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What are the arguments for and against philosophy in high school?

Philosophy is seen as a dead science. However, how can we ignore the prevalence of philosophy in history. Whether it be the philosophy of science, language, or history, there has always been philosophical inquiry except near the middle of the twentieth century.

Should philosophy be taught at the high school level? Should there be a mandatory or elective class for philosophy? What are the merits of philosophy in High School? What are the draw back of teaching philosophy in high school?

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    Aug 15 2012: I would propose we teach critical thinking as early as grade school. Call me radical but I think it would be interesting if students were able to develope their own philosophies. This would enable the student to formulate his/her own solutions to concepts and quite possibly come up with unique ideas we've not yet seen. If we introduce other philosophies before one has mastered his/her own ideas, we may inadvertantly bias their thought processes and in turn hamstring their own creativity.
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    Aug 15 2012: I think philosophy could be integrated into other subjects as a way to show the relevance to life of what the students are being taught at any one time. For example: A short philosophical discussion of why it is important to understand the reasons behind the civil war in the US leading into a more in depth study of that time period and its aftermath.
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    Aug 14 2012: I believe that philiophy is a great course in teaching people "how" to think, not what to think. Most educational courses seems to dictate "what" a person should think like, but it lacks the application of everyday life situations of "how" to think.

    I never took a course in philosophy, but I have taken many courses that are in essence philisophical. I was so lucky to have stumbled upon these teachers because they are unconventionally refreshing. All teachers should be required to minor in philosophy, which would greatly improve a whole generation of thinkers. Just my opionion, with some analysis.
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      Aug 14 2012: As a high school student who just finished the AP US history course I can say that there was a presence of philosophy in our curriculum, but no emphasis.

      Our class was focused more intensely on politics and government and covering all the material rather than being able to sit down and assess and think about the intellectual atmosphere of the time period. Intellectual movements were used to justify political and social trends rather than stand for themselves.

      Our school does offer a philosophy in literature course for seniors who are not taking AP English lit, but here again we see an example of how the emphasis on taking "college appeasing" courses trumps taking classes that may actually teach you how to think.
  • Aug 30 2012: There is a monumental distinction between "teaching philosophy" and leading people to understand why philosophers do what they do. As a teen I had awakenings that caused me to question everything I has been told up to that point. I then thought that by choosing philosophy as my major in college that I would be encouraged to think and find myself. On the contrary, either philosophy became a culture of hero worship where the objective was to compete on how much we could subsume from the works of published philosophers, or we spent ridiculous amounts of time splitting hairs on definitions and what I considered minutia. The fact is no philosopher comes to be a philosopher through study of other philosophers. Each philosopher is a student of the times in which they live where they are called want to stop the world and articulate a clarity they are not finding in anything else they see in the way of thinking and speech. Holding philosophers up on a pedestal and making the substance of their work a memorization contest is analogous to me of Jesus going to his death on the cause that acquiescence to blind authority is wrong only to have people come along and make him a good who must be worshipped instead of emulated. The distinction has to be owned in a way that can't be wishy washy. And I suspect that education will do the usual thing of diminishing the students whilst deifying the objects of their study. The whole thing should be about finding your engine of reason so you can know what you've created so that you never look at yourself as a "composite" of other people's philosophies.
    • Sep 1 2012: James McGuiness, I’m sorry your philosophy teacher didn’t make a good impression. But students of any discipline need to know where the current world knowledge is at in the field of choice is the basis of a good education; Its partly so people don’t waste their time re-inventing the wheel, and partly to be able to communicate efficiently to others in the same field, and partly as a bit of personal discipline in developing a bit of patience and losing a bit of hubris . I found the whole lot fascinating for a raft of reasons, and wish I had more critical analytical reasoning taught early in my education and less religious indoctrination. But on the other hand the religious indoctrinators were not realising what they were doing, as they themselves didn’t have critical analytical thinking taught to them.
      • Sep 1 2012: There is nothing of waste or shame in "re-inventing the wheel" if one has no knowledge of wheels. On the contrary, every person who is able to reason a solution conceived by their own wits needs to be "led" by the educational authority/ the society and culture around them to credit themselves with the capacity to do what the one we hold up so high as the original inventor has done. This is where it goes wrong so often--hero worship diminishes motivation and discourages further achievement. I have worked in education and industrial design for 30 years and I know it wasn't just my experience with a "bad teacher" that tells me that there are dysfunctional systems and attitudes still in place today which wind up discouraging or humiliating a potential achiever rather than leading them to believe in themselves and fulfill their potentials. Yes, we need people to get to the front edge of innovation quickly, but more will get there with greater enthusiasm if there are no dinosaurs in the way with stop watches and ratings systems and casual attitudes about writing off people who don't jump through the hoop the "right way" according to factory model prescription. The same is true of philosophy--you can make it a contest of how much you can memorize of other people's philosophies, but you can't "teach" maturity or perspective. You must do something entirely different to produce new philosophers. IMO what usually does that is facing arrogant, intransigent authority who has it wrong and risking stepping up to say "you're not seeing what I do. And here's what that is". But authoritarian systems dissuade people from risking that. If inspiration also happens to reinvent a wheel, that person should get the same credit as the other wheel inventor and should not be mocked and tossed aside. There is no shame or waste in duplicating greatness--there is only shame in dishonesty. My philosophy is called "facilitarianism" perhaps you'll read about it some day I hope.
        • Sep 12 2012: Since the wheel has got 'jammed' in the slush, we have to relearn/reinvent the wheel in the midst of all the mud - to go back to the design board - start from scratch by first of all finding the right questions that provoke people at an early stage to think about them and struggle with them.
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      Sep 3 2012: I admire your level of understanding in this area, James, especially of citing a difference between teaching philosophy and leading people to understand why philosophers do what they do. Brilliant. I think an unbiased curriculum would be essential and key in prevention of "hero-worship". No matter what past conflicts has arose, an empathetic view must be maintained for true teaching of the subject. I feel there is no "reinventing the wheel", more appropriate, for me, is creating new inventions that allow us to farther utilize the wheel. Facilitarianism? Yes. Let's make it easier and more effective. If in fact that is your meaning.
      • Sep 3 2012: Thanks Justin. "Facilitarianism" is the word I came up with to conventionalize a "successor" to the order we have long been born into which gives us no choice or contract called "authoritarianism". It's been said for a couple of decades now that information technology--even before the Internet took off where there were products like Lotus "Notes" that the PC revolution "flattens hierarchies". Nothing really "flattens hierarchies"--technology has only threatened to. Hierarchy is so pervasive and ingrained in society that to grow beyond it and "facilitate" all the human potential it currently and previously writes off, a successor must be formally engineered. Initially I called my facilitarianism an antithesis to authoritarianism but in writing it it became clear that hierarchy should not be abandoned or demonized--it needs to just be greatly tempered with new understanding of human potentials that we can now address with technology and especially the "cyberspace" metaphor which make for a "secondary plane" of reality in which time and space can be conventionalized more productively.The heart of my brainchild is the assertion that authoritarianism reduces human beings to units of "utility" and there is a range of capacity it fails to address I call "facility". This explains why the title of my philosophy--"facilitarianism".

        To supplant hierarchy means creating a culture and that demands the definition of new metrics, new politics, much improved scope of what we think of our own potential. I have long wanted to be perhaps the first philosopher to skip the linear book and instead synthesize my understanding and new language directly into the non-linear inter-active multimedia network to estblish it as a medium much more capable than being the electronic page turner it's been. But find compatriots has been a tough slog. I welcome engagement by anyone who wants to make the Digital Revolution a true revolution of design rather the evolution of defaults it has been.
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          Sep 3 2012: Great! I believe we have similar goals. I have no tangible credentials but I am open to new ideas and offer my assistance. If I may make a suggestion, there is a man by the name of Jacques Fresco who has an organization called The Venus Project whose lectures and ideas may be able to further assist your task.
  • Aug 24 2012: I think, no I know, that philosophy is not a dead science. I know that it should be taught in high school and middle school and junior high and elementary school as well.

