Dr. John Patrick Cleary, RVCC Humanities Dept.


Dr. John Patrick Cleary


Assistant Professor, Philosophy

Humanities, Social Sciences & Education

Office: S-347A

Phone: 908-526-1200, Ext. 8605    e-mail: jcleary@raritanval.edu



“Education is not preparation for life;
education is life itself.”

― John Dewey







Educational Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy

I believe students learn and develop in a variety of school, family and community contexts, and that teachers can provide learning opportunities that support their students' intellectual, social, creative and personal development. By incorporating the practice of culturally responsive teaching, teachers can understand that students bring varied talents, strengths, and perspectives to learning and have insightful knowledge about the environment in which they live. The knowledge students possess can be further utilized to design and carry out instruction that builds on students' individual and cultural strengths. This can come about by teaching critical thinking (see below) and problem solving, and creating learning experiences that promote the development of students' analytical skills and dispositions. By creating a classroom that is nurturing, caring, safe, and conducive to learning, teachers will be better able to connect life outside the curriculum to encourage their students’ imaginations and their natural desire to understand the world and themselves.

Among other strategies, my role in the classroom is to cultivate independent thinking through dialogue. Although “learning” information is important to knowledge acquisition, encouraging students to interpret facts through their own thinking can cultivate a classroom climate that fosters open inquiry and freedom of expression. Furthermore, in addition to helping students express themselves in writing with clarity and poise, a caring and nurturing teacher should act as co-inquirer and deep listener. As such, a sharing/democratic pedagogy within a cooperative, non-judgmental teaching and learning environment can allow for students to take seriously the questions they ask about the world. With this kind of respect for their reasoning ability, teachers should rarely offer their own opinions but instead act as facilitators to create and maintain an inquiry based classroom environment. In this way, teachers can enable students to teach themselves by allowing them to connect their lived experiences with philosophical problems inherent in the reading, and in the complex contemporary information environment.

It is also important for teachers to try varied teaching techniques to develop their students’ individual learning style and intellectual curiosity, and to consider that the curriculum can complement their individual quest in forming their identities and emerging consciousness of the world. As a consequence of this practice, the teacher and the student can both acknowledge their genuine curiosity as co-inquirers ready to self-correct in their personal, social and political constructions of reality.

Finally, I believe that good teaching includes humility, creativity and openness, a sense of humor, and a commitment to helping students become autonomous, creative and transformative thinkers prepared for life’s challenges and as citizens in a democracy.

My teaching methodology: Philosophy for Children’s Community of Philosophical Inquiry

What is a Community of Philosophical Inquiry?

Community of Philosophical Inquiry, (CPI) a term first coined by the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, is a form of teacher-facilitated classroom practice that emphasizes critical thinking, non-hierarchical interaction, and democratic decision-making. It is a teaching and learning model that allows for students to participate in a democratic practice which emphasizes question making and student to student inter-action through dialogue. Students share, cooperate, and participate in a learning environment that is inclusive and nurturing to foster and embolden “round table” discussion in particular subject areas. The class is encouraged to ask for clarifications, offer counter-examples, reasons, explanations, analogies, etc. to encourage independent and collaborative thinking. As such, CPI methodology encourages learning as a process, not as a practice that has a predetermined end.

By focusing on inquiry in a CPI, teachers learn with their students instead of merely conveying information. When this happens, students learn to value their own thinking as equal to the teacher. By emphasizing dialogue as a way to bring about better thinking students share observations, insights, clarifications and problems, cooperatively, so that each participant learns how to listen as well as how to speak insightfully and empathetically. In this setting the facilitator’s (ordinarily the class discussion leader-teacher) role is to nurture inquiry through a “position of ignorance” to allow for the possibility of “following the inquiry where it leads” and to bridge constructions of meaning that emerge from the questions the community produces. Whereas in a traditional classroom the aim of the teacher is the transmission of information, in CPI knowledge is treated as something that is created or discovered by group inquiry, and the student is therefore fully engaged with the inquiry of others as well as with the teacher. This benefits both students and teachers, in that it allows for the possibility of teaching and learning from each other.



Biographical Sketch

I was born and raised in New York City and New Rochelle, New York. Before I started teaching in 1992, I worked as a deckhand on several commercial fishing boats in Seattle and Alaska. I also worked as a union (Local # 1456) welder and dock builder in New York harbor and Seattle. Other employment includes working as a doorman on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, a stint as a singing waiter in Montana, a dishwasher at a seafood restaurant, a pizza and drug store delivery driver, an office clerk for the Director’s Guild of America and Barnard College, a janitor at Western Washington University, a clean-up crew worker at a fish processing plant and as a production assistant for Legal Eagles with Robert Redford. After 1992 I worked at a public high school for 17 years where I taught World literature, Philosophy, American literature, creative writing, Theatre and Drama. During this time I also worked as a professional actor at various regional theatres throughout New Jersey. I have also taught at Mercer County and Northampton Community Colleges and East Stroudsburg University. I have worked at RVCC since 2009 and reside in beautiful Hunterdon County.



Professional Affiliations



Courses Taught

  • Current Moral and Social Issues (PHIL 106)
  • Ethics (PHIL 114)
  • Business Ethics
  • Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 101)



Academic interests and areas of research:

Critical Media Literacy, Poetry, Poetry and Philosophy, Media Studies, Theater and Philosophy, Critical Surveillance Literacy, Education and the Security State, Art History, Cinema Studies, Acting, Philosophy and Nature, Performance Art and Philosophy.




last modified 3/18/2013 by HJS