Christina Easton

Philosophy PhD Student at the London School of Economics and Political Science


About Me

I am currently studying for a PhD in the Philosophy Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science. My work is primarily in Political Philosophy and its application to education policy. I'm also interested in issues relating to gender and the under-representation of women in Philosophy.

I work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at LSE and am currently teaching The Big Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. In 2017 I was awarded both the departmental teaching award and a School-wide teaching award (runner-up for 'Feedback and Communication').

Prior to taking up the studentship at LSE, I taught Philosophy and Religious Studies to 11-18 year olds. Having spent 8 years in schools in the Greater London area, working my way from classroom teacher to Head of Department, I have a practical awareness of the impact of education policy on students and teachers, as well as first-hand experience of the dilemmas one encounters in the classroom that beg of philosophical reflection.

I explain more about my research in this blog article.

 

Publications

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Easton, C. (2018). Educating in respect: Against neutral discourse as a norm for respectful classroom discussion. Philosophy 93 (2), p. TBC.

 

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Easton, C. (2018). How Should Teachers React to 'Words that Wound'? The Value of Free Speech and Discussion in Response to Controversial Speech in the Classroom. In The Value and Limits of Academic Speech: Philosophical, Political, and Legal Perspectives, ed. D. A. Downs & C. W. Surprenant, London: Routledge.

 

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Easton, C., Goodman, A., Wright, A., & Wright, A. (2018). Critical Religious Education in Practice: A Teacher's Guide for the Secondary Classroom. London: Routledge.

 

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Easton, C. (forthcoming). Truth in science and 'truth' in religion: An enquiry into student views on different types of truth-claim. In Science and Religion in Education, ed. B. Billingsley, K. Chappell & M. Reiss, London: Springer.

Topics of Interest

 

British values and Prevent

Since 2014, the Government has required that schools "have a duty to 'actively promote' the fundamental British values of democracy, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance". Some schools have focused on the 'British' part of this, and sought to fulfil this policy requirement by a day spent eating fish and chips and learning about the Royal Family. But the Government's motivations for the policy suggest more of a concern with promoting liberal values and avoiding the harms of extremism. It ties in with the Government's Prevent programme, which (since the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015), includes a duty on public sector organisations like schools to prevent people from getting into all forms of terrorism and nonviolent extremism. I'm interested in how schools have been interpreting these policies, how they should be interpreting them, and what are the most justifiable, plausible ways of putting this policy into practice.

 
 

Neutrality

Neutrality has been described as the "nerve of liberalism" (Dworkin) and a "central ingredient" of the liberal vision (Larmore). But is it really that essential to liberalism? I argue that neutrality is a distinctive concern of political liberalism, but that comprehensive liberals have been more concerned with tolerance.

I'm interested in whether the liberal state is right to be concerned with neutral policy-making, justification, and dialogue. I'm also interested in how neutrality can be applied to public policy. For example, what does a 'neutral justification' for education policy look like?


Liberal Values

How justifiable is it to teach 'liberal values', given that not everyone agrees with these values? Liberals value freedom, so doesn't that mean allowing parents the freedom to choose what values their children are taught? And if liberals value tolerance, shouldn't this extend to tolerating those with illiberal values? My research looks at whether we can justify teaching liberal values in a way that avoids the charge that children are being 'indoctrinated' into liberalism.

 
 

Philosophy of Education

John Stuart Mill declared it "almost a self-evident axiom" that all children must be educated - a view held in common with most liberals. But here the agreement stops and some seemingly intractable problems arise. Education is a means to liberty in later life, but what should we do when imposing education conflicts with present liberties? And how can the liberal be consistent in valuing a diversity of views at the same time as advocating compulsory education, for the moment we state what must be compulsory, we bring in a controversial vision of 'the good education'?

I'm also interested in thinking about the limits of free speech in the classroom and the extent to which we should see teachers to be neutral agents of the state.


Disagreement and Discussion

What constitutes a 'reasonable' disagreement? Answering this is important, since many liberals want to say that views that are the subject of reasonable disagreement should not be used to justify public policy.

I'm also interested in what we're doing when we have a discussion. Political liberals have sometimes indicated that in public discussion, we should only refer to public reasons (those that all reasonable people can accept). But this seems to miss out on many important aspects of discussion, such as trying to share our experience to help our opponent see things the way we do.


