Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Teaching Pre-College Philosophy

Is there a future for pre-college philosophy? Over the past few years, I have been heavily invested both professionally and personally in the question of whether an effective, worthwhile, and legitimate philosophy curriculum can be established at the high school level, and whether a philosopher can make a credible, scholarly career out of teaching high school philosophy. I have collected a substantial, however modest, set of research on the subject ranging nearly fifty years across many nations. In what follows and what is to come, I offer both what I have discovered and my reflections on teaching high school philosophy. At best, I hope to convince that teaching high school philosophy is not only credible, worthwhile and legitimate, but also an important part of the scholarly field that should be taken more seriously and given greater attention by professional philosophers. At worst, I hope at least to justify (if only to myself) my own professional choices. I welcome all responses, both positive and negative, but ask that the discussion develop a constructive response to the question.


In 1958 the American Philosophical Association approved a report from the Committee on Philosophy in Education regarding teaching high school philosophy. ["The Teaching of Philosophy in American High Schools" by Douglas N. Morgan and Charner Perry. From Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 32, (1958 -
1959) pp.91-137.] The committee was composed of C. W. Hendel, Chairman, H. G. Alexander, R. M. Chisholm, Max Fisch, Lucius Garvin, Douglas Morgan, A. E. Murphy, Charner Perry and R. G. Turnbul. The report refrained from recommending a national curriculum for high school philosophy, but it laid out in detail the pros and cons of teaching philosophy in high school. Of course, philosophy has been taught in many pre-college classrooms for hundreds of years both here in the United States and abroad, but the 1958 document is the first serious, detailed and rigorous attempt in the United States that I know of to investigate the relative merits for students, the field of philosophy, and the citizenry in general of teaching philosophy to pre-college students in both the public and private sectors. What follows is a summary of some of the arguments considered by the committee and my observations fifty years later. (N.B., In some places I have updated the arguments to reflect more the language of our time.)

Arguments for:
1) Philosophy is intrinsically valuable both in its critical evaluation of the meaning of words and concepts, and in its thoughtful reflectiveness that distances the mind from imposing ideologies and assumptions. It is not the content of philosophy that is essential, but the discipline of the mind. Thinking philosophically is a natural good for the human mind and therefore is a good in itself.

2) Many do not go to college, but would benefit from philosophical inquiry before entering into public life. By thinking philosophically, we become better people and better citizens.

3) Philosophical questions arise in us when they do. The brighter students we teach usually already have been pondering philosophical questions from an early age, but it is also the case that even our more average students as well have paused before the distance of the stars, the immensity of it all, and pondered their place in the cosmos. There is no need to attempt to erect philosophical inquiry in our students; the foundations are already firmly laid. If philosophical questions are already present in our younger students, the danger is not leaving those questions unanswered, but having those questions answered by half-truths and dogmatic ideologies. "So much the worse for our culture. We, as philosophers and educators and human beings, have a serious social debt to discharge. Introducing some intelligent young people to philosophy is one way in which we may discharge this debt." (p. 94)

4) Philosophy is intrinsically difficult. Teaching may cut through the diminishing view of the humanities in our culture and reinvigorate high school studies as something more than mere fact-checking, memorization, and petty busy-work. Philosophy promises to bring some scholarly credibility back to teaching high school.

The conclusion drawn from these arguments was that, "[b]ecause philosophy is good, and because some bright pupils want and need work in philosophy, there is a prima facie case in favor of introducing it more widely. It remains to be seen, of course, whether counter-arguments and practical considerations should prevail against this prima facie case." (p. 95) I appreciate the caution of the committee on this point, first and foremost because those of us who teach high school philosophy, it seems to me, are quite passionate about it, and therefore can easily loose our heads over its relative merits. Nevertheless, I find that my academic colleagues at university and professional conferences are more and more intrigued over the level of proficiency possible both in knowledge of the history of philosophy and in thinking and writing philosophically by young high school students. Here are some examples from what I have seen, where I teach students who are bright but average. (I don't mean that disparagingly, but only to point out that my school provides a fertile place for learning for a wider variety of students than "the best". My institution is not among the elite.) In the past five years I have had the privilege of teaching a course in logic, a problems course entitled "Justice and Public Morality", and a regularly offered set of courses in the history of philosophy (Ancient to Medieval and Modern to Contemporary). I have taken students to multiple lectures and conferences at which they both participated and were engaged. One student even had her paper accepted by blind review to the Wisconsin Philosophical Association's annual conference in 2008 (where ironically my paper was rejected --no hard feelings C.P.). In addition, over the past four years the students have invited three guest philosophers to campus for an open lecture. Each time, they filled the lecture hall with energy and questions. This year's guest lecturer is Prof. Charles. W. Mills of Northwestern, who will be giving a lecture entitled "Racial Justice". So I think I am safe in arguing that high school philosophy has many benefits and can be successfully developed more broadly than might be suspected.

