For a Better Society, Teach Philosophy in High Schools
Dec 28, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I agree with Michael Shammas that philosophy should be taught in schools, but not for the reasons Shammas states. He argues that philosophy "creates and nurtures thoughtful minds, minds that can -- as Aristotle suggests -- entertain a thought without accepting it." Maybe sometimes, but - based on my experience with philosophers - not nearly often enough. Philosophers can be petty and closed-minded too, believe me. No, to my mind, the reason philosophy should be taught in schools is for the skill set: philosophers learn how to argue, how to formulate hypotheses and propose explanations, how to speak and write clearly and with precision, and how to observe and describe their environment.

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Re: For a Better Society

Kia ora e Stephen

I wholeheartedly agree with you. In the 1960s, when I was at school in Scotland, the process you aptly describe was called studying English. I was poor at English. My teacher implored me to read and analyse poetry and prose, to write essays, to précis passages of text and to join the debating society. When I began to heed my teacher's advice, I did all of these and entered a school mock election as the Scottish National candidate. I won that election despite not believing in any of the reasons I used in my manifesto and I still don't. My educational path followed precisely the process you describe here but whether it did me any use or not still remains to be judged.

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