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Posts tagged ‘Stephen Ball’

Dr. Stephen Ball – “The Subtle Little Dormant Retro-Hippie”

  • Professor of Philosophy
  • Been teaching at Cal Poly since 1983
  • Passionate about job and philosophy
  • Eccentric character
stephen ballPhilosophy professor Stephen Ball has been teaching at Cal Poly for over a quarter of a century. Since 1983 he has been one of the university’s most well-respected professors.

Its his unique character and love for his job that makes him a favorite among the students.

Ball said that he remembers his first interest in philosophy when he was child. “I was sitting on my porch when I was single-digit aged, and I remember deciding that Santa Clause was better than God,” he said.

He disliked school from first grade through high school because he believed that it was too structured.

“When I was college age and younger, even the slogan ‘go with the flow’ seemed to me to be too restrictive. And still today I tend to go against the current,” said Ball.

He went on to receive his undergrad from Purdue University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Ball said that it was his love of arguing that drew him to philosophy. Being a professor wasn’t one of his aspirations or something he had planned.

“There was never a day on which I decided to be a professor and keep doing it. There’s an apt Lennon line, ‘life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans,” said Ball.

Whether planned or not, Ball loves his job. And while most students agree that his class isn’t easy, they encourage other students to take it because of how much you learn and because they like Ball’s teaching style. “His examples are very extreme and very hilarious,” said freshman Brian Cox.

“My students should learn not only the important elements in the history of philosophy, but more importantly about themselves and their own world views and values in reaction to that,” said Ball.

Another reason why he’s so revered is because he is a champion for the students. Ball disagrees with the university as a business model and believes that Cal Poly is too “administration heavy”.

“They call it ‘service’ but it really means way too much bureaucratic instead of academic activity. The Administration Building is Kafka’s Castle,” said Ball.

Students love the fact that Ball is eager to help them out. “I’ve been fighting administrative windmills virtually my entire time at Cal Poly,” he said. He even helped one of his former students get into grad school at Purdue University. “I thought that was quite cool,” he said.

Ball implements a unique procedure for adding students who are trying to crash one of his classes. Each student must give their “moral argument” to a jury of their peers and the spots are then determined by a democratic vote.

That’s not the only thing that makes him original. Ball’s character is what most would consider “outside of the box”. When asked what he would do with a million dollars, he replied “I typically don’t expend cognitive energy on such useless disquisitions, but you can be sure that I would figure out something to do with it.”

When he’s not lecturing in the classroom, Ball likes to play on an old 88-key organ. He also enjoys listening to music, “Classical in the mornings, rock out later. Soft rock makes me puke.”

Stephen Ball

Professor Ball pointing out his favorite books

Ball also has a passion for reading and writing. “I could never retire from that, whether still teaching or not,” he said. Ball has been published in many academic journals, much of which has been of use to students. He is fluent in both German and French and considers foreign languages one of his hobbies.

When asked what one of his philosophies of life are he replied, “To never try to be someone else. I enjoy who I am.”