There are, however, good arguments against teaching philosophy in high school. No one really argues against it on philosophical grounds, but arguments can be made that such a curriculum is impractical or unwise.

Arguments Against:
1) The students are generally too immature to understand philosophy, and therefore will not benefit from the study. (Similar arguments, I think, can be made of first and second year college students).

2)Philosophy is too emotionally unsettling to be handled by students who naturally lack a certain emotional maturity. High School students are still too emotionally attached to their parent's world-view, and there is not a healthy way for them to facilitate their break from traditional thinking. Learning philosophy can be a culturally and emotionally overturning thing for young students.

3) On a practical level, challenging pre-conceived notions and ideologies can make parents uncomfortable. They might not appreciate their child hearing arguments for skepticism, atheism and moral relativism at such an early age. (I had an interesting experience with this. I have a "No Hunting" sign in my office. A parent came in one morning to talk about his son and saw the sign. He questioned if I was one of those "liberal" teachers who would hold it against his son that he would be missing a day of school in late fall to go hunting. I told him I would only hold it against his son if he came hunting for me. The joke was lost on the parent. I took the point to heart, however, and assured the parent that while my class would be discussing arguments against things the student may believe, I had no intention on changing the student's beliefs or penalizing the student for disagreeing. The parent left unwillingly satisfied.)

4) In-service jealousy over having the brightest students. (I think this is a perk, but it can have its political back drafts.)

5) Curricula become immediately over-crowded with too many courses and not enough space for essential instruction in math and English.

6) Philosophy should not be taught in High School, because high school teachers are too incompetent in the field of philosophy to teach it well enough. Philosophers never entertain a career in high school teaching, but are only interested in publishing and the collegiate life. Without sufficient expertise in the classroom, teaching philosophy in high school is not a worthwhile pursuit.

This last point hits at the heart of my professional goals. Should the current academic culture change? If teaching philosophy, or how to think philosophically, is important in itself, then we need at least some of the brightest minds teaching it at the earliest levels possible. In this post, and in the posts to come, I hope to make the argument that high school is at least as good a place to start as any. Just as we see it being called for in the field of physics, we must get experts who are willing to serve the greater social good, at least for a time, and teach younger students. This could have as added benefits both the positive creation of better teaching in the college classroom once those who teach high school eventually move on to the university sector, and the recreation of philosophy as a more valuable part of our cultural, educational heritage to come.

I welcome your responses and look forward to further discussion.


JMN


30 comments:

  1. The arguments 'against' seem pretty weak, with the possible exception of #6. But I think the academic culture is changing, especially among younger philosophers. (For example, a couple of my friends -- grad students at NYU -- started a facebook group advocating 'Philosophy Education in American Public High Schools', which already has almost 600 members. Pretty much all the other grad students I've talked to think it's a great idea.)

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  2. I agree with Richard that arguments 1-5 against don't seem very strong, but I'm not sure that #6 is much better. My impression is that (in the UK at least, and something similar is true, I think, in NZ) most high school teachers only have a bachelors degree in whichever subject they (mostly) teach. If there are high school teachers with bachelors degrees in philosophy (and I know there is at least one!) then they should, other things being equal, be as capable of teaching philosophy as, say, biology graduates are of teaching biology.

