Christina Easton

Political and moral philosopher at the London School of Economics and Political Science


About Me

I am a political and moral philosopher, with an interdisciplinary teaching and research background. I submitted my PhD in Philosophy to the LSE in May 2020, entitled 'Liberalism, education, and promoting 'British values' in schools' (see abstract). You can find out about some of my ongoing research interests below.

I've taught at LSE and King's College London, including courses in moral philosophy and public policy. In 2017 I was awarded both the department teaching award and an LSE-wide teaching award. I was interviewed about my experiences teaching at LSE, and you can also see some feedback from my students below.

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.

 

Current Research Interests

 

Respect and Discussion Norms

Kantian respect for persons has sometimes been thought to point towards detached non-interference with people who you disagree with. Others have thought respect points towards neutral discourse. In contrast, I think that Kantian respect requires really attending to your interlocuter -which implies attending to, and engaging with, their deepest reasons. I've written about what this implies for public discussion and classroom discussion, and now I am interested in what it might imply for social media discussions, which are the site of much of today's public political discourse. What norms are required for us to have a healthy sphere of public debate? Are these the same norms that should guide public discourse more generally, or do platforms like Twitter pose distinct challenges?

 
 

Public Engagement

As academics, we are encouraged to share the results of our research, with at least part of the aim of 'public engagement' being to garner support for our conclusions amongst the wider public. But how can this be reconciled with research seemingly suggesting that rational argumentation is an ill-suited means of convincing people?

More generally, what should the aims of 'public engagement' be? Must 'public philosophy' be two-way, with the public inputting into the conclusions of philosophers? Contrary to the views of some, I argue that it is possible to 'do public engagement' in a way that allows for both philosophical expertise and genuine, respectful engagement with the public.


Values Education and Teaching Tolerance

What values should state schools be teaching to children? When should teachers aim for their students to come to adopt certain, controversial beliefs? Does the UK Government's requirement for schools to teach tolerance imply teaching a positive attitude to LGBT+ relationships, as Ofsted have assumed? Disputes over the values and beliefs taught in schools are set to escalate, not least because Relationships Education, including LGBT+ content, becomes compulsory in all UK schools from September 2020.

 
 

A Moral Evaluation of Academic Norms

How is 'excellence' understood across different disciplines? How should it be understood, given the effects of perceptions of excellence on disadvantaged groups? Leslie et al. (2015) found that disciplines where success tends to be associated with natural brilliance have lower proportions of women, and that philosophy has the highest such emphasis. Linking with my existing work on the notions of philosophical expertise and philosophical virtue, I plan to investigate whether we can, and whether we should, flesh out the notion of the 'brilliant philosopher' in a way that avoids reference to fixed abilities. I will then examine the implications of this for analogous debates in other disciplines and in education more generally.


Religious Education

RE can be the most exciting, transformative subject on the curriculum. But provision in England is mixed, and I've argued that the subject needs reform if it is to answer the challenges of its critics. Good RE helps students to develop strong evaluative judgements in response to contested truth, whilst at the same time teaching true tolerance and respect for others. I think that a reformed RE should be a compulsory subject on the school curriculum, with no right to withdrawal.

In a co-authored book, my colleagues and I have argued for a Religious Education that enables students to engage intelligently with ultimate questions and reflect on how they should live in an informed and critical manner. We show what this looks like in the classroom, with example schemes of work, lesson plans and teaching resources.

 

Conference Papers

[Invited Speaker] Liberalism and 'British values' in schools, Liberal Democratic Education: A Paradigm in Crisis Conference, VU Amsterdam, 11/09/20. [Postponed]

[Invited Speaker] Schools as plural spaces. Religion and Global Society Launch Event, LSE, 01/04/20. [Postponed]

[Invited Speaker] Liberalism and 'British values' in schools, Children, Justice and the Future Conference, University of Swansea, 17/12/19.

[Invited Speaker] Symposium on Tim Fowler's 'Liberalism, Childhood and Justice', University of Swansea, 16/12/19.

[Invited Speaker] Women and 'the philosophical personality': Evaluating whether gender differences in the Cognitive Reflection Test have significance for explaining the gender gap in Philosophy. Work in Progress Series, University of Salzburg, 07/10/19

Two Types of Liberalism. 16th Annual MANCEPT Conference, 09/09/19.

[Invited Speaker] 'Words that wound' in the classroom: should they be silenced or discussed? Philosophy of Education Research Seminar Series 2018-19, University of Birmingham, 04/06/19

[Selected LSE representative] Women and 'the philosophical personality': Evaluating whether gender differences in the Cognitive Reflection Test have significance for explaining the gender gap in Philosophy. 15th Annual London-Berkeley Philosophy Conference, 17/05/18

Educating Amish children: Neutrality and the hierarchy of values objection. London Graduate Moral and Political Philosophy Workshop, 04/05/18

[Panel] Investigating Barriers to Representation of Marginalized Groups in Philosophy. PPE Society Annual Conference, 16/03/18

Philosophy at GCSE and A-Level. The Public Face of Philosophy: Reflections in the Mirror of Experience, University of Hertfordshire, 08/03/18

Liberalisms and Perfectionisms. Warwick Graduate Conference in Political and Legal Theory, 17/02/18

Women and 'the philosophical personality': Evaluating the significance for Philosophy of gender differences in the Cognitive Reflection Test. LSE Choice Group, 24/01/18

The Cognitive Reflection Test, women and 'the philosophical personality'. 91st Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, 15/07/17

'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 2017-8 classes ('How satisfied have you been with the class teaching on this course by this teacher?' where 1=very good; 5=poor): 1.4.

Mean score in seminar evaluations conducted for 2016-7 classes: 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."

  • "Essay feedback is excellent - personal notes. She really makes sure each person is progressing. This is the best class I have been in at LSE."

  • "Probably my favourite class"

  • "She is very helpful at giving feedback one to one if you desire it, as she ensures she finds time to meet with us"

  • "The teacher is more involved with the students and their work than other teachers are."

  • "Christina is a fantastic teacher. She makes 10am classes worth waking up for, she's not afraid to counter students' ideas and help them understand their topic. It has been an absolute pleasure to be taught by Christina, she's involves every member of the class and convincingly leaves no argument unchallenged. My knowledge of the course material is always deepened after her lessons, and make her classes vital to attend. My only criticism is that she won't be teaching me again next year."

  • "I enjoy the discussions, including when we are forced to take a side and defend it."

Notable Awards

Shortlisted for New Philosopher Writers' Award 2019 (Topic: Balance)

Shortlisted for New Philosopher Writers' Award 2019 (Topic: Being Human)

Runner-up prize in New Philosopher Writers' Award 2018 (Topic: Life)

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

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

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

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

LSE studentship (tuition fees and full living expenses), 2015-2020

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

Teaching Awards

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

Class Teacher Award, Department of Philosophy, 2017

Nominated for LSE Student-Led Teaching Excellence Award, 2016 (multiple)


3 Minute Thesis Presentation

Presented at the LSE Research Festival 2016