.
I brought this whole kerfuffle up with one of my students that night after I resigned. He
is the epitome of what this move in CCA is supposed to do. He is a young black student from a
very poor and dysfunctional family. His background cannot be much worse then it was. Yet he
excelled in my class and is currently finishing a senior level class in Modern Philosophy at
Metro. When I told him what was going on his response was very telling. He said But they
wont be able to last in a class over here. I think he is right. CCA may or may not improve the
success rates for Intro from 75-78% or whatever the numbers are. But even if they do they are
definitively not preparing the students for the next level of education, something I always
believed was part and parcel of the Community college profession.
For some reason I thought that the materials I covered were important. For some strange
reason I was very driven to convey that importance to my students, not just for the class but for
their whole lives.
I could not do what the school asked and keep any integrity. So I resigned. It was a great
time there - not a lot of money (the typical adjunct complaint!) but a great time with so many
students. I will regret that loss.
William Honsberger

Editors note: this letter was edited to remove Honsbergers personal information.