    Of course, it might be that, for some reason, philosophy graduates are not as able to teach philosophy as their colleagues who studied other subjects. But I'm not sure why this should be so.

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  3. I think the 'against' arguments (2) & (3) betray a rather unnecessarily narrow view of what a philosophy course needs to teach; why would we assume that every single philosophy course would somehow be designed to 'unsettle' students and 'facilitate a break from traditional thinking' and focus on 'skepticism, atheism, and moral relativism' rather than say, focus on basic skills that would be useful both generally and for further philosophy courses (e.g., basic logic, reading a dialogue by Plato, survey-type history of philosophy, basic political philosophy, &c.). That's often the best goal even with lower-level college courses.

    I think Richard is quite right that academic culture is in fact changing, and graduate students are beginning to have much more ambitious notions of the role of philosophy in society than used to be the case, notions that are very congenial to the idea of pre-college teaching. And job market and graduate school dynamics probably will inevitably push in that direction, anyway. I think it's a great time to raise this sort of issue, insistently and repeatedly.

    One of the things that I think needs to be done in this regard is to increase the amount of information that graduate students have about pre-college opportunities. When I first came out of grad school, I was interested in the idea, for instance, but I had no clue how to go about looking into that possibility -- I had simply not been prepared for that sort of job search at all.

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  4. There's a lovely podcast with Mary Warnock on Philosophy Bites, in which Warnock makes the point that pre-college philosophy may be the wave of the future (the focus of the podcast is philosophy in public life). I'm in complete agreement. Especially in our information age, the kind of critical thinking and reflective discourse that philosophy encourages is essential to success. Children are growing up in a world where they are bombarded with information and the most important thing an education can do is teach them how to process it.

    I'm also not at all impressed by the "students are too immature" argument. If sound, it would rule out a great deal of college philosophy teaching! And, any good teacher can select appropriate content for whatever age/maturity level she is teaching. Meanwhile, a certain kind of "immaturity" -- an open, curious, questioning attitude, and a bright eyed fascination with the world -- is actually beneficial. The extremely non-philosophical kind of education many students get can train these attitudes right out of them. In the college classroom I often feel as though my biggest job is trying to train it back in!

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  5. #6 against is strong

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  6. As a previous high school philosophy student of JMN, and now a freshmen in college taking a departmental philosophy course titled ¨Philosophy through Film,¨ I am glad to say that one year in pre-college philosophy pushed me way ahead of the pack, including other students who took a first semester general philosophy class and other upperclass students that have been taking philosophy for a time.

    Instilled from high school philosophy, I have a strong desire to follow an argument, compared to college peers who wander all over the place with asking questions and positing answers back and forth without following one line of reasoning.

    A year of philosophy in high school would have offered my peers the preparation necessary to take college philosophy one step at a time, instead of not even listening to counter arguments, but instead just continuing to talk on from their viewpoint.

    Discussions can become unproductive when students have not been at least exposed to the general realm of philosophical inquiry, but instead are only used to debating with mom about gender roles and dad about politics...

    All in all, philosophy is good for the mind/brain (your choice ;)!

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  7. First of all, I must say that I am extremely delighted to have stumbled across this post. Teaching philosophy in high school is a personal dream of mine and I know that when I was in high school, I would have greatly benefited from philosophy. I am currently an undergraduate student at UCLA, a philosophy major of course, and I would be delighted to teach high school philosophy.

    I think there is an easy way to override all of these problems. In my high school, we had the option of taking "elective" courses (e.g. psychology, American Studies, etc). If philosophy was made an elective, like art or debate is now, then we can ensure that students who "lack maturity" will not have to take the course.

    Once philosophy is seen as a course that benefits high school students, they can expand philosophy as a mandatory course. I am a strong proponent of making philosophy a mandatory course, but we must first change the tide of thought that believes philosophy is the major of slackers and potheads.

    In fact, it took my parents several months to accept the fact that I was no longer going to be a history major.

    I truly hope that philosophy will come to high school students. I know I will definitely become a high school teacher if philosophy was an option.

