Tuesday, September 8, 2009

High School Philosophy Classes

There is lots of exciting work in philosophy going on in high school classrooms around the country! Here are two public high school philosophy classes about which I’ve recently learned:

In Memphis, Michael Burroughs, a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Memphis, is teaching a philosophy class at Booker T. Washington High School. So far the class has been exploring questions concerning what constitutes the good life and questions about the nature of justice. The class has organized a blog about their work -- http://www.blogphilos.blogspot.com/.

And in San Diego, Josh Cottrell, a high school teacher, is teaching the first philosophy class ever offered in the Poway Unified School district. “Critical Thinking: Philosophy in Literature” is a thematic approach to philosophy, augmented with poetry, prose, visual art and film, covering epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, and some metaphysics. Josh reports that “the students are totally engaged. In fact, I'm stunned at their engagement. These kids (juniors and seniors) are taking this class as an elective and earning UC "g" credit for the course. This class is not required, and in fact is more work than many of their required academic classes. Yet, I'm finding that they are not only doing the readings, but annotating their readings like graduate students! I've rarely seen that kind of work ethic in my honors and AP students.”

One of the challenges of doing philosophy with pre-college students is the isolation that many people engaged in this work experience. Often I hear from, especially, high school teachers who are teaching the lone philosophy class in their districts and have no one with whom to communicate about what's going on in their classrooms. The Pre-College Philosophy Committee of the American Philosophical Association (APA) is trying to address this issue by developing a new national organization, PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), that will provide resource-sharing and support to K-12 philosophy teachers around the country.

4 comments:

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dletts said...

I teach Latin at a high school where the IB curriculum is being adopted. One of the genres at the Diploma Level Latin is philosophy. The required reading are excerpts from Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. What little experience I have had discussing philosophy with high school students has been very positive. Could anyone recommend anything about ancient philosophy that is suitable for high school juniors and seniors? Also, has anyone heard of the book, The Dream of Scipio? dletts Richland Northeast High School, Columbia, S.C.

Anonymous said...

I recently graduated from Salinas High School and we are one of the few public schools to offer the class. I took Philosophy as an Honors elective class with my fabulous teacher Ms. Cynthia Hess. Not only is she an incredible philosophy teacher, but the most club oriented teacher on campus. I'd like her to get recognition on this site because I feel she is positively influencing young adults in every manner. Her philosophy class covered the classics in time period from the Pre-Socratics to present day philosophers, we had deep discussions concerning: epistomology, ontology, axiology, ethics, aesthetics, and logic. Not only that but after the text of Western philosophy was completed we studied Easter philosophy and some of the rarer cultural philosophies such as Maori, Janism, Norse, Alchemy, and Buddhism. To further engage us she invited guest speakers to have discussions with us, ordered food to the class room to de-formalize debate, showed movies that had both entertainment value and expressed surprising philosophical ideas, and last of all she coordinated fund raising to make a weekend stay at a fully functioning Buddhist community in our county. For all this and much, much more, I'd like to recognize and thank Ms. Cynthia Hess. Her instruction of philosophy has enriched my life and writing more than I thought possible.

Jana said...

Thanks so much for the lovely comment about Cynthia Hess - I just sent her an email with a link to this.
Jana