Monday, January 22, 2007

yeesh! finally I'm more or less in one piece

After I was sick, I was sick again. Then I was in the middle of restructuring my entire Professional Ethics class, which is good work, but lots of work. So I haven't been blogging.

It's good, every once in a while, to take a course you've been teaching for a while and throw out everything you've used in the class. I suppose. You know, maybe it isn't such a good idea.

Anyway, I was having a blast yesterday preparing the materials on autonomy, its limitations and conditions, and how to respect autonomy understood that way. The articles were fascinating to me: depths of discussion of respect for client autonomy and competing values in social work, nursing, public policy regarding drug-using pregnant women, plus narrative identity, Rawlsian veils of ignorance, existential advocacy - a freakin' cornucopia o' concepts. Delicious!

It was about then that the realization hit me that, as always, my enthusiasm for these ideas would be much greater than my students'. This is natural, I guess. They don't have the context I have to see how challenging these ideas are to some predominant and rather naive conceptualizations of professional responsibility for client autonomy. I tried to share that today, but I don't think I gave it enough emphasis to show the contrast, and how much this set of essays opens these issues.

This is always a problem teaching any philosophy class. It's endemic to teaching philosophy that, on the fly, it's very difficult to convey to students how important it is that an idea or a way of life can be (in an intellectual sense) turned entirely upside down. Truly: from the assumption that clients are autonomous because they can choose from among options presented by professionals, we got to the analysis of the way conditions of need or lack undermine client autonomy. We moved from informed consent to autonomy as the self-direction implied in narrative identities deeply underlying public behavior and statements. I mean to say, whoa.

Then again, maybe some of them just didn't read the stuff because their midterms were due today. That happens, too. We'll see: Wednesday we'll be discussing assertions of the right to assisted dying. If that ain't fun, then maybe I just don't know what fun is!

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