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  8. I teach social studies in Texas, but have a BA and MA in Philosophy. I convinced my administration to let me teach a dual-credit philosophy course in partnership with a local college. It went ok, but my batch of students wasn't the best and we had to meet early before school, which limited those who signed up and the time meant nobody was too perky and ready to discuss. Were I not moving to a different city this summer, I'd push to give up a free period, make it an elective and do it during the day.

    Another possibility to consider is how philosophy can be incorporated in different common subjects. I frequently draw philosophy into my World History classes (especially the AP class), and we read and discuss Plato when covering ancient Greece, Descartes later on, and I love to work with Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau with the students (and the social contract theorists create a great ideological framework for the following revolutions and political movements). I'm actually pondering structuring the entire course around ideas and their relationships to historical events and cultures, what the works tell us about the cultures and how they influence the culture in return, etc. I do a lot of work with them in writing as well and how to craft good arguments. I've discovered the bright kids, especially my AP students (and previously my Pre-AP kids) can't get enough of it. Smart, curious kids love getting exposed to new, challenging ideas they really have to think through.

    You can do this sort of incorporation with other subjects... maybe a little bioethics in biology; all sorts of literature in English; math in philosophy, proofs, and logic in math, etc.

    The incorporation strategy might be better because you don't have to try to create a whole new designated philosophy course (and getting administrations to go for it), it fits in with required classes and adds to them, and the teachers will already be familiar with their subject area, meaning they don't necessarily need to be competent with philosophy as a whole, but have a more specialized philosophical competency in certain areas, e.g. math, history, biology, et al. Why not create curriculums for how philosophy can be used in these different classes?

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  9. Letter to the NYT regarding the role of High School philosophy.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/business/22backpage.html?_r=1&ref=business


    Best,
    JMN

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  10. Ted Shank, a high school studentMarch 26, 2009 at 7:28 PM

    Argument #3, for the teaching of philosophy, breaks into the heart of the question. A high school student is inherently prone to growth in his/her maturity and opinion. A lack of ability to reason correctly would make the opinions molded into the students unreasonable. Of course, philosophy is not the only way to introduce reasoning skills into students, however there is a large deficit in reasoning courses within the high school curriculum today.

    I put forth the notion that not having such classes available to the students is purely incorrect. In a time when students begin to seriously think for themselves, they ought to be granted the ability to do so rationally.

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  11. I am very much in favour of philosophy in schools, and it is becoming increasingly common here in the UK for people to study philosophy at A-level. I regard philosophy, introduced as early as possible, as a very important skill to have, ESPECIALLY if one is not going on to college afterwards.

    However, I do have to bring a reluctant note of caution, based on something that one of my students (now also a postgrad) said to me. She says that she did philosophy at school, but that much of what she was taught was oversimplified to the point of being wrong. She felt that students who arrive at university without having done philosophy are at an advantage because they do not have to 'unlearn' a lot of this material.

    This is not an argument against philosophy in schools, but it does show that we need to be very careful about how it is done. Philosophical theories when simplified to a certain degree become nothing more than dogmas. This should be avoided at all costs to create an atmosphere of open minded enquiry, without patronising the students.

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  12. Perhaps it might be helpful to detail what we mean by "philosophy" here. If it is along the notion of inquiry into difficult but compelling issues and the discussion remains open to divergent views, argumentation and reason-giving, and is controlled by the students-- then I think high school (or grade school, for that matter) philosophy is essential as part of education.
    The Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children offers compelling arguments in defense of this idea. Also, try visiting the APA website: http://philosophy-toolbox.org

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  13. I just graduated with a BA in philosophy and I'm a graduate student in Philosophy at a state university in the Midwest and never considered this before. Is it primarily private schools that offer this curriculum currently? Do some states have it in the public schools? Or is this just a how schools should be kind of hypothetical ting? Anybody familiar with this kind of secondary school philosophy please drop me a line at lemba5@ymail.com I'd greatly appreciate it.

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  14. All the posts regarding Pre-College Philosophy are astounding. I am a homeschooler who facilitates the education of two 11th grade daughters. They have indicated a desire to study (metaphysical) philosophy.