    Please google Philosophy for Children Alberta and see what exciting things are happening at the University of Alberta with Philosophy for Children. Check out Eurekamp and see what wonderous fun young children are having as they play and discuss philosophical ideas.

    Still not convinced, try their facebook page. There are thousands of photos and videos to prove me right.

    Still not sure....then talk to the organizers and parents and children.

    Philosophy is alive and thriving.

    Why do we need it? Because in an increasingly technology based world, people (children especially) need to learn how to listen, to reason, to argue, to work together, to think critically, logically, face to face. Philosophy teaches these skills.

    I know. I have seen it.
  • Aug 16 2012: I guess, as a student of philosophy, i am inclined to be biased in favor of philosophy in schools.

    but at a time when schools are looking to cut curricula left and right due to budget constraints, I can understand that it is an unlikely proposition.

    But what about teachers? Students learn to think from their teachers do they not? And, as many commenters have said, philosophy is pervasive. It underpins math and language; literature and science.

    If teachers were philosophers by training and employed the principles of logic and critical reasoning in explanation of a certain field, we might achieve what the original proposition to teach philosophy sought: students who are intellectually and critically engaged.
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    Aug 15 2012: Jostein Gaardners' Sophie's World, a novel with a teenaged protagonist and quite accessible to teenagers, presents philosophy for young people. It was an international bestseller, translated into fifty-three languages, with 30 million copies sold. When I say "presents," there is some presentation, but the ideas are fleshed out through dialogue among the characters.

    His Solitaire Mystery is pitched lower.

    I believe many students are ready for and intrigued by philosophical ideas at high school age. Not all ideas are suitable or interesting for presentation at that time, but there is no serious developmental barrier in introducing and debating many ideas.

    The same might be said of great novels that are typically introduced in high school. A younger person may not grasp every nuance, but then many younger people grasp nuances more surely than many older people and can be better critical thinkers sometimes as well.

    We should be wary of under-estimating the potential of young people to wrestle with ideas. My view is that exposure to many important philoso[phical ideas can be introduced to kids in k12.
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      Aug 15 2012: Thanks for the book references! I'll check them out for my daughter! I agree with all of your reasoning here. When I was in high school, just reading and analyzing poetry and Shakespeare in english literature class was difficult for me, but I found the challenge rewarding. I think the same would have been true of philosophy.
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        Aug 15 2012: If your daughter is in high school, I would be optimistic about Sophie's World, particularly if you are reading it as well and can interact about it. When I was in high school, reading philosophy was part of AP English. I remember finding it very useful and excellent preparation for university. In fact, I still have a paper I wrote about Descartes at that time. And let's just say it wasn't in the last couple of decades.
  • Sep 2 2012: It seems the debate has rightfully shifted from teaching philosophy in high schools to teaching philosophy in general, including in lower schools. I pointed out earlier that teaching philosophy in schools requires exceptional teachers. I agree with James McGuiness that the teacher and the teaching process is a critical element in any person’s education. I agree totally, and look forward to hearing more of James on his philosophy of education. It also seems that it’s the educators that need the tenets of philosophy just as much, or even more, than the students do.
    Maybe teachers should be made to recite the Hippocratic oath that says, “Firstly do no harm”. How many of us have been damaged by an incompetent or poorly-educated teacher, or a poor education system, worse than not being taught at all. It’s those early experiences that set the whole tone of what follows.
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    Aug 30 2012: A short answer:

    Absolutely! I even think philosophy should be taught since the first years of school. And the most important part of philosophy isnt' the history of old philosophers such as Platon and Kant, but the exercise of the mind.

    Through philosophy one can learn how to think properly, and recognize good and bad arguments wheather you they are your's or not.

    If you learn how to think you can have better discussions, discussions that can actually take you somewhere. This is very important in politics. An educated population can better distinguish between good and bad arguments from politicians and therefore make a more educated choice, being certain that they are not being played.
    • Sep 9 2012: couldn't agree with you more :)
      Teaching philosophy to high school students is like giving them food for thought.
      In this fast changing, competitive society, learning how to think philosphically--doesn't need to be too academic--would save them from being disoriented.
      And fundamentally, it would play the important role in their life. Especially when they have to make major decisions.

      They need to know what they should consider and pursue.

      Philosophical thinking might lead them to be wise and let them face the truth not just reality.
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    Aug 24 2012: So are you debating whether to enlighten people and expand their horizons at a young age or not?

    The younger the better. But as with all topics, it has to be gradual. You cannot teach kids calculus before teaching them addition and multiplication.

    Start early. Give it to them in scaled phases. Let them nurture it.
  • Aug 22 2012: The key 21st C skill is, ironically, a very ancient skill: philosophical thinking. And like mathematics or languages, it is a discipline and deserves its own time. Chesterton has a good wag about teaching philosophy:

    But why restrict the teaching of philosophy to high school students. I've been teaching it very successfully for years to middle school students and up: practical reasoning for grades 6/7, ethics for grade 8 and a survey of philosophy for grade 9. At Island Pacific School, on Bowen Island off the coast of Vancouver, BC, philosophy courses are the foundation of the school. I gave a paper at a humanities conference at Columbia Univiasity a few years back in which I called for the reanimation the dscussion of metaphysics in grade schools (

    The point is, rather young people are not only perfectly capable of studying philosophy, in my experience, they are eager to do so.
  • Aug 20 2012: Philosophy would be really helpful because it encourages searching for the truth using rational thinking.
    If my high school had it available I would've taken it in a heartbeat.
  • Aug 17 2012: IMO, philosophy should be taught in high school, and it should be narrowly focused on the needs of high school students, specifically their needs to learn how to think, how to think about thinking (self knowledge), and most importantly how to develop their own personal values.

    My dictionary lists ten definitions of the word philosophy. The tenth definition is:

    The system of values by which one lives (as in: has an unusual philosophy of life)

    By this definition, our every decision is influenced by our personal philosophy.

    In the USA, our public schools purposely avoid teaching values because it is too controversial. By not teaching values we are teaching our children that values are not important and that you can get by in life without ever considering them. This is just wrong, both factually and morally. High school is a good place to discuss how we develop values, even if specific values (like religion) must be avoided.

    Many people believe that philosophy has little to do with practical living. Consciously developing your own personal philosophy is the most practical thing you will ever do. Young people in their late teens and early twenties are developing their own personal philosophy, and many are doing it without any framework, without any cultural or historical context. It is no wonder that these years seem to be so perplexing. A few hours in a course on philosophy would at least teach them that a context is available to them. Rather than let them stumble around in the dark, we should at least point out that there is a shelf in the library where they can find a light.
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    Aug 17 2012: I think philosophy would be good for high school students; especially aspects that focusses on critical thinking and logic.
    I fell in love with philosophy in my High school days after reading 'Utopia' by Thomas More; and later, the writings about Aristotle, Plato and Socrates in some books.

    But philosophy sometimes seems like a study that focusses too much on an elusive search for knowledge. As if we can never be sure of anything, as if every question has to be questioned just for the sake of questioning.

