Dr. Stemhagen: Philosophy meets practicality
SOE associate professor shares love of applied philosophy with students and colleagues
Dr. Kurt Stemhagen, associate professor in the VCU School of Education’s Department of Foundations of Education, is passionate about the field of applied philosophy. He shares that passion with his students and wove it into the theme of this year’s 75th Annual Meeting of the Philosophy of Education Society, held recently at the Omni Richmond Hotel.
When Kurt Stemhagen was a master’s student at VCU SOE, he enjoyed his classes on the purpose of teaching as much as those about the practical side of the profession. His interest in those broader aims were so great that he went on to earn his Ph.D. in Social Foundations and the Philosophy of Education and taught for two years at the University of Mary Washington.
His interest in the practical side, however, stayed with him. So did his affection for VCU. So when he was offered a teaching position at SOE that allowed him to apply the theory of education to the practical side of the profession, he jumped at the chance.
“It’s exciting to me that I can be in the Department of Foundations of Education, but work closely with colleagues in the Department of Teaching and Learning. I like applied philosophy, and being at the VCU School of Education is a great place to do it,” he explained.
Stemhagen was recently the program chair for the 75th Annual Meeting of the Philosophy of Education Society. This year’s theme – Rethinking the Philosophy of Education for Our Complicated Times – was his idea.
“I tried to focus on how philosophy can help us deal with the particular problems of today. I thought that this year, in particular, would be good time to take stock of what we can do beyond our disciplinary community,” he said.
As an example, one of the weekend conference groups took a “philosophical walking tour” of Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Led by Dr. Gabriel Reich, associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, the session was titled “Historical Consciousness and Monumental Art.”
The conference keynote address, sponsored by the Department of Foundations of Education, was delivered by Dr. Chris Lebron, associate professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and author of “The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of An Idea.”
Lebron presented on “The Sense and Sensibility of Equality,” in which he established a framework for helping people who don’t see blacks as being worthy of full human recognition. By focusing on the essential components of attentiveness and skill, he said, we can sense the more difficult aspects of others’ lives under inequality, and help them to see blacks as proper recipients of the respect that is fundamental to equality.