Another question I asked myself yesterday as I was reading was, ‘Should philosophy be taught in high schools?’. I asked myself this question in response to a sentence I read in Kalantzis and Cope (2012) that said: “The logistics of their form [test] are such that they end to measure discrete knowledge items distilled to clear-cut and isolable facts and aphorisms drawn from theories and, specifically, items that can be adjudged right or wrong. These may not be the best things to be measuring in an era when the questions are at times complex and ambiguous, facts contestable and theories open to interpretation.” (p. 86) We are in an era where the prevalence of information, stimulus materials and theories are running rampant and in which teenagers are exposed to much more thought-provoking materials in the media than ever before. I asked myself, whether it was an age in which it might be appropriate to equip students with some knowledge and skills in philosophy?
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia at www.newadvent.org, philosophy can be defined as: “the general science of things in the universe by their ultimate determinations and reasons; or again, the intimate knowledge of the causes and reasons of things, the profound knowledge of the universal order”. We are living in the ‘knowledge society’, the ‘knowledge economy’ and the era of knowledge management so it seems appropriate that we address the need for our next generation to take hold of the knowledge of these things. Apparently, according to my research, there are many high schools in Europe teaching philosophy and one site, called PLATO, gives this reason for doing so: “Philosophy can and should be taught in high school because this is the ideal time for students to engage its questions, arguments, and methods of thinking.” (Plato-philosophy.org, 2014).
In some ways, we are already teaching students about philosophy and equipping them with philosophic knowledge and skills in the implementation of ethics classes, religious education, and in other pedagogical practices such as inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning. However, how can we extend the philosophy skills students develop and be intentional in teaching it? Well, in Victoria, The Victorian Association for Philosophy in Schools (VAPS) has a vision to see students learn to be philosophers, “stimulating open and inquiring communities of philosophical exploration, in which students develop the art of questioning and acquire conceptual and reasoning tools” (Gelonesi, 2011). VAPS have been crusading as well for the inclusion of philosophy in the new Australian National Curriculum, with the justification that “if young Australians are to be successful learners who are able to think deeply and logically, then young Australians will need to acquire the basic skills of philosophical inquiry: logical thought is, after all, the special provenance of philosophy” (VAPS, 2013).
It’s such a big discussion, and I could go on and on exploring and writing about it, however, for now it has got me thinking and I definitely want to pursue more philosophy study and would support and advocate for it within schools. Much of the general capabilities in the Australian curriculum have been founded on philosophical principles and are related to philosophic concepts, therefore, it would be highly possible to be more intentional in integrating such important skills into our students’ learning. Would love to hear what others think about this topic?
Gelonesi, J. (2011). High school philosophy. [online] Radio National. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/high-school-philosophy/2918446 [Accessed 11 Sep. 2014].
Plato-philosophy.org, (2014). Teaching High School Philosophy : PLATO: Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization. [online] Available at: http://plato-philosophy.org/getting-started/teaching-high-school-philosophy/ [Accessed 11 Sep. 2014].
Vaps.vic.edu.au, (2014). The National Curriculum: The Case for Inclusion of Philosophy in the National Curriculum. [online] Available at: http://www.vaps.vic.edu.au/curriculum/national-curriculum [Accessed 11 Sep. 2014].