    Now, what is the purpose of searching when one has made up one's mind never to be sure of what is found?
    I guess the most important thing in philosophy is the journey and what it does for one's reasoning abilities; not the destination.
    And for some people, journeys could be helpful, even when they find out that the path they've chosen may be a road to nowhere.
  • Aug 16 2012: Philosophy can and should be explored in high school because this is the ideal time for students to engage its questions, arguments, and methods of thinking. High school students have not yet fully formed their habits of mind. They remain open, inquisitive, and intellectually playful. For many adolescents, the perennial questions posed by philosophy have urgency and personal significance. A formal guided society would allow for students to actively engage with the concepts and topics that they wouldn’t normally come across in subjects such as History or English, and help them in understanding the world around them. Simultaneously, high school students will develop the skills that will enable them to begin serious work in reading philosophical texts, identifying and evaluating arguments, and constructing arguments of their own. They will learn how to pose a good question, how to inspect and scrutinize their deeply held beliefs, and how to work out their own ideas with care and rigor.From a school-wide perspective, philosophy can be invaluable because the skills it imparts are transferable to every part of the curriculum that requires, logical reason, problem solving, clear, critical and out of the box thinking, reading with scrutiny, and writing with a purpose i.e. English, Mathematics, Art, History Physics and many more. Philosophy also supplies connective tissue, since its fundamental questions apply to all disciplines and address the full range of human experience. For example, questions about ethics and free will deepen students appreciation for great literature and history, logical argumentation will teach students how to construct and refute complex arguments which would prove useful when writing essays. Philosophy is the key to understanding history and culture, without which can lead to cultures being misunderstood and history not being fully appreciated. High school students currently lack exposure to philosophical questions, issues and debates.
  • Aug 16 2012: Philosophy is quintessential to the human life. We use philosophy to gain understanding of our surrounding world. Be it through the creation or manipulation of schema, creating ethical drive for a common goal, or to put our minute self in perspective with an infinite universe. Philosophy is a tool we have created to further enhance the meanings of life. It has given rise to critical thinking, logic, culture, government (for good or bad) and gave birth to modern day sciences. Philosophy is part of everyday life yet we as a society seem to ignore its existence. We should equip teachers with the ability to teach historical philosophy within the classrooms at every level. Students should actively participate in lectures, even teaching the lectures . As a teacher, Socrates' method produced illuminated students who's grasp on logic and critical thinking lead to many great advances in Western civilization. This dialectal form of learning provides a stimulating environment that encourages the acceptance of many ideas until the most suitable resolution is found. Personally I believe we should challenge our education systems throughout the world to embrace a more philosophical backing in their approach to learning process. I believe that empowering students to think and create their own realizations of the world would be arguably one of the greatest things we could do for future generations. Hopefully more people will bring this debate to life and encourage its growth into a fruitful endeavor at creating a better tomorrow.
  • Aug 16 2012: Unless one feels that the problems of the world are chiefly attributable to a superabundance, rather than a lack, of self-knowledge and logical reasoning, then philosophy should most definitely be taught. And not just in high school, but at all levels. To speculate on the demise of philosophy is to suggest that all avenues of philosophical inquiry have been exhausted. This is obviously far from being the case. Not only have the fundamental questions of existence not been solved, but they have been compounded by new and pressing issues which demand rigorous critique and analysis. The idea that children cannot be taught philosophy is self-evidently absurd: "people cannot be taught to think logically until they can think logically". The result of this catch-22, of course, is that no one ever learns to think logically. This breed of reasoning is not only twisted, but is contributing to the ongoing infantilization of the upcoming generation.
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      Aug 17 2012: The basis of philosophy isn't logic though it's better perception of logic... Philosophy was the great great grand-daddy of all sciences so why not give children a solid base on which to build from...
  • Aug 15 2012: I think it has some importance, perhaps not as an exam subject, but as a boon towards our future decisions. We able to decide if principles and guiding systems are headed in a better direction than that of our ancestors.

    In many cases, found in modern times we find a repeat of history. We can assume by this that we simply not getting the essence.

    Define Insanity - doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.

    This applies to most belief systems.
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    R H

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    Aug 15 2012: For: Philos is gymnastics for thinking. It is the one thing that has made us as successful (as humans) as we are. We need to study what types of thinking have worked, and what types have failed in the past, evaluate what types are working now and how, and what new types we'll need to develop as we enter this new phase of the human experience - our not-as-of-yet technological triumphs and their fall-out.
    Against: We want people to be drones. They need to do what we tell them. It's good for business, gov't, and social stability.
  • Aug 14 2012: Personally, I feel that philosophy is good for everyone. It expands the mind into an understanding of seeking empirical knowledge and truth and how it is created, understood, and shaped by the human condition. It allows people to understand what it means to be human. If we can have a deeper connection with ourselves, we can have a deeper connection with others.
    That being said, our new world doesn't put a value on philosophy and critical thinking. People who are in touch with their minds are more likely to question the way things are done which will challenge the bosses who just want us all to to be productive without rocking the boat.
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    Aug 14 2012: In England, philosophy is being taught even at the primary levels. Yes, the thinking is not as sophisticated, but a foundation is being developed. The kids enjoy it and become excited about thinking on their highest possible levels. Check these podcasts out! The kids obviously love it, and it gets them excited about learning! I wish I had been exposed that young.
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    Aug 13 2012: IF, I say IF, we define Philosophy as the science that considers Truth (Aristotle), is that not sufficient reason to teach it in High School (or sooner)?
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    Aug 13 2012: "Philosophy is seen as a dead science. "

    by whom?
    • Aug 13 2012: That's a good point. I am not being facetious when I write not enough students study areas such as metaphysics, which is viewed by many as a predecessor to physics instead of a supplement to it. I think most about metaphysics because of the rigor. Kant and Hegel are viewed as outdated thinkers and thoughts.
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        Aug 13 2012: i don't think that philosophy is a prerequisite of science. you can do pretty good science with no philosophical background of any sort.

        i think it is similar to differential equations. real science, real deep understanding is not possible without diff.eq. but high school level science and especially grade school level science can be understood without them. (disclaimer, i'm not saying should, i said can.)

        but i also would not say that philosophy is looked down. check out daniel dennett for a counterexample.
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    Aug 12 2012: I honestly think philosophy should be a core class that everyone is required to take.

    Philosophy is more like metaphorical science lol. But what I think the subject does well in, is make people think, and think really hard. And I think everyone needs to think and interpret things in their own way, not let someone else tell them how to think.

    On sidenote: with more and more computers and machines out there who can do many of the blue-collar work much more efficiently than humans, there should be an increased demand for more intelligent humans. A computer cannot "think" especially on a philosophical level, only humans can atm. It is one of the biggest differentiating characteristics between human and computer, and we will soon need to really capitalize.
  • Sep 12 2012: I once had an English professor in college ask the class to write a two to four line poem to communicate an idea. I did mine based upon my own philosophical toils in trying to figure out who and what I am. He read it and sneeringly said in front of the class "hmmm, who have you been reading?".

    Does this not typify how academics can be agents of dismissiveness and hurt? I was 31 years of age trying to finish college at night. It was beyond this man to see my poem as MY creation. He had to associate it with a wheel that had already been invented by someone else and imply that I had either stolen it and tried to pass it off as an original or because someone else had said something like this I'm flawed for also stumbling across the same thing and not avoiding it. Is he the only dysfunctional academic and me the unluckiest person as Lyndall would seem to assume as she did above? No. There are millions of cases of "hero worship" causing teachers/professors to think similarly and denigrate a student as a plagiarist or reinvent of the wheel.