Tolerance

Can a principled ground be given for tolerance? I'm interested in respect-based grounds for tolerance, as well as the question of how we should understand tolerance. In my view, respect for persons should motivate engagement with the other, rather than merely the detached non-interference often assumed in the literature. I'm also interested in what the limits of tolerance are, and how one might teach tolerance when its boundaries are so unclear.

Conference Papers

'For the Love of Wisdom': Diversity Arguments for Increased Representation of Women in Philosophy. The Profession We Want: Practical Ways to Improve Philosophy, 15/05/17

Truth in science and "truth" in religion: An enquiry into student views on different types of truth-claim, Science and Religion in Education, 28/10/16

Decriminalising polygamy in the UK: Reflections on policy change, Warwick Political and Legal Theory Conference, 13/02/16

Exemplifying a Critical RE Approach to Philosophy and Ethics (with the FORASE team), St. Gabriels Teacher Weekend (Energising RE), 03/10/15

Critical RE Research Updates (with the FORASE team), St. Gabriels Teacher Weekend (Energising RE), 03/10/15

Applying a Critical Realist Pedagogy: A case study on Islam (with the FORASE team), St. Gabriels Teacher Weekend (Leaders for Changing RE: Defining our Future), 28/09/13

The Exemplification of a Critical RE Pedagogy (with the FORASE team), St. Gabriels Teacher Weekend (From Here to Outstanding: Pushing the Boundaries for RE), 29/09/12 and 30/09/12

Does Critical Realist Religious Education conflict with the "social cohesion agenda"? Religion, Education and Critical Realism (Oxford Brookes). 07/09/12

Discriminating Tolerance and Religious Education: Dealing with incompatible truth-claims in the classroom. Teaching and Studying Religion: choices and challenges (British Sociological Association). 15/12/11

Critical Religious Education in the Classroom (with Tom Hibberd). ISRSA Annual Conference. 27/09/10

Teaching

The Big Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (LSE, 2017-18)
Example topics: Scepticism, the existence of God, consciousness, persistence, time, numbers, ethics, justice, meaning.

Elements Of Ethics (King's College London, Lent Term 2018)
Example topics: Objectivity and subjectivity of moral values, relativism, the social sources of morality.

Philosophy & Public Policy (LSE, 2016-17)
Example topics: Immigration; global aid; statistical discrimination; paying for Higher Education; population policy; freedom of speech.

Philosophy & Public Policy (LSE, 2015-16)
Example topics: Healthcare ethics (responsibility, risk, resource distribution); climate change; killing vs. letting die; intellectual property.

Philosophy A-Level (2009-15)
Epistemology; Political Philosophy; Mill's On Liberty as set text; Moral Philosophy.

Religious Studies A-Level (2008-15)
Moral Philosophy; Philosophy of Religion.


Recent teaching feedback

Mean score in seminar evaluations conducted for 2016-7 classes ('How satisfied have you been with the class teaching on this course by this teacher?' where 1=very good; 5=poor): 1.1.
Mean score in seminar evaluations conducted for 2015-6 classes: 1.3.

Anonymous comments from students on teaching feedback forms:

  • "My best teacher by a long long way! Pleasure to attend classes, worth waking up for at 10am on a Monday."

  • "Thought marking was great. By far the most thorough feedback I've got in any formative essay at LSE and that was really helpful."

  • "Gives very detailed essay feedback and is generous with her office hours."

  • "This is the best class I have been in at LSE."

  • "Ms. Easton is a great teacher. She allows us to fully engage with the material and deepen our knowledge."

  • "She is brilliant. Incredibly helpful, incredibly approachable, highly knowledgeable yet open-minded. She never shuts discussion down - simply challenges us to push us further in our ideas."

Notable Awards

Royal Institute of Philosophy Essay Prize: Runner-up (Topic: Philosophy and Education)

Shortlisted for New Philosopher Writers' Award 2017 (Topic: Food)

School-wide LSE Student-Led Teaching Excellence Award for 'Feedback and Communication' (runner-up), 2017

Class Teacher Award, Department of Philosophy, 2017

Shortlisted for New Philosopher Writers' Award 2016 (Topic: Education)

LSE studentship (tuition fees and full living expenses), 2015-2019

AHRC scholarship (tuition fees and full living expenses), 2015-2018 (declined)

Culham St. Gabriel's Trust partial grant for MA, 2013-2014

Hanson Prize in Philosophy of Religion, KCL, 2007

Paul Caudwell Prize for the student achieving the best results, KCL, 2005

3 Minute Thesis Presentation

Presented at the LSE Research Festival 2016