Faculty Focus: Christian Tarsney, Curriculum Director

Faculty Focus: Christian Tarsney, Curriculum Director

Today we’re featuring a faculty focus on Christian Tarsney, a long-time VBI instructor and an assistant coach at St. Louis Park High School in Minnesota.

Christian attended VBI as a student back when the world was young, learning from the likes of Stephen Babb, Tommy Clancy, and Josh Anderson. This will be his fifth year as an instructor, and he’s already excited for another summer at UCLA. He says: “VBI is always something I look forward to, and a great experience for my students. The faculty is widely knowledgeable, friendly, and enthusiastic about helping debaters get better. Everyone manages to push themselves to the limit for weeks and still have fun the whole time.”

At VBI, Christian typically gives modules on a range of philosophical topics from core normative ethics and political philosophy to moral psychology, formal argument analysis, and whether we might be Boltzmann brains.  Students describe these modules as “fascinating,” “extremely helpful,” “always interesting,” “great at explaining dense concepts,” and “very informative and complete.” He also enjoys running efficiency drills, which students describe as “good.” For this summer, he’s planning new modules on moral language, and on the relationship between fiat, counterfactuals, and comparing possible worlds.

Christian has also been an active debate coach since graduating high school, primarily at St. Louis Park. In that time, he’s coached a TOC champion and runner-up, a runner-up at NFL Nationals, champions of Greenhill, Valley, Apple Valley, Blake, VBT, and Stanford, and top speakers at Valley, Bronx, Apple Valley, Glenbrooks, and Blake.

When he’s not thinking about debate, Christian is a PhD student in philosophy at the University of Maryland. His research interests include how to make ethically significant choices under conditions of ethical uncertainty, and connections between the metaphysics of time, mind, and personal identity. One of his goals as a debate instructor is to help students bring new philosophical literature into rounds in strategically creative ways, and he enjoys VBI because of “the chance to teach these fascinating ideas and arguments to so many smart, challenging, and motivated students.”


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