    Philosophy is a good thing. How it's handled is an open book. And as long as it is subjective to individual human professors, there is a wide margin for poor results--some of which can turn off otherwise potentially brilliant minds. My view of education--after the elements--is to cease "teaching" anything and start "leading" people to discover each art and science. That is the future and CBS 60 Minutes segment on Kahn Academy recently showed that this is more or less the model that is emerging. IMO it should have to take decades. But adults who make decisions for their children today don't know what they don't know and tend to view the education by their own experience and simply want something a little better. We can have it all and the world can change in our lifetimes so much for the better. Tradition is in the way--authoritarian hierarchical traditions..
  • Sep 12 2012: My Dear Henry. If, truly Philosophy is (seen as dead) dead "to you", then, respectfully, YOU ARE DEAD...!!!.. To "understand" the "term" Philosophy, you "must" know what the words means..."Philosophy"..."Philos"..(Friend)..."Sophia"... (Wisdom) : My Dear Henry, if, you are not a "Philos" of "Sophia"..("a Friend of Wisdom"), what the heck kind or type of being are you, and that goes for all types of "other beings", who are "attempting" to kill Philosophy. Did you go to College? Did you become "Greek". Were you part of the "Greek Club(s)??". Do you know why kids "kill" to become Greek in University / College?. Do you know that if you are "not Greek in College, you are nothing".. and do you know why?..[ Truly, Frankly, the "proper" word to use is, "Ellinas" - for the word "Ellinas" - means - "you are the Son / Daughter of Light / Enlightenment". Plato taught us "an Enlightened Man / Woman can do no wrong", since, when you are Enlightened you know what Respect is, and since you are Respectful, you cannot possibly be dis-Respectful, wherein you automatically know what Honour is and since you Honour you cannot dis-Honour, and thus automatically you are Disciplined with your life and ways and means and when you are Disciplined you cannot possibly be Un-Disciplined.
    The problem my Dear Henry is that, Philosophy is not taught "enough". Think for a moment, how many "fewer problems" we would have in our society today, if, honour, discipline, respect, love, "manners", respect for elders, respect for family, respect for each other and respect for country were taught in Elementary, and High School.
    On the contrary, we have kids who attend 10-12 years of elementary and high school and graduate with 90's and are ILLITERATE. be Philos - Friend of Sophia - Wisdom, means, is, one of the "key criteria" of being an Enlightened, Positive and Productive "Human Being", Worthy and "Entitled" to be on this Beautiful "YAIA" - ("GAIA") - Mother Earth.
  • Sep 12 2012: We are all philosophers. Stop and search..We are always wondering. Kinds are the number one great philosophers. Our school system does not help in teaching philosophy. It should rather explore the philosophy in kids and find answers to them.
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    Sep 12 2012: Were philosophy to be taught at high schools I suspect that they would most likely make a mess of the whole thing. Most of the children I see tend to become philosophical thinkers of their own accord; it's simply human nature to question things. If philosophy were to become a class in school it would be standardised so that it could be more easily assessed and as such would do more harm than good.
  • Sep 12 2012: Philosophy is possible only if we can articulate questions for which so far we have no clear answers or the answers given so far are inadequate, insufficient, inarticulate or have led us into a 'dead end' or 'black hole'. This has happened to Philosophy - it has died. We no longer even know what are the relevant questions that NEED to be articulated - the necessary drive, the need has lapsed into our unconscious. Perhaps if this need is regenerated in schools we may make some progress. Otherwise we will continue to learn and teach only data and information about smarter machines while we ourselves become dumber, but fooling ourselves that we are 'evolving' and that we can easily prove this.

    " We have learned the answers, all the answers: It is the questions that we do not know." ..Archibald MacLeish

    The first step in Philosophy is to have the necessary curiosity and the constant needling feeling that there are fundamental and perennial questions that haven't even been sufficiently articulated, much less an attempt made to find answers for.
  • Sep 12 2012: I do believe that Philosophy should be implemented into the high school curriculum. It is beneficial to the students in the sense of all the skills they obtain, analytically, critically, and logically, in addition it promotes a certain freedom of expression and of thought. If philosophy was tied into other not so popular subjects such as math, history, and science I believe it would promote a growth in interest of these subjects that extend beyond the classroom. I myself am a senior at my high school and although we do cover philosophical movements in the language art classes we have I do not believe it is enough. The students of today are the innovators of tomorrow. How are we to, as a human race, grow and learn if we keep the next generation in the darkness that is so prevalent in society today; raised like calf for veal to the corporate fat cats? I believe that the only drawbacks are the tools given would not be used and that is the biggest travesty we all face in our daily lives, but it is a matter of free will, which we have in any condition to exercise.
  • Sep 12 2012: It may be a bit much in high school unless it can be integrated into other subjects. IT is important to know HOW/WHY we know what we know in any given enterprise.
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    Sep 9 2012: When people want to add to the high school curriculum I always wonder what would we take out to make time. Its true that philosophy is good for promoting critical thinking, skepticism, and providing a history of though that led us to where we are. But should we give up math, physics, history, english, or PE?

    Perhaps it can be incorporated into other subjects, like history, or even science. Philosophy touches on a lot of subjects because there often philosophical roots specific areas of study.

    Its good to have it as an option for interested students, but I don't know if it should be mandatory. I remember my high school schedule being pretty full.
    • Sep 9 2012: lol fair enough

      we shouldn't give up math, physics, history, English, or PE.
      But philosophy needs to be mandatory even if students' schedule is full.
      There must be a way to teach students philophy without giving up other major subjects.
      It just doesn't always need to be intense. Only for common sense could be enough.

      It sounds like math, physics and such things are essential and practical ones and philosophy is just minor and academic one.
      Am I misunderstood?

      I do respect and understand what you mean, but I think learning philosophy should also be prioritized.
  • Sep 9 2012: I'm thinking that Henry is wondering if there is any utility or pragmatic application of philosophy. This appears especially germaine these days in light of discussions about the value of a college education (ie, traditional four year, humanities/ liberal arts education without any direct job skills attached). And even in the so-called "core curriculum" that are expected of all graduates from four year institutions. Those need to be paid for and do add on to the overall tuitions. One could ask if there is any intrinsic value to those courses when they may not be directly applicable to one's ultimate career interests (I think they are valuable, by the way, but I can see the other side of the argument).
  • Sep 7 2012: I didn't know it was a "dead" science. In fact, I wasn't aware that it was a science at all.
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      Sep 9 2012: Historically, science is a branch of philosophy. So you are right, it doesn't make sense to say that philosophy is a science, just as it makes no sense to say that a dish is a plate. A plate is a dish, and science is a philosophy.
  • Sep 3 2012: I'm a high school senior taking my second college level philosophy class while still in high school. I became interested in philosophy around my freshman year and my sophomore year took an independent study in the subject. I would say it should be a must for high schools, not only because of the knowledge it teaches in morals, metaphysics, and so on but because of it's argument skills. I see too many of my class mates writing weak papers or making weak arguments when we have debates or discussion groups in classes. Their arguments are full of fallacies, always begging the question, ad ignoratum, ad hominem, red herring, and simple mistakes of form. So high school students often have weak argument making skills and when they have to write their first college paper it doesn't go very well. If high school had philosophy as part of the curriculum things would be much better off.
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    Sep 3 2012: I believe on a very general level, Philosophy must be taught. A central idea behind Philosophy is that of questioning and analyzing. Personally, Philosophy has given me an acute sense of conversational direction and the ability to see to the core of a problem. Through the Descartes method of stripping something to the barest beginning, we can learn how something builds upon something else, and thereby delve into its underpinnings, increase problem solving skills, and facilitate innovations. Learning the Socratic method of questioning also has many benefits in expanding ideas and creating fuller understanding. I'll stop there with specifics but Philosophy in general, at the very least, is an excellent exercise in the adaptation and executive functioning of the brain. Without the ability to question on an intricate level, as Mankind, we would be a terrible loss. Needless to reaffirm, I am completing for the subject of Philosophy being taught in schools today.
  • Sep 2 2012: I have taught college English, Public Speaking, Sociology, and Economics.

    The average public high school graduate has a problem speaking academic English and doing basic mathematics. That being the case, they are far from being equipped for dealing with the intellectual rigors of philosophy.

    A voucher system might address that shortfall.

  • Aug 29 2012: It seems to me that someone can usefully do some research here. Philosophy was being taught in a few State run primary schools in Queensland Australia, (started at East Brisbane) ten years ago and about six years ago I went to a discussion on its effectiveness; It seemed to be good and very exciting, although I haven’t followed the subject further until now. My recollection is that the teachers are/were a major the limiting factor to wider application. Most primary school teachers are/were not suitable to teach philosophy , as many had wrong ideas themselves. From the replies in this forum, it seems that philosophy is being taught also in some other countries around the world. A review of their results would be very interesting. Additional comments: some students will be very interested in the subject; some/many will not, and their mind set is probably permanent; different individuals respond to different things, so don’t expect widespread excitement; philosophy is not for everyone. I myself love philosophical thinking, but my wife doesn’t get excited by it one iota; But then sport seems a great waste of time and effort, but for many people it’s the light of their life.
  • Aug 25 2012: Critical thinking, the basis of philosophy, transcends every single aspect of life, and thus school, and should thus be a mandatory class at some point in secondary school. It is a tool which everyone uses on a daily basis. To teach methods of using this tool more effectively would at the very least serve to improve the lives of all students. The greatest challenge consists of convincing students about the importance and relevance of this subject in their everyday lives, no matter their ambitions and endeavours.
  • Aug 24 2012: Short answer is yes, philosophy should be a topic in high school.

