Philosophy has been called “The Dead Science,” in fact back in 2011 Stephen hawking boldly claimed that “Philosophy is Dead“. And yet it has more need in modern culture than before. People forget that at its very base philosophy teaches the use of reason and logic in life. It is much more than just metaphysics and unanswerable questions about life.
So teaching philosophy causes a few things within a person. Firstly the person begins to start asking their own questions about the way things are, things they would never have noticed before. The person learns to make logical conclusions based on their own thought. In an essence it is learning how to think rather than what to think, such as most people are taught in school.
The Huffington Post wrote a fabulous article on the subject a few years back. A few of their arguments detailed how philosophy makes a person more whole, how rationality should be used in politics, and how ethics helps a person conquer fear and live a happier life. But sadly, this gives little incentive for schools to begin teaching philosophy. As we know the public school system is harshly underfunded and many times only focused on meeting state requirements. As a student I know this too well. The core classes are pushed down the student’s throat until the time they graduate, and by then they don’t know anything else besides math, English, science, and a few terms of history.
But, what I also know is that schools are worried about the student’s reading comprehension. Systematically reading and writing has been incorporated into just about every class in some way. Our students just aren’t very good at it. This is partly our fault, because with the country’s failing math and science scores most people don’t seem to notice the lacking reading scores either.
Traditional English classes have done little to help. English classes fail to push the student to critically think about a text and teaches no analytical or reasoning skills. What the school system needs are philosophy classes. Having students analyze a Socratic dialogue or treatises of Aristotle will force them to think about the piece and make their own interpretations of it. The reason is that you cannot simply just read a piece of philosophy and fully comprehend it without thinking about it, and that’s exactly what students need.
Philosophy will benefit in nearly all areas of school. Nearly all fields relate back to philosophy in some way, math, science, history, literature, language, psychology, ect. I fully implore schools to allow philosophy as a year long elective, or better yet a required course.
Realistically I know that a single course in philosophy will not turn people into super students, I know that it is a subject which you have to build upon as you go. I would love to see introduction courses as early as 5th grade, but I doubt that would happen. So what I propose is starting in middle school. A simple class taught in middle school covering the way philosophers reach conclusions, brief overview of a few movements, and some exposure to interpreting text would go a long way for those kids. Nothing too strenuous. It would serve as introduction for kids to explore deeper in high school.
What that middle school class would do is teach those kids to really think, not just do as they’re told. Since at that age students are still developing it would be enormously beneficial. For classes in high school it would teach more in depth beliefs of different people and how they affected history. The class would require more critical thinking and study. The use of class discussion and debate would help further the cause. Just as Socrates used. The role of discussion would encourage students to expand their ideas and critique other’s through reason. The key for a philosophy class is to not simply tell the students what people have thought, it is for them to think about it.
The most controversy this would cause would be on two grounds: 1) The teaching of philosophy interferes with religion. 2) Philosophy is useless and would waste school funding. Regarding the first point, philosophy and religion aren’t mutually exclusive. In many cases they compliment each other. While there is a good deal of atheistic and agnostic philosophy, there are also many philosophers advocating for a wide array of religions. The class would simply allow students to choose what is best for them. Regarding the second point, if the philosophy classes work as intended the higher test scores would give the schools more funding to use at their disposal. And I’d be willing to bet if an AP curriculum (the nationwide Advanced Placement program) were created, even more schools would jump on the chance to teach philosophy in the hopes to raise funds even higher.
But since their is a prevalence of science in schools I would also encourage the comparison of metaphysics to modern science. Some brief exploration of the subject would suffice without a deep understanding of the material.
After a student has undergone such a class they would develop their own views of the world, we would have a largely more educated population. The knowledge of logic would then enable the person to more effectively explore other fields not taught in school, such as politics or macroeconomics.
The younger the person starts, the better. Realistically some schools would only offer a single elective course in high school, but something is better than nothing. Teaching a person to think, or at the very least some common sense, is really invaluable. It would support the student’s reading comprehension and give them the tools to further explore the other fields of thought. It’s worth a shot.