    After an arduous and exhausting search to locate a published,
    introductory philosophy curriculum with an accompanying syllabus and lesson plans, I am out of options. I cannot find any.

    If any person has information regarding philosophy curriculum for high schoolers, please post.

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  15. let me get down to the bottom line.

    (case example)
    i am a recent philosophy graduate. it has been impossible for me to find a job that matches my career aspirations. i'm stuck delivering newspapers to yuppies in my area to try and get by. this is not my life's purpose.

    do i have to pioneer pre-college philosophy myself? WHERE does one go to bring this subject to a reality?

    does ANYONE have actual leads to where in the US philosophy programs are being considered with sincerity at the pre-college level?

    i'm trying to research the internet for where i might be able to land my ambitions, in a conduccive environment, but am having difficulty. do we have to go it alone?

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  16. thank you for this post. I am currently a high school social studies teacher in southern california. I have not heard of any school in the area with a distinct philosophy course. as a world history teacher, the california state standards do involve some philosophy. for example, Plato and Aristotle are discussed but only regarding their ideas on "tyranny." In addition, the Enlightenment is a major part of the curriculum but only in regards to individual rights, social contract, etc. The ideas of Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire are covered in 5 class days. I have spoken to my assistant principal regarding creating a Western philosophy course or a history of philosophy course as a senior elective. I believe that the study of philosophy will greatly improve the way a student thinks. It is the process that is important here. the process of organized, rational thinking will help students in a variety of classes.

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  17. Logic would be a fine class to teach to high school kids, but I sympathize with those who think that philosophy could have an extremely negative effect on kids. What good would it be to teach Descartes or Hume to kids who may not be ready to grapple with material that can have such devastating consequences? Going down some of the other big names of continental philosophy, I can’t imagine almost any high school student grasping Kant or Heidegger. Maybe you could teach them softer philosophers like Sartre or Nietzsche, but I’ll guarantee you that this would really upset parents.

    However, I think that teaching analytic philosophy could be ok. Searle, the later Wittgenstein, Russell, Rorty, Kripke, Chosmky, Quine, Ayer, Putnam, Moore, Davidson, Sellars, Ansombe—these would all be philosophers who would help kids’ critical thinking without the nihilistic baggage of modern continental philosophers (for the most part). However, I do wonder how realistic it is to expect high school students to grasp or have any interest in studying such material.

    As far as Plato, Aristotle, and ancient philosophy, a lot of it already ends up getting taught in history and English classes during high school.

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  18. I teach Philosophy in High School and am going to a meetin to review the state's Philosophy course tomorrow so I am particularly interested in comments on the scope and purpose they feel is appropriate. I am going to keep those in mind.

    I see the course as giving the students ways of tackling issues in their lives. This covers both methodologies and content. Ideally, students are taught the means to live an examined life.

    As for #6 High School teachers aren't capable, I will grant you it is bloody hard! However, this true for nearly all subjects that are well taught in the later years of high school. We all have to review and keep current.

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  19. Oh here are some links to Philosophy Courses used in Australia. The first is the course used in the state of Victoria in Australia for Grades 11 and 12. The seond and third is the course used in South Australia for G11 and G12. G11= Junior G12=Senior
    http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/vce/studies/philosophy/philosophyindex.html
    http://www.sace.sa.edu.au/subjects/stage-1/humanities-and-social-sciences/philosophy
    http://www.sace.sa.edu.au/subjects/stage-2-in-2010/society-and-environment/philosophy

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  20. Hello my name is Adam Marin, currently I am working on a college paper promoting philosophy in high school. It is only upon the end of my research paper that I actually find someone wishing to push for the same goal. I am happy to see that I am not alone here but fear I am ill informed. But I am using your blog as a resource. It is very well done and will serve a great purpose.

    I wanted to comment on the last section for arguments against philosophy which touches upon philosophy professors not wanting to teach in high school and you asking if the American school curriculum should change. I am strongly for changing the school curriculum so that ALL states teach the same material equally. I have always questioned how error prone knowledge around the country can be if individual states get to choose what to teach and what not to teach. If we are the United States of America, shouldn't we have united knowledge? Why should one state know more about a particular subject than another? I know I may be speaking in vague terms here. I should probably stop typing now. What would you think about pushing for a constitutional amendment to unify our education system and to include philosophy into the high school curriculum?