    I'm of the belief that philosophy can't be taught. Philosophy can only be explored (preferably with a guide).

    I agree with the quote in Marija's entry below (don't teach what to think, teach how to think)... I take it to mean that we cannot be TAUGHT philosophy; we can be SHOWN philosophy, and with the right guide, philosophy can open the door to a mind that will push its' limits (the mind's limits and the limits of thought).

    The problem in high school is that in so many subjects, we teach our students (rightfully so). In philosophy, it's not the teacher who makes the impression, it's the thought (that makes the impression) on the young mind. It's hard to accept that philosophy is not the "topic", it's the vehicle, which comes in many different "makes" and "models". Using that vehicle, we navigate the rest of life.

    Happy trails!
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      Aug 24 2012: I agree that philosophy should be taught at a high school level. I'm currently a high school student in British Columbia, Canada and as far as humanities courses go, we only have one: psychology. Other courses touch on a few humanity related topics but as far as a whole course goes, that's all our school board is giving us currently. For me personally, it doesn't make sense to give students so much "learning" content when they haven't even taught us how to truly think. Philosophy, and humanities in general, are a much needed topic in high schools if we hope to usher in the next generation as a generation of change makers.
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    Aug 24 2012: How can philosophy be dead, when it's the ground for every human thought?
    Recently I've seen a poster saying- Don't teach WHAT to think, teach HOW to think!
    So, yes, it should be in every high school and university curriculum, in some form, to teach young minds how to doubt!
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    Aug 24 2012: To me, philosophy is what helps us think beyond our genetic restraints. Many people are bound by action due to biological circuitry, and do not seek to break their programming. Philosophy is that spirit which allows us to go "Wait a minute, I can change, I can make choices beyond my genetic programming."

    By the way, most philosophy I have read has been about self-journeying to reach a higher state of consciousness. But is there a realm of philosophy that promotes "evil"?
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    Aug 23 2012: Philosophy should be taught but in a way such that it should be as fun as playing games.... which is quite a challenge...
  • Aug 21 2012: You answered your own question.
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    Aug 20 2012: Yeah very true... well said JG... Also people tend to do wrong things even after they are aware that it is wrong.. It could be due to greed for quick fame and money... :) people don't see the long life ahead... they do not think that I can die any moment and I'll be buried with open hands..! They don't think that if they contribute to the world in a positive way, they would be much happier when they look back at their life before death ! Such thoughts can be dealt only with a dedicated course like Philosophy I guess... ;)

    can I get your Facebook ID such that I can keep in touch with you...Nyc talking to you... Do good n be Good !! Take care ! :)
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    Aug 20 2012: Philosophy is dangerous. Left in the hands of dilletantes could do a lot of harm to everybody..
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      Aug 23 2012: what did you call me? i do a lot of reading and i love philosephy.
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    Aug 20 2012: There is a lot of hidden talent that isn't being tapped or even discovered within the school system and as a result, certain students are dismissed with the belief that they are simply "challenged." Most kids who don't "fit in" fall into that category because they think differently. Offering Philosophy could have a very positive outcome in that respect. On the other hand, it's possible that some kids could be labeled as a "possible threat" based on the themes they choose, etc. This could lead to some profiling problems and become dangerous for the teens involved. For example: if a kid writes about a violent end to civilization, does that mean that he/she wants to help it happen or see it happen--or maybe it's just a fear or paranoia about it? If they're excited about it, there's always the possibility that they're searching for a way to prove they can be heroes. As with most good ideas; in the wrong hands they can do just as much harm.
  • Aug 20 2012: Perhaps rather than philosophy a greater emphasis may be placed on history. Through the study of history students may be encouraged to understand the source of their own values and beliefs which have been propogated through their understanding of history. By promoting alternate approaches to our history we can then approach our own personal philosophy from differing perspectives through an understanding of the influences on our personal beliefs.
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    Aug 20 2012: I think that we all need to think deeply about ceratint topics or events, in certain moments of our life, or about what to do, or where we are coming from or going to. In my opinion, that's philosophy (passion for knowledge).
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    Aug 20 2012: Generally, students these days have such a myopic view of the world. Outside of friends, facebook, and twitter, there is not much else worth living for. Teaching philosophy in high school would give students a safe environment to learn how to think and discover themselves through their opinions. I'd be few teenagers would be able to tell you why they believe in certain political philosophies outside of them being parallel to their parent's views. Philosophy could change that by showing students the fundamentals of thought and knowledge, helping them to learn about past independent thinkers, and reveling to them a new lens with which to view the world .
  • Aug 20 2012: If the aim of teaching philosophy in high school is to develop crucial skills a student can use to apply his / her knowledge to better understand the world around them, then I believe it far too late to have any great effect. These skills will not be a natural process unless a conscious effort is made to use them outside their academic environment.

    The skills that come from studying philosophy such as better communication skills, better critical thinking skills, and better reasoning skills should begin in grade school and throughout their elementary school years. The degree young children can be expected comprehend the world around them is of course very limited by their knowledge and experience, but they can still relate and interact within their confined little world. Their knowledge and experience will expand with maturity and further (academic) learning. By the time these children reach their formative years, these skills should be close to second nature in their learning process. Adding philosophy to the high school curriculum at this point would serve to further strengthen these skills to further be applied in all aspects of their continued learning beyond their high school years.
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    Aug 19 2012: Haha... Good question JG...!

    Well, righteous thinking according to me is connecting your objectives in life to social goodness. Everything you do should add value to others around you in a positive way :) ... Did I answer your question Jeremy..?
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    Aug 18 2012: Well Science Art or Geography does not teach students about righteous thinking. Students would not take righteous actions unless they are aware of its goodness. Philosophy should be made a mandatory subject so as to make them aware about the general righteous actions followed around the world.

    Arjun Soman
    MBA candidate
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      Aug 18 2012: What is righteous thinking?
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      Aug 20 2012: Arjun, I believe on very fundamental principalities of each of those topics you may be right. I see your side of the fence very clearly now. Here is what I think we should do with each of these disciplines of science not only give a student the principle knowledge but also show them real world positive actions that each student can understand show students the information and then show them the positive actions and negative actions this imformation can have i.e A neuton is captured by Uranium- 235 which in turn briefly turns Uranium- 235 into the highly excited molecule Uranium-236. The Uranium-236 moleculle has fissioned resulting into two fission partiicules Ba-141 and Kr-92 and three more neutrons which in turn cause more and more fission states which release a enormous amount of kinetic energy... Pure information right the foundation of a nuclear reaction... but also show a student the negative outcomes.... the nuclear bomb, Hiroshima, and cheronbyl ... and so on then show them the positives as well like nuclear power plants ran responsibly producing light and heat to millions of people ... see we need to show them both the positives soo they can strive to obtain them as well as the negatives so they can learn from them and learn how not to cause them... see the students need both sides of a subject to truly understand it as for righteous thinking I believe that all humans are righteous when they are born after that the world can make them good or bad... we need better mom's and dad's to lay down a strong foundation for righteous thinking upon which teachers can build upon
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    Aug 17 2012: I thought on this topic quite a bit and what if that is what we are already doing.... what if philosophy is already being taught under a different name in school.... Kindergarten...
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    Aug 17 2012: It would help children learn better communication skills and the ability to question the world around them based on their perception's and understanding and not someone else's...
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    Aug 16 2012: Not sure if we want to teach people to use logic and think and be exposed to some of the great questions of life, the universe and everything. What sort of society might we have then. This might lead to an outburst of critical thinking.

