Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Teaching Philosophy in High School

It really amazes me that philosophy is not offered in high school. I suggest in this article that a critical thinking class should be mandatory in public high school. I know that personally I would have benefited greatly if I ran into philosophy earlier.

(Comments are extremely valued. I want to know what you think about this topic. Should it be pursued? ).

We all know how stressful philosophy can be, Foucault would have us looking around every corner, Zeno would have us pulling our hair out in frustration and reading Heidegger for the first time can make anyone violent. While important for studying philosophy, reading authors does not get at the crux or my confusion.

What I want to suggest is that high school students, and society, could benefit greatly from the intellectual and practical tools that philosophy has collected over its many years.

At the very least, I think there should be a required critical thinking class, the tools learned in that class would be indispensable for high school students, both in other classes and beyond.

Many people graduate from high school and don’t go on to college, that is why it is so important to our society that we teach these young adults how to think critically.
I must say that I personally find it disturbing how many people believe, as is, what they hear on the news, talk shows, radio programs, etc.... Some of the blatant rhetoric that is included in these are so glaring it makes you want to turn away.

If we live in a democracy, then we need to give people some tools to make informed decisions. We should educate the youth about fallacies and rhetoric. Aside from getting far more interesting conversations with your bartender or waiter, I believe mandatory critical thinking would better prepare our society for the future than most things taught in high school today.

Particularly what critical thinking does is it gives one the tools to look at arguments or situations and be able to think through them. I hold that critical thinking makes one more adaptable. This is invaluable because in our technologically inclined world, our social practices change so fast that we must to be adaptable. 

Can you imagine how different the world would have been without it. It almost doesn't make sense to someone my age, my world has been shaped from a young age to live with the internet, cellphones and word processors. The very thing we call society has radically changed in one generation. People our age will see just as large, if not larger, changes in our life time, and so will the next generation.

The bombardment of our mind with mass media is increasing as well. It seems where ever we turn there is an advertisement, or a political candidate, or a TV show, and even *tada* blogs. This media overload is just going to get worse as technology advances. I don't know about you, but I want to live in a society where people have the tools to think about this media

We live in a rapidly changing world and we need to provide our young citizens with the tools they need. These tools must be versatile enough to prepare them for problems that we can't even comprehend yet.

I cannot think of a more applicable set of practical intellectual skills to give our young people then those methods found in philosophy, particularly Critical Thinking.


Please comment, I'm very interested in feedback about this view.  

Am I wrong, right, or just not getting the point?
Were you in a high school philosophy class? what was it like?

Do you feel you were mature enough to study philosophy in high school?

As a parent would you want your 15 year old learning logic if you hadn't?

Why are philosophers not suited to teach high school students?

Do you know of any programs that are doing this?


William Parkhurst


  1. The APA Delphi Report on Critical Thinking -- essentially the "gold standard" for that discipline -- in fact recommended that Critical thinking be taught in High school curricula.

    The CLA people seem to be making some inroads with a reworking of it designed for HS students.

  2. Thanks for the great comment. I posted a summery of the delphi report here:

    CLA is that "The Collegiate Learning Assessment", I am a still familiarizing myself with many of the professional acronyms.

  3. The Critical Thinking course I took in community college was empowering and I recall thinking at the time, "why do they wait till college to teach this?"

    If Philosophy were offered in High School, I would teach it. Imagine an AP Philosophy class!

  4. I took community college classes in conjunction with my high school education. So I was actually lucky enough to take critical thinking at a high school age. I shared the same feeling of empowerment when I took to class and believe other high school students would too. I'm sure it helped the rest of my education as well.

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