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  21. google 'teaching and learning guidelines philosophy' which will lead you to the New Zealand Ministry of Education TKI website. Check the secondary school guidelines out.
    Other (Richard Tweedie, NZ)

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  22. if anyone wants to find someone to teach their kids philosophy (at any level). find a philosophy graduate student (there are so many of them around) and hire them out. They will be so desperate for the job (seeing how supply is high and demand is low) that you could get a pretty good rate.

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  23. I think we arrive in the world as philosophers. Our hearts and minds are so open as kids. We're in love with wisdom, drinking in the world around us in our search for understanding. What happens? It feels like this is the real issue.

    We are already teaching philosophy. Cultural thoughts. I can think of several I dislike..but for now, not here.
    Sure, we can teach philosophy in high school. Elementary school would be better. Much better! I'm serious. I took 2 years of French in elementary school. I grew up loving languages. More importantly, I never had the culturally created thought that languages are difficult! Years later, I taught ethics classes to fifth graders. A joy. Children are philosophers.
    I ask: what philosophy? Whose? Academic philosophy has left out...women! There were so many women philosophers, it's astounding how they have been omitted from the history of philosophy. That's just one example.

    I just say, careful! We need to begin by questioning what philosophy is--today. A revised history is required, an inclusive one.

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  24. I think the general lack of critical thinking in our society (and consequently the attitude of being told what to do or what/how to think) demonstrates an absolute NEED for philosophy in the secondary or high school system.

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  25. I am a Junior in High School. About 6 months ago I was exposed to philosophy for the first time on any significant level. I was instantly hooked, but unfortunatley I got my first glimpse through a World History course and the curriculum was rushed on the topic and it left me with more questions than it gave me answers. Ever since, I have researched philosophy on my own through literature and the internet. But my learning lacks a strong foundation and I need a learned adult figure to talk philosophy with. A High School philosophy course is exactly what I need.

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  26. Hello,
    I am writing a paper proposing high schools to teach "the history of thought" which is a way of slipping philosophy in the back door. I am looking for any good recent research on the topic of the benefits and extent of philosophy classes in public high schools. Anybody got anything for me?

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  27. Hello, I'm from Chile, so please forgive my english talk. I had Philosophy class at high school (secondary education here) and only today i can tell, with 22 years old, how it affected my thinking and life. This is kind of a testimony.
    My philosophy teacher taught principally two lines of thought, first we studied Plato, basically his accounts on the soul, the republic and reality (world of ideas and forms). Secondly we studied Freud, my teacher was an avid reader of him and what he taught was the basic concepts of the unconscious, the psychic structure (id, ego, superego) and the defense mechanisms. I remember the whole class detecting the defense mechanism of varied examples. How would you think that both of these theories will affect 16 years old students?
    Reading your blog I can identify with all of the "against arguments", 1) I was very immature, and i think all of my classmates were. 2) Emotionally it affected the relations inside the class, i remember discussions between us of how anyone was doing a psychological projection (defense mechanism) in daily adolescent situations like insulting and the like, and also i remember how the mere concept of knowledge in Plato encourages me and two other mates to debate reasonably about who was in the right about random topics. These kind of things are only remarkable when i look them from a more mature perspective, in those days, the influence of the philosophy class in our daily relations was of no importance. 3) The parents ARE reluctant to philosophy, some could say things like "What are you reading? Plato? that's too old, How does that help your life?, don't loose your time", it was not my case, but i recognize also how reading Fromm's "The Art of Loving" made me analyse the relationship with my mother and feel depressed of not being loved as i should be, not to add the whole Freud parental themes. I think these first three arguments are related to the same: the emotional immaturity and identity problems common of the age.
    Arguments 4 y 5 are weak and can be overcome, but 6 is the big problem. (continued in next post)