    Could completely destroy contemporary Western Society. Think about the damage to vested interest.

    What a dangerous idea.
  • Aug 16 2012: Philosophy is omnipresent It's everywhere so it's unavoidable
  • Aug 16 2012: i don't think one should teach how to be a philosopher. my Philosophy is that being a philosopher and making philosophy is a natural thing. however it would be cool if schools and the world looked into philosophy a little bit deeper. make the people aware of it. and not simply dismissed it because most times a philosophy cant be proven. or cant be understand
    i think if teachers taught philosophy, maybe jus maybe all our philosophies would come out the same. (then there's no variation). philosophy, is my favorite interest. and knowing about other philosophers. as a high school student, it would be cool if can go to a class/elective where philosophers, a philosophies are DISCUSSED. not something mandatory!.
    i don't the joy and or interest in philosophy if it were a subject like math/history/science etc.
    also how are you gonna be able to pass a class/test. if one of the question can be WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
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      Aug 15 2012: I think it strives to answer eternal questions. Since the beginning of philosophy, our understanding of these questions has become more and more nuanced, but I don't think the answers will ever be fully realized. The more we learn, the more there is to learn. It's like one of Benoît Mandelbrot's fractals as applied to the abstract conceptualization of what can we know.
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    Aug 15 2012: One drawback is the interest levels compared to an elective at college
    Another is the opportunity cost. What do you drop from the curriculum to fit in philosophy
    IF done well it could be part of high school humanities.
    Suggest you might mix it with ethics.
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      Aug 15 2012: I agree about the curriculum "fit in" dilema. What about integrating it within other current curriculum offerings like history, language arts, science, math etc.

      There could be smaller lessons developed to help students contemplate some of the philosophical implications or aspects concerning their core curriculum. It may be a way to help students see each subject's relevance to their future lives through its philosophical connotations. This might help stir a deeper interest into each subject while improving critical thinking skills.

      This wouldn't cause a need for the elimination of other curriculum offerings or increase cost.
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        Aug 16 2012: Doesn't this already happen? I have only taken one formal "Philosophy" class in my life (college intro level). However, I clearly rember covering logical fallacies in both Debate and Lit. classes in HS. Emperisim was covered in Chemestry, Phisics and Geometry. Cotton Mather, and Manifest Destiny figured prominently in American History and Locke, Hobs and Marx were introduced in a Government class. The only Inclusion I thought was extrodanary about my HS education was the inclusion of Rand in a senior Lit. class.
        The case could be made that the inclusion of the philosophical elements be made explicit, but I think they are there to be found in the ciriculum... or at least they were 25 years ago.
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          Aug 16 2012: In my experience, it's not happening enough. It certainly didn't happen in my education, but as we know, personal experience is not a fantastic measure of reality. It could be happening in places. I'm sorry to hear that Rand was taught in a school. To me, that's as radical as teaching Marx in school without teaching about some of the consequences of totalitarianism that sprouted from some of his ideas. I hope they included some critiques of her "ideas."

          It sounds like you had a much better education in high school than I had.
  • Aug 15 2012: Ayn rand is an argument against it. Young people tend to be aggressive, predatory and naive. Many people who read ayn rand in their teens outgrow them but many do not. Paul ryan.
    • Aug 15 2012: That is an excellent point! I am not at all a fan of Ayn Rand.

      However, she is not even considered literature much less philosophy. Would it not be beneficial for students to read the Western Canon to come to that conclusion themselves?
      • Aug 16 2012: The problem is human reasoning doesn't work on 'evidence' see what the science says.

        Also the brain is still developing and maturing when kids are young. In reality a persons mind has to be 'ripe' (at a point of readyness) for the information to have the desired effect. Think of all the boring classes you took that you weren't interested in and remember nothing about. Just because you teach people 'good books' doesn't mean at the time those kids will think they are 'good books'. i.e. you need maturity and perspective to understand the value of knowledge or sheer genetic endowment/talent to bridge the gap.
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    Aug 14 2012: The philosophy is seen as a dead science because people are dead ; I'm against philosophy in high school because to teach philosophy to high school students seems impossible .
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      Aug 15 2012: Tell that to the hundreds of living philosophers, or say the same thing about Einstein, Tesla, Darwin, Kepler, etc. It may seem impossible to you, but all subjects taught in school start at a basic level and progress from there.

      It is being done now. Check out these pod casts.

      (Edit: forgot to include link in original post - sorry.)
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        Aug 15 2012: I"m not sure it is being done now --- to have a discipline called 'philosophy' or to have introduced a class of philosophy in the high school students schedule is not the same thing with doing philosophy , philosophy means real thinking , something most of the high school students aren't used to do ;
        There is a bit of thinking in what the high school student do but it usually resumes only at following patterns , making simple connections ; philosophy , real philosophy requires much more ;

        Einstein, Tesla, Darwin, Kepler, etc are not any guy ;

        "all subjects taught in school start at a basic level and progress from there. "

        It could happen but it doesn't , it requires effort , most of high school students today want to do the less effort possible . And don't forget you talk about philosophy , this is a kind of personal science , it sometimes requires to be alone with your mind (something the school life can't provide ) ............ the high school student is just about to taste the life and you ask him to stop and meditate ???? it would't a bad thing to happen but it doesn't , sometimes it's quite natural to don't happen .
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          Aug 15 2012: You make some good points, but I do disagree with most. Listen to the pod casts on the links above. They show that it is being done. (Sorry, I forgot to include the links before hitting the submit button at the time of the original post, so I edited the post and added them.)

          What I meant in replying to "The philosophy is seen as a dead science because people are dead" was that philosophers of the past being dead does not imply a lack of validity to current philosophy. I gave the example of dead scientists of the past as an example of how saying their deaths means science is dead. That's just bad reasoning.

          High school students' general lack of proficiency in higher levels of thinking does not lead to the conclusion that we should not try to facilitate the improvement of their current level of thinking.

          Philosophy is not only a solitary science. It is also a practice that relies on debate between thinkers showing the problems with the ideas being proposed by one another. As the ideas are shared, and criticized, they are refined.

          "requires to be alone with your mind (something the school life can't provide )" - I disagree. There are times in school when students are required to be quiet and think on their own, and there is also a thing called homework when they can be completely alone.

          "it would't a bad thing to happen but it doesn't , sometimes it's quite natural to don't happen ." - Yes it does happen. Listen to the pod casts above.

          "the high school student is just about to taste the life and you ask him to stop and meditate ????" Philosophy is not meditation.

          I am not saying it should be required for all students in high school, but there is no need to say that it should not be taught at all.
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        Aug 15 2012: I think you entirely misunderstood me . When I said that people are dead I was talking about the alive people , it was a metaphor : ' people are dead for philosophy ' especially the high school students , why this ? I tried to explain that because of the way life is then at that age (their feelings wake up , the requirements of life are started to be felt .... ) , because of the way schools train mentally their students ( a very precarious training most of the time , just following patterns patterns usually) philosophy is impossible to practice . It's true we need to facilitate the improvement of the students current level of thinking but just think a bit : - if the schools already after years of educating their students (elementary schools) do not provide the level of thinking necessary for philosophy , what hope to have ? all of the sudden everything changes ?
        - you're wrong about your view upon philosophy , it is a solitary science , it ironically follows directly from what you said as reasons for your idea that it isn't a solitary science : - philosophy do not relies necessarily on the debate between thinkers , it relies in the first place of the solitude thinking , I mean you need first the ideas and after this you can debate with them ; the ideas , the real ones , the correct ones on which the philosophy rest upon don't just arise in someone mind all of the sudden , it needs careful thinking , it needs meditation , yes philosophy requires more than any science meditation , deep thinking . It seems you imagine that philosophy is that kind of speech what usually happens when more people are together and start telling what cross their mind about a certain subject , that isn't philosophy , that is just another way of talking .
        Also , careful thinking is not what anybody can do therefore not anybody can really practice philosophy .

