Riesbeck Makes the News

I’m perennially frustrated by the reticence of PoT’s bloggers, especially when motivated by modesty: they never call, they never write. And they rarely if ever toot their own horns. So when they make the news, you have to toot their horns for them. Which I now proceed to do.

As readers here know, Riesbeck the Bashful (as he’s known here) has a new position teaching Latin/Humane Letters and Greek at Tempe Preparatory Academy in Tempe, Arizona. Here’s an announcement to that effect from De Equitibus, the school’s online student publication. (Naturally, since the publication’s name is in Latin, Riesbeck is the only one of us here who knows for sure what it means.)

The announcement not only has a photo of Riesbeck, but all manner of scandalous revelation about his life and career. Among these is his former life as an academic wastrel, his present commitment to a form of pedagogical act-hedonism (“It’s enjoyable watching people learn, which makes me enjoy teaching even more”) and his confession to the eyebrow-raising claim that our spiritual lives should be based on a paganized form of consumerist axiological solipsism (“Dr. Riesbeck says that a Boston terrier is his spirit animal because ‘they are the best dogs and I have one.'”)

So the truth is out at last about our co-blogger. We all had our suspicions, I’m sure.

Seriously, man–congrats.

12 thoughts on “Riesbeck Makes the News

  1. This reminds me of my senior year as an undergraduate, when I, having already read the Nicomachean Ethics several times in English and all of Book I in Greek, and having written several papers on it, took an ‘Intro to Ethics’ class in which the Kantian professor dismissively told the class, “Aristotle is obviously a hedonist…” To put it as my new students might, I was like, “what? Book VII, dude, and oh, he repeats that shit in Book X, where’ve you been?”

    But it also reminds me of when I was giving the interview, when I had the thought: ok, you sound like you’re talking too much about enjoying yourself, emphasize other things. I did; they just didn’t make it into the article.


    The interviewer was one of my beloved students, but the senior editor was not, so I’ll blame the senior editor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you get a chance, am curious to hear what your teaching/workload is, and how it compares to a college-level load. For starters, I assume you have to go in M-F, roughly 9 to 3, right?

      Speaking of journalists, we’re going to have to get Derek Bowman to interview you at some point for his Free Range Philosophers project. From there, you’ll have to beat back the paparazzi, at which point the “hedonism” charge may not be too far wrong….Or to put it in Latin, mutatis mutandis, it looks like you’re headed for this lifestyle…


        • I have monitoring duty at 7:30 AM; my last class ends at 3PM, and I’m doing well if I leave school at 3:30. It’s like a regular 9-5, except that I start and finish an hour and a half earlier.

          My job isn’t so bad, because our school usually doesn’t ask teachers to teach more than 4 periods per day (many high school teachers teach 6 periods); even better, I teach for four periods, but one of my classes is a two-period class, so I only have three preps. That means I get two planning periods, where I can prep and grade during the day instead of having to take things home. I still have to do a fair amount of planning and grading at home, but it’s not especially burdensome, whereas it would be if I didn’t have two planning periods. I also do a half hour each day that is a kind of mix of study hall and tutoring.

          I somehow managed never to have to teach more than two classes a term in college, so I don’t really know how my job now compares to, say, a 4/4 load at Random State University. I suspect it depends on the number of students and on how well the instructor knows the material. Even a 4/4 load doesn’t usually involve being in the classroom for 22.5 hours a week, though, which is what I’m at when you include the tutoring/study hall. So I think there’s more instructional time. I have many fewer students than most people who teach a 4/4, though, so it might even out.

          It’s gonna be a long while before I adjust sufficiently to get anything that looks remotely like ‘research’ done. But that’d be true if I were teaching a 4/4 at UT Austin, too. I’m doing nothing but school for a solid 8 hours every day, and then I usually have another hour or so of stuff to do at home. I don’t know how that compares to your load, which I know is a lot heavier than anything I’ve done before now. But if I’m ever going to write seriously again, it’s gonna be mostly during the summers.


          • I was thinking that comparing your load to a college load would be an apples-and-oranges sort of comparison, but it turns out not to be. You have a heavy load, but it’s not as heavy as I thought it might be. The (public) high school teachers I know teach six periods a day (I don’t know how they do it), with the unfortunate result that their students come to college thinking that they should be taking six courses (18-20 credits) per semester.

            Technically, I’m teaching eight sections this semester, involving an enrollment of about 100 students. There are three sections of Phil 100 (Critical Thinking, Prep 1), one section of Phil 250 (an ethics course: Prep 2), and one of Phil/Crim 380 (Criminal Law: Theory and Practice: Prep 3). Then there are three “tutorials,” i.e., classes that have to be offered because the students in question need those particular credits, but that fall beneath the minimum enrollment level for a “real” class (=5). One of those is a course I designed, Phil 420 (Islam and the West: Confrontation and Encounter: Prep 4), then Phil 445 (a methods course originally designed for phil majors wanting to write a senior thesis: Prep 5), and Phil 450 (senior thesis advising: involves work, but doesn’t quite count as a prep).

