by Beth Conahan
Have you ever had one of those professors that just didn’t seem to care? He or she comes to class, spouts out his opinion and leaves you with just enough knowledge to pass the test and then you forget it by the time you walk out of the room?
On the other hand, maybe you’ve been lucky enough to have a professor who really does care, someone who challenges you in a painless kind of way.
Dr. Joseph Romano has been teaching philosophy for 40 years.
Philosophy is a subject most students don’t study in high school and one many students think will be too difficult and challenging to try. But fear not, sometimes you just need a professor with the right attitude.
Romano walks into his classrooms “expecting to learn something too.” In his opinion, “mutual learning” makes for the best classes.
He admits to being better read in the subject than his students but reading their papers and hearing their opinions in class challenges his own thinking.
He admits even to being “selfish,” aiming to satisfy his own hunger for knowledge as well as his students’.
Romano gets angry when he sees the bad impressions people have about philosophy. Students come from an education system that teaches them to look for a specific answer.
Romano doesn’t approve. He believes that in philosophy the questions are as important as the answers. There are “no absolute series of answers” in philosophy.
“I know the students aren’t used to thinking that way,” Romano said.
But he hasn’t often been disappointed by his classes.
Romano encourages discussion in his classrooms. Readings challenge the students’ thinking on a subject they had perhaps never considered. Classroom debate challenges them further to open their mind to these new ideas and questions.
Every year, he teaches two lower level courses. He loves the “challenge of starting out together on philosophy.”
His favorite parts of learning are the insights he develops in the classroom and watching students come to insights of their own.
The subject he teaches is one that touches his life deeply. “If you can’t live your philosophy, it’s not worth teaching it,” Romano said.
In the 70s, Romano was offered a visiting professorship in Belgium. He was in awe of the history there. From the window of his classroom, he could see a wall erected by Julius Caesar.
Even in Belgium, “the students were the same,” he said.
He also received two Carnegie Study Fellowships, which took him to Colorado Springs to study Greek philosophy and Notre Dame to study ethics.
When it comes to teaching, Romano’s philosophy is that “you get out of it what you put into it.” Romano puts a lot into it and it shows.