Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Class applies philosophy principles to community service

While philosophy is typically thought of as abstract thinking, students in The University of Alabama’s department of philosophy can get involved in a class which seeks to bring the principles explored back to reality.

Students may enroll in a one-credit service-learning class, Social Justice in Practice, which is offered concurrently with the class Political Philosophy. Students participate in a weekly discussion, as well as volunteering for at least 20 hours in the semester.

Rekha Nath, a philosophy professor, envisioned the class and taught its first section last spring.

“It was some of the best students from Political Philosophy, so it was really nice to have this small, intimate discussion each week where we talked about their experiences with their community work and also talked about the theories of justice we were studying in Political Philosophy,” Nath said.

In creating the course, Nath met with different community partners to facilitate the service aspect of the class. Nath chose several organizations whose work related to some of the principles explored in Political Philosophy but left open the opportunity for students to choose their own organizations to work with as well.

“The class was a lot smaller than we intended – it was only three people – but it was a lot of fun,” Nath said. “It was kind of like what you want classes to be like.”

Becky Kerley, a sophomore majoring in philosophy and economics, worked with Tuscaloosa’s One Place, helping elementary school students with their homework.

“Dr. Nath is really an incredible professor, and everyone should take it,” Kerley said. “It was great to apply some of the principles we were about and have a concrete application of the philosophy we’re learning.”

Through this course, Alex Harris, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, worked with the Druid City Garden Project which works to promote sustainable farming and healthy eating in kids.

“So basically my project was working towards preventative education for healthy eating,” Harris said. “It’s controversial whether this should play a role in government or not. So my main goal was really to decide whether this should be something we should be requiring of people, that their kids be involved or whether it should be something that’s just sort of a charitable thing, and whether such projects should be getting government funding.”

These kinds of evaluations were important to the overall goals of the class.

“Another big part of my interest is looking at it critically, and asking ourselves whether these are the best ways to address these social issues,” Nath said. “I think a really big part in general about college is besides learning about these social and political theories is getting exposure to people from all different sorts of walks of life who might be totally different from people you might interact with in a college classroom. I think it’s great to sit down with someone who never learned how to read and have conversations with them and be involved in doing something with another person in what’s hopefully a really mutually enriching relationship.”

Harris also said she enjoyed working with the kids and that she would recommend the class to anyone interested in social justice who can afford to put in the time required.

“I think a lot of the people who have talked to me about their interest in this class are people who have taken political or social philosophy classes and when they learn about theories of social justice and get an understanding of the great levels of disparity and disadvantage that we have in our community, they’re really interested in practical efforts in either how they can get involved personally or what’s being done to combat all of these, what look like, great injustices,” Nath said. “So I designed this course to kind of give people more of a hands-on experience while they’re actually learning about this, and saying look, here are a lot of the practical efforts that you can get involved in.”


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