Here are some of my thoughts on teaching philosophy. Later in the post I make some comments on elements that I think make a great course. I want to be clear that I don't think I've achieved them but they are part of what I think I ought to be striving for. Also, I realize it's probably presumptuous and naive to think that after only 2 years of teaching philosophy I can make any pronouncements on the subject, but fuck it. Here goes.
This raises a problem that Descartes recognized: How do we know in advance which theories will eventually turn out to be true and which will turn out to be false? The answer, of course, is that we can't. And this is what motivated Descartes' method of radical doubt. Rather than build a foundation of scientific knowledge on theories and facts that may one day collapse under the weight of new evidence, he treated anything that could possibly turn out to be false as false. Now, we'll only build our edifice of knowledge on facts and theories that will never falter. There, problem solved.
Or are we just left with another problem? If we reject everything that that could possibly turn out to be false, no matter how remote the possibility, what are we left with? I won't spoil it for you but the answer is not much. Not enough to rebuild a scientific account of the world, anyway.
You might complain that philosophy doesn't tell us what's true it only tells us what's false. But philosophy is in good company: the exact same criticism can be leveled at science.
I don't want my students to leave their (most likely only) philosophy class as hardened skeptics throwing their hands up in the air at any attempt to establish certainty. This isn't a good pedagogical outcome. I want them to believe that progress is possible on many issues and that not all positions are of equal strength. Progress is possible but you must invest time and energy. Knowledge doesn't come easy, you have to work for it. As Burge says:
Genuine understanding is a rare and valuable commodity, not to be obtained on the cheap.