Kaskaskia College Philosophy Professor, Dr. Scott Crothers, of Greenville, is making an impact with students in his role as professor.
Recently, he accompanied sixteen students from his Introduction to Philosophy class on a field trip to Memphis, Tennessee. The class spent March 1-2 in Memphis as they were studying social/political philosophy which considers how society should be organized. In that unit, students consider the proper role of civil disobedience and its place in the American civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
He adds, “In addition to more overtly philosophical works in political philosophy, students read the famous “Law and Order” and “Good Friday” statements written by a coalition of Southern ministers in 1963. Those documents make the case that civil disobedience is never appropriate. Instead, they argue, all social change must be pressed “in the courts” rather than “in the streets.” Students also read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in which Dr. King argues that social tension is the only way to bring about justice and, thus, we are all morally obligated to break unjust laws so as to produce a social tension whose resolution will be just. Though these documents were written over 50 years ago, the arguments they make continue to appear today as our nation wrestles with issues of injustice and civil disobedience.
Crothers says, “To bring these issues to life, sixteen students were privileged to visit the National Civil Rights Museum on the site of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated nearly 50 years ago on April 4, 1968.” At the museum, students were also able to sit next to a statue of Rosa Parks on an authentic 1950’s commuter bus like those ridden in the Birmingham of the day. Students were able to look in the Lorraine Motel room #306 where Dr. King spent the night before his assassination. They were also able to stand in the boarding house bathroom where James Earl Ray fired the bullet that killed Dr. King. Students walked the same Beale Street that Dr. King marched as part of the Memphis sanitation workers strike of 1968 and visited the Ernest C. Withers Collection museum and studied the photographs Dr. King’s personal photographer, photographs depicting that same Beale Street lined with National Guardsmen to end the sanitation workers strike protests. Students ducked in the cellar of the Burkle Estate as did fleeing slaves in the Underground Railroad just over 150 years before. In short, students walked through these monumental events in our history while thinking forward to issues of social justice and civil disobedience that we will debate as a nation for many years to come.
Crothers says that the trip was funded through the Kaskaskia College Foundation’s mini-grant program. “Without their financial support, this valuable and historic learning opportunity would have been missed. We are also indebted to the Kingsway Christian Church of Germantown, TN who provided free lodging for our sixteen students and two college chaperones, Crothers and Fran Windler.
Dr. Crothers adds that “the student of philosophy is an excellent foundation for future studies and careers in law. Any student planning to go to law school will be expected to take a course in philosophical logic and would benefit from courses in ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law”. Many students come to KC planning to enter law school after transferring to a university and earning their bachelor’s degree. To help cultivate the interest of these students and to provide individually tailored guidance, the Kaskaskia College philosophy department is forming a new student club for those interested in continuing on to law school. In addition to information about pre-law studies at regional universities, the club plans to work with local attorneys to provide mentorship to members of the club and to arrange for travel experiences observe oral arguments.
Recently a new course, Eastern Philosophy” was created. This course exposes students to the diverse philosophical traditions of India and China. Students learn about some of the most important philosophical and religious traditions of the region including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism while reading the classical texts associated with these traditions. As cultural exchange between these cultures and our own continues to increase, an understanding of these traditions and their values is ever more important.