            Phil 420 only involves three students, and 445 and 450 involve one each; the low enrollment doesn’t change the prep load, but it obviously changes the grading–and is compensated accordingly: all courses taught above 12 credits are compensated at the adjunct rate of $800/credit, with tutorials compensated at 0.5 credits per student at that rate. Then there’s Pre-Law Advising, and running the Felician Institute (conferences). (Then there’s my graduate classes in psychology–just one this semester, PSYC 595–but that’s self-imposed pain.) Strictly speaking, that is 17.5 hours’ classroom time. If I add the advising, organizing, and office hours to the time I spend in the classroom, the figure I get is roughly the same as your figure for time you spend in the classroom (closer to 25).

            Phil 100 and 250 involve some, but not a great deal of prep time, but Phil 380 and Phil 420 involve an enormous amount. The material is dense, fact-intensive, difficult, and heavily interdisciplinary (which forces me to teach well outside of my discipline). And then there’s the separate task of figuring out how to convey all that stuff to half-motivated students who won’t do the reading.

            That set of challenges is part of the reason why I found Brennan/Magness’s claims about “adjunct prep times” so fatuous, back when we were discussing that topic here (two years ago): I’m not an adjunct, but there are contexts in which I get paid an adjunct rate–and I get paid that rate when my institution demands that I teach overload, and demands that I both design and teach classes outside of my discipline (because doing so boosts enrollment). If your goal is pedagogical proficiency, you can’t pull prep hours of out of your ass, as Magness does here, raise the red herring (or straw man) of “minimum wage adjuncts,” and claim to have made an argument worth taking seriously. You have to sit there and prep until you get things right, and that can take awhile.

            Anyway, I raise all this in part because I think it argues for re-conceiving the way we do things at PoT. Most or many of our schedules are simply too heavy for the usual scatter-shot approach to blogging–i.e., blogging headlines or trends–which is why I’ve been doing a lot less blogging lately. Michael Young and I have been working through Michael Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority in weekly sessions on Google Video Chat; right now, we’re on chapter 9, but I’ve been taking notes on our sessions, and the idea is that once we get through the book (whenever that is), we’ll post a series of posts on it, akin to David Potts’s long series last year on morals and the free society. But until then, there’ll be a lot of silence.

            Huemer’s book aside, I’ve been working on longer-term projects as well–one on Locke, one on Edward Said’s Orientalism–so I’ve been trying to hold back on the sporadic single-issue blogging (though I never quite succeed) and wait until I have a series worth posting on one or the other. It’s always hard to know whether one should blog such material in dribs and drabs as one moves through it, or wait until one has a quasi-Hegelian picture of The Whole, but whatever.

            That, at any rate, is how I think of resolving the “dilemma” of getting research done under time-constraints like ours. We probably need to use the blog more strategically and intelligently–i.e., tailor it to our research goals, rather than using it to blow off steam on this or that random issue that comes up. The steam we “blow off” is probably not as epiphenomenal as we’d like to think. But used more judiciously, the blog can do research work for us.


            • Yeah, there are some oranges and some apples, but there’s also a lot of bread and cheese; some of the things I’m dealing with are just not at all what I had to deal with before, and vice versa, but time is time.

              My school self-consciously limits the amount that most of us teach in order to give us (a) meaningful prep / grading time and (b) time to spend with students outside of class. They suppose that if they give teachers those two things, both teaching and student performance will improve, and, well, we were ranked the #1 ‘public’ (i.e., non-tuition-paying) school in Arizona and #15 in the nation last year by US News & World Report, so their supposition seems to have some empirical support. Six instructional hours, even if it were only three preps, would force me to do many things less well; I already can’t get everything I need done done in the 40 hours a week I’m on campus, and if I replaced my two prep periods with classes I’d probably be working 55-60 hours on an average week. I think many public school teachers do so. That’s just one thing that public schools do wrong.

              I plan to continue using the blog to waste time and relieve stress. That’s worked for the past few years, it should keep working.


  2. Oh, and, finally, one of the questions was: “what is your spirit animal?” I couldn’t just reject the terms of the question, could I? I had to answer, and there is only one answer available to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought equitibus meant one who has gotten a car and moved to the suburbs. Wish I’d taken Latin, which was offered in my public high school. Would be nice to be able to read Christianus Wolfius’ PHILOSOPHIA PRIMA SIVE ONTOLOGIA. And not only for the snobbery.


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