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  28. Since I read Plato philosophy turned out to be a main interest in my life, the same with Freud, these two theories changed radically the way i rationalize, use critical thinking and see relationaships. I'm not saying that the Philosophy class has total responsability of my life years after, it still has an important place in me that i can only recognize right now but is not only a negative one. My teacher succeded, at least in myself, in introducing critical thinking by questioning reality and the problems arised in psychology, science and philosophy itself. This was only possible because of my amusement of the world, i can't tell how deeply it influenced the rest of my classmates, but to me it was deep enough. The negative side was principally caused by my teacher's inexperience, inefficiency and fanatism. He had the skills to teach, he made the whole class get interested in the theories but he wasn't what i now can call a philosopher or an expert in psychology. Now i'm studying psychology at college and my view of the problem is that the "teacher factor" is of big importance. First, psychology is a very delicate discipline in which different theories co-exist, the psychoanalitic Freudian theory is just one among others and my teacher never taught it, not to mention that the development context and history of it was never explained. From my point of view, philosophy teachers must tell students what place does the theory occupies in the sciences.
    With Plato happened the same: the principal critic of the views of Plato was never mentioned (Aristotle), the teacher never taught us history of philosophy, i didn't know who happened before o after Plato, i just came to interpet everything from his point of view, and not a complet one, just what the teacher tell us to read, so is a pretty narrow view of what philosophy is, even in ancient Greece.
    My teacher's inexpertise made him seemed fanatical of these two theories, without acknowledging the possible consequences of his teaching.
    As a consequence now i feel adoctrinated by him, i learned these theories to be the major truth, my thinking became platonic and psychonalitical. Of course this is only my case, i don't know how it affected the rest of my schoolmates in the long terms.
    My conclusion is that there are clear advantages and disadvantages of having Philosophy in pre-college, the principal advantage is to introduce critical thinking and reason as an efficient problem solutioner but the disadvantages could be catasthropic for the young students if the teacher is bad: the immaturity and age typical problems (sexual and intelectual development, identity and so on) don't permit the student to see philosophy as an entity in itself, as a discipline that requires methodic study and a lot of virtues to be enjoyed (patience, dedication, open-mindness, empathy, between others), so they could be able to give it the fundamental value it has in life. So it is total responsability of the teacher to give the students these skills, teach them first of all the most complete view of what philosophy is, its history and principal questions and how the different thoughts tries to answer them, with total efficiency so the students can differentiate and compare theories, to question them. The same with Psychology classes or electives. So basically what philosophy could teach in pre-college are the skills, the virtues, to introduce the passion of knowledge for those who are curious enough, not the content of the theories themselves.

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  29. So happy I found this! I have a BA in Philosophy and have always wanted to teach it at a high school level. Currently, I teach music privately and am seriously considering going on for the MA in Philosophy with an eye toward developing a program I can pitch to the privates. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

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  30. hello, i am an american citizen, but i'm growing up and studying in France, here, during the last year of high School, all classes in the general cursus (which is the cursus leading to college, or academies and the likes...) must follow a philosophy class. having done the litterary section of the general cursus i've had 8 hours of philosophy a week, and even though i didn't grow up in the states, i only have a hint of what americans my age and americans in general are like (i must admit watching "bowling for Columbine", as subjective as it might have been seemed like a pretty mocking yet realistic image of the united states). i think american education lacks a lot, i get the idea of doing sports in a culture of mass consumption it must be required to stay healthy, but this cycle is only there because others created it. if americans start getting a decent education and acquire an interest for more intellectual subjects earlier on, it would probably be better for everything (and as everything i mean it would make them not only educated but also it would maybe make them think a little). The viscious cycle of fear created by the medias in the states, as described in "bowling for columbine" wouldn't be so intense if people had been tought philosophy (and distanced themselves from such oversimplistic parasitical mass consumption news, only there so people continue watching while the 20 minutes of commercial kick in). the US also needs a better history and geography program (if people blame the history of the US for the violence of their society, it's partly because they don't know their own history...) so i know i'm posting this 2 years late, but i just wanted to share my point of view, hoping i am not being too radical in my judgment of american society, i would gladly change my point of view because i do not regard this as an opinion, but as a current judgment.

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