Brian Collins

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, UI

After graduating from St. Olaf College in 2006 (Philosophy & Psychology) Brian accepted an offer from Teach For America, a nonprofit whose mission it is to close the educational achievement gap between affluent and underprivileged students in the United States. He was placed in Los Angeles, CA, as a middle school math and science teacher. He taught for three years in L.A., during which time he came to realize how important critical thinking skills are for developing students. This was illuminated by the lack of critical thinking education that was being taught in the ‘No Child Left Behind’ era of standardized testing. Brian also saw how these problems in education were symptoms of larger systemic problems in policy and government. Reflecting on his own education, he saw how philosophy held a unique position in which to use, encourage, and implement critical thinking into public life and discourse.  Consequently, he decided to pursue an advanced degree in philosophy, but for a much different reason than most people do:  for its practical applicability. While most see philosophy as a purely academic field, far removed from the daily concerns and issues of everyday life, Brian believes it holds a unique power to help facilitate critical thinking and communication in practical matters such as education, public policy, and public dialogue generally. He is currently working on completing his PhD with a concentration on ethics (both theoretical and applied) and political philosophy. More specifically, his dissertation focuses on examining and developing an account of ‘political obligation’ (i.e. examining and developing an account of what citizens owe to their political communities and what it is that grounds these obligations).