        This things combined with the conditions under which a high school student life take pl
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        Aug 15 2012: takes place makes from philosophy an impossible science to be thought in school . To make it possible is very very hard , I'm not sure there is somebody in the world with such a dedication to be willing to do it .
        Yes , still the philosophy is what the image of Daniel Dennett suggest . So it remains up to individuals , only they can organize their life and their mind to fit the requirements of philosophy .

        To introduce philosophy to high school students means nothing more than to put a burden more on students shoulders (according to today circumstances) , so no , I don't agree with it .
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          Aug 15 2012: Did you listen to the pod casts? Fostering growth in learning requires more than teaching to the lowest common denominator in each class. High expectations tend to foster high achievement just as low expectations tend to foster low achievement.
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        Aug 16 2012: Maybe high expectations tend to foster high achievement , it doesn't change a bit what I said . We need to understand the reality first , only after this we can have correct expectations ........ it's interesting that the people who don't understand the reality too well have usually high expectations . I know what the pod casts are about .
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          Aug 16 2012: Have you noticed we have the same initials?

          Here's a philosophical question for you. How do we know when we have an understanding of reality?

          I think in my first reply to your original comment, I came off in an arrogant and rude way. My lack of tact started off our conversation in a negative way, and we haven't been able to regain civil discourse since. I apologize for my bad attitude, and think we may be talking past one another. I do appreciate the chance to discuss the issue with you though.

          One last question: If doing philosophy in high school is impossible because the students aren't able to handle "really" doing it like professional philosophers, why do we teach science when the students' scientific work isn't "really" as nuanced as that of professional scientists?

          I think the purpose of education is not just to help students master the basics needed to survive in life, but also to expose students to the possibilities of the use of their minds to flourish intellectually - even in ways they might not be able to fully realize yet. Exposure to philosophy, while not coming anywhere near mastering the topic (who could?), could inspire many students with the infinite possibilities of human understanding. Or you could be right. All I know is the more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn.
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        Aug 17 2012: Eric ( E G ):

        "if doing philosophy in high school is impossible because the students aren't able to handle "really" doing it like professional philosophers, why do we teach science when the students' scientific work isn't "really" as nuanced as that of professional scientists?"

        The premise to your question do not follows necessarily from what I said , I'm afraid you went in a wrong direction with my words .
        I'm not against teaching/doing philosophy in high school to students , I'm against doing it in unfavorable conditions (the conditions which guide their life ) and in an wrong environment ( today schools ) , this things cause the impossibility they are in right now . If this things change the philosophy will no longer be a burden for them. The same thing about science .

        "How do we know when we have an understanding of reality? "

        If you have an understanding of reality , you'll know it in the same way you know you feel the pain when you feel it .
        What did you want to ask : how do we know ? how exactly does it happen we know things (now , the reality) ? or that if the understanding we have is that of reality ?
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          Aug 17 2012: Thank you for your clarification.

          My philosophy question was only a joke about philosophical thought in epistemology, the study of what we can know and how we can know it.

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      Aug 15 2012: For once I half agree with you.
      Philosophy is not dead,but I'm not sure too many high school students would be interested.
      I know I probably would not have been.
      Much more interested now.
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    Aug 14 2012: IS anyone really against philosophy in schools?
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    Aug 14 2012: **Should philosophy be taught at the high school level?
    Yes, but also to children and babies - or at least their education pushes them to think philosophically (metaphysical, consequences, ethics, reason, etc.)

    **Should there be a mandatory or elective class for philosophy?
    Replace English class with philosophy. Most classes should be and are writing and reading intensive anyways. Literary critique? Why teach kids to be critics of literature, exactly? Our curriculum does not teach literary theories in high school.. and if they do, they are bland. Assign books that make arguments about living, reality and thinking (western v. eastern philo) - direct positions and not just metaphoric art; mix it up! Although some great literary books do in fact do all of those things, shouldn't just make kids read what is popular by academic standards, but what can also be applicable to the teacher's best judgment - to alter the lesson plan to be more life relative and academically interesting.

    Or, just bring more philosophy into English class w/ analysis in special studies of ancient, classic and contemporary philosophers and philosophies. Example Societal and Cultural Concerns: what is science? what is religion? what are good morals? human nature; good v. evil? natural laws?

    **What are the merits of philosophy in High School? What are the draw back of teaching philosophy in high school?

    Merits? Depends on how we present philosophy... I predict, it will be similar to college/university education of philosophy - names, eras, schools of thought, vocabulary, arguments... Like a second English class, but with the foundation of the history of philosophers/philosophy... I see no good merit in doing this type of philosophy education - but, it couldn't do any harm.

    Philosophy is literally the love of wisdom... How we structure the education towards the path of wisdom, is important to this conversation also. In another sense, you are asking to put 'wisdom building' into schools. :-D
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    Aug 14 2012: If I had been exposed to philosophy at a younger age, it might have led to a more thought out path toward my future. I would probably have had a better understanding of who I am... what some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the planet thought. Maybe I would have seen a more meaningful way to focus my energies. It might have rekindled my interest in science because I could have seen a purpose for it all.

    As Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

    As John Stewart Mill said, "Next to selfishness, the principal cause which makes life unsatisfactory is want of mental cultivation."
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    Aug 14 2012: I remember having sleep overs with my best friend as a kid and staying up late in the darkness having philosophical discussions about if we are just in some other being's dreams. We didn't know we were doing philosophy (on a very unsophisticated level). There are many philosophical concepts that do not require the anticipation of long term effects of one's actions. (Metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, aesthetics, logic, etc.)
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    Aug 14 2012: For those of you who seem against the idea, have you seriously studied any philosophy? Have you read Kant? Aristotle? Have you read Descartes? If you haven't tried actually reading philosophy and trying to understand the thought processes and logic that leads to their view points, then you will not have any idea what the benefits could be. Critical thinking is seriously missing from school curriculum. Philosophy is an engaging way to encourage critical thought rather than rote data memorization.

    Also, Philosophy is not a dead science. It is being used in conjunction with other sciences to come to a deeper understanding of issues ranging from biological ethics, metaphysics, the science behind the conscious and countless other fields.

    Also, teaching philosophy would not be just a history class. It would have to involve actually doing philosophical discussions and debates with peers.
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      Aug 14 2012: Of course I read them. Laborious prose and all.

      But you seem to think that Socratic method and logic is philosophy. They are really just pedagogical techniques. I still think children are not ready to understand how those great thinkers have reflected the morality of society and how that is reflected in the socio-political structures that survive today. Including scientific theory.

      Learning about truth and debate is part of growing up. Gaming rules apply here too. But even the developmental theories that describe moral development posit that you have to achieve certain understanding before you can learn broader applications. I guess you can structure the development under the auspices of philosophy but you can also foster that development through games, sportsmanship, group work etc., and religion - and that is where it may become threatening to some parents.

      In the US we have never embraced philosophy to the extent it is integrated in Europe. I think it has to do with the type of thinkers the people who settled this country were. Practical application was a priority. It would be interesting to see a curriculum with integrated philosophy. Is it assessed in any way?
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        Aug 15 2012: Yes, they are not ready to fully understand all of the implications of philosophical thought. They are also not able to fully understand all of the implications of some of the other things they are taught in school at this time. Do they understand all the implications of the history they are taught? Absolutely not. We should still begin implementing an introduction to the relevant historic periods and their basic implications. Students don't understand all the implications and practical uses of mathematics, yet it is important to begin studying this field at a very young age. Piaget and other psychology of education researchers have shown us that at the various levels in the cognitive development of children, we can introduce appropriate leveled concepts in an unlimited number of fields of study. Each of these fields has appropriate concepts within their discipline that can be used in the education at each appropriate level of cognitive development. It is simply a matter of designing a cognitively appropriate curriculum for each appropriate age. Read an elementary or primary level text in history, then a middle school level text in history, then read one written for doctoral level postgraduate scholars. They are all designed at an appropriate cognitive level. They all delve into different levels of understanding of the various implications of the same history.

