TEACHING

While I enjoy research and writing, teaching is my vocation. At the University of Richmond, Deep Springs College, Ashland University, and the University of Toronto, I have taught introductory and advanced courses in political theory—from survey courses in political theory and American political thought to seminars such as Early Modern Political Thought, Statesmen and Demagogues, and Tragedy and Politics. These courses have been very well-received by the students. Going forward, at Yale, I will co-teach Historical and Political Thought in the Directed Studies program, and I will lead my own seminar on Women in Greek Political Thought. Whether in the lecture hall or the seminar room, I teach in a dialectical style that provokes intense student engagement in both conversation and writing.

 

How, then, do I approach my classes? The activity of questioning defines my approach to teaching. I invite students to read texts as responses to enduring political questions. Exploring such questions—for example, what is justice? what is freedom? what is the best regime?—can hook students on political theory and generate appropriately thoughtful investigations of the phenomena. In my view, everyone is attracted to these huge political questions because they alone have the paradoxical potential both to enrich and to unsettle our own political frameworks. Ultimately, I want students to learn how to become questioners themselves—and to direct their questioning toward understanding and acting within the world.

 

On a more practical level, my pedagogical approach is developmental, process-oriented, and personalized. My assignments start small; for example, I often scaffold writing assignments so that the students learn how to perform careful textual analysis and to construct complex interpretative arguments before they compose full essays. I also meet with my students throughout the year in order to give them personalized feedback. By teaching students how to interrogate classic texts, and by helping them to become proficient academic writers, I treat my students as valuable interlocutors and apprentice scholars, even as I push them to improve as writers and thinkers.

Finally, as a teacher, I contribute to student success in four ways. First, I raise issues of diversity and equity as I teach political theory. It is impossible to talk about justice, even in the ancient context (think of Plato’s Republic), without raising these issues. Second, I craft syllabi that display the full diversity of the history of political thought. Third, and perhaps as a consequence of my attention to equity in the classroom, I forge personal connections with many students. Fourth, I participate in the broader community of the department and the university. At the University of Richmond, I organized a conference on the life and thought of Frederick Douglass; David Blight will be the keynote speaker. In advance of the conference, I led a student reading group on Douglass. I would be thrilled to carry forward this kind of teaching and service.

DANIEL SCHILLINGER

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