        Should we stop teaching history because the students aren't ready for a complete understanding of all the implications? No. That is the purpose of education.

        Moral theory in philosophy is only one part of philosophy. There are many fields in philosophy that can be explored.

        Yes the Socratic method is only a tool, but if you listen to the pod casts, you will see that it is being used to help the primary level students actually do philosophy at their level.

        Philosophy is not religion either. There is philosophy of religion, but that topic would obviously be avoided in a public school.
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    Aug 13 2012: I do not think it would be appreciated in high school. It would probably be reduced to memorizing a bunch of names and dates simply because the adolescent brain has not yet developed judgment to it's full capacity.

    When young people can begin to anticipate the long term effects of actions and how their own agency comes in to play is when philosophy should be taught. That usually does not happen until the early 20's.
    • Aug 13 2012: Thanks for your reply, I do agree if it was taught like a memorization of names and dates it would be pointless. However, I know English Literature Courses do get a bit philosophical--especially when discussing social issues.

      I wonder, why not teach Socrates or Aristotle to better development reflection and good judgement?
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        Aug 13 2012: Because it is like teaching someone to read who has no eyes. The area of the brain responsible for judgment is simply not yet developed. See page two of this document for a quick summary:
        • Aug 13 2012: Thank you for engaging in the debate. We may not be able to teach someone to read with the eyes if he is blind, but we can teach him to read with his hands--braille. The point being, rarely is someone unable to learn. Instead, we adjust to their abilities and strengths.

          I know in a debate it is never good to get personal, but I read philosophy at a young age--around nine or ten. I know I am a better person because of it. When I taught Catechism, I taught Socratic principles and the children understood. I assume they are better for it.

          I am always wary of the study of neuroscience. It is too deafening to know love is something like sound which develops and deteriorates with age.
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          Aug 14 2012: Linda listen to the second podcast in my post above. Yes, the level of thought is not fully developed, but the kids are engaged in the socratic method. They are using higher order thinking skills appropriate for their age. Just because someone can't yet understand all the implications of Kantian ethics, does not mean you can't begin to develop thinking skills on a philosophical level. Challenge the kids. Don't dumb down to meet the lowest common denominator.
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        Aug 13 2012: I understand and agree high school students can learn philosophy and they can read philosophy. But they are not developmentally ready to really understand philosophy. Even if it is in braille.

        Content, any content, is best learned when the pupil is developmentally ready to understand. You cannot teach hypothetical concepts to a young child but you can tell concrete stories. I really would hate to have philosophy reduced to stories.

        This is basic childhood development. They may be able to apply it later on in life if they learn it young, but why teach before they are ready?
        • Aug 13 2012: That's a good point. Thanks for entering the debate.
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        Aug 13 2012: Good question.
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    Gail .

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    Aug 13 2012: It would do well to teach HS students that their culture is nothing more than a philosophy. Then compare THAT to other philosophies and extend them into real-life consequences. Real education = real choices.

    But any philosophy discussed today would have to include recent scientific discoveries, so most philosophers works are worthless already. Quantum mechanics is changing everything. A philosophy that worked for a priest in the early Middle Ages may work for him, but given that I know more about how the multiverse works, it will probably not work for me.

    So teach science first. Then when students are up to speed, add in philosophy. The two go hand in hand.
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    Aug 13 2012: We learn philosophy at university in Vietnam (it's mandated by government in all universities). Unfortunately the curriculum also includes socialist propaganda stuff.
    I say it's interesting, if you know to filter out outdated things.

    Edit: @edward,@Robert: In Vietnam, all universities are mandated to teach: (1) Marxist Leninist philosophy, (2) Scientific socialism, (3) Marxist Leninist political economics, (4) Ho Chi Minh ideology. See the list and you can say it's heavily political bias. We learn one and only one school of philosophy. My point: we may or may not teach philosophy in high school, but if you do, try to avoid political bias. It poisons children's mind.
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      Aug 13 2012: Philosophically speaking, regarding your second statement above, Mr. Thahn, is being anachronistic the essence of Propaganda? I am hesitant to go on without knowing your answer. Thank you!
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        Aug 13 2012: Not quite. I found Marxist philosophy is great, it really shapes my view in many issues (e.g. I'm an atheist). The rest (see list above), I have fundamental disagreements.
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          Aug 13 2012: If Philosophy is the science that considers objective Truth then it is seems inappropriate to include subjective political and religious ideologies under its domain. To teach philosopy does not mean to teach the subjective, socio-political intellectual constructs of individuals or groups. Young (and old) minds learn to think critically by studying Philosophy. One learns the proper way to search for understanding of Truth and Reality using chiefly speculative rather than observational means. Yet Philosophy is a Science, an essential Science.
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          Aug 15 2012: Mr. Thahn,
          I just read this and remembered your activity here on TED. Are you aware of this "new law" in your country?
          "An anonymous reader writes
          "Bloggers in Vietnam are increasingly finding themselves thrown in jail. Despite freedom of speech being enshrined in the nations Constitution, many who speak out against the government are thrown in jail — thanks to a new law that forbids such talk. In one desperate act, Dang Thi Kim Lieng lit herself on fire outside the Bac Lieu People's Committee building in southern Vietnam. She died of her injuries. She was protesting the detention of her daughter who was arrested for blogging against the government. Three other bloggers are scheduled be tried under section 88 of the criminal code, which relates to propaganda against the nation. A maximum sentence could carry with it 20 years in jail."
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        Aug 16 2012: @edward. That law is bad. The force trying to hold us back is still very strong.
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      Aug 13 2012: Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. My problem here is at any level some countries will politically influence the direction of the issue. That would not allow a true rational argument.

      If high schools were to split curriculums (College prep and manual trades) then Philosophy could be considered as an elective for the college prep studies. However, I would argure that such thinking would be shallow at the high school level due to the lack of personal / life experiences. It would be better suited for college level students.

      This being the basis of my argument I will await your reply.

      All the best. Bob.
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    Aug 12 2012: I say replace philosophy with critical thinking and teach kids how to think instead of just listen.
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      Aug 12 2012: As there is pretty much universal agreement that critical thinking should be a big emphasis, if not the central emphasis of school curriculum, do you have a view, Stewart, on including philosophy in the curriculum (given the assumption that critical thinking will be an emphasis across all subjects in the curriculum)?
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        Aug 13 2012: Well depends what you'd teach in it, but if it was say, classroom debates, this is what I think it should be, it should be an addition to critical thinking, a forum to express thought. So one day be given a topic and some facts, go home research it, come in for next lesson x days later and voice opinions. This seems highly constructive to me and develops vital skills at the same time.
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          Aug 13 2012: Perhaps there should be a class where first day of class, teacher asks, "Why are there problems in the world? How can we fix these problems?"

          And then the class will be based around these questions for rest of curriculum.
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        Aug 13 2012: Maybe not such a deep question on your first lesson James lol.
        Maybe break them in gently
        But good idea
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          Aug 14 2012: lol ok we do "What is the meaning of life?"
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      Aug 14 2012: Doing philosophy is, at its core, critical thinking. Using the rules of logic to confront the deepest of questions. Philosophy does not entail just listening. It is engaging deeply with others in arguments using logic with the purpose of coming to a better understanding of countless issues. The thinking skills involved in actually doing philosophy are some of the highest forms of thought training possible.
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    Aug 12 2012: Philosophy, I think, is not a science. The subject is certainly part of intellectual history and can be introduced easily within history curricula or within literature. I would be extremely surprised if philosophical content were not part of the curricula in advanced placement and IB history classes at the high school level today. Ethical and philosophical questions (perhaps without connection to specific philosophers and their writings) are common fare earlier in kids' educations, because these sorts of ideas hold great fascination, often, beginning at the latest in adolescence.
    I can see no disadvantage of including the age-appropriate aspects of such content in natural places in school curricula.
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      Aug 13 2012: Some claim philosophy is the mother of science, which is wrong but still has some point. Without philosophy in its core, social science is dead or shallow; nature science loses its spirit.