A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Nice Balls nasty Balls
Previous entry: Anarchy and Order at Kings Cross Supplementary
Thursday July 03 2008

Here.

Children of all ages should study philosophy in school to develop their critical thinking skills, education experts said today.

Academics suggest that, rather than start off with Socrates, teachers use common classroom disputes to help children learn about abstract philosophical principles such as fairness, morality and punishment. They give the example of apportioning blame for spilling paint.

The book Philosophy in Schools, edited by Dr Michael Hand of the Institute of Education and Dr Carrie Winstanley of Roehampton University, puts forward several arguments for including philosophy in the school curriculum.

“Critical thinkers are people who reason well, and who judge and act on the basis of their reasoning,” Hand says.

“To become critical thinkers, children must learn what constitutes good reasoning and why it’s important - and these are philosophical matters.

“Exposure to philosophy should be part of the basic educational entitlement of all children.”

And so they should be forced to do it whether they like it or not. That’s what “entitlement” generally means: the government forcing people to receive what it wants to shove down their throats, and this time it’s no different.  People have the “basic right” to do as we bloody well tell them.

The stupid thing is that if the people who think this were actually to try doing it themselves, and just ask if others might like to sample it, it might be quite good, and lots of children might really like it.  And then it might spread, in the hands of people who got the point of it, and wanted the share the good news.  But can you imagine the intellectual chaos, to say nothing of the rebellions from school teachers, that would result from any schools, never mind all schools, being made to do this kind of thing?  Because, don’t you dare, as these wretched authors do - perhaps because they know no other way of saying: “this is a good book, please buy it and read it” -, confuse something being a worthwhile activity with it being something that everyone should be forced to submit to regardless, and have done to them by grumps who think it a ridiculous diversion from their real job.

Many teachers would surely say that what these bossy academics call “philosophy” is just intellectual common sense, and is embedded in the general texture of what they do.  Just as they also teach manners and morals, which people also often say should also be separate modules in the national curriculum, in everything that they do, or try to.  Insofar as these people seem semi-aware of this themselves, then it turns out that they aren’t saying so very much.  They are definition hopping, between two different notions of what “teaching philosophy” means.  They use the separate-module-in-the-syllabus foolishness to get publicity, because it is such a daft idea, but if challenged that they are merely hinting at compulsion to sell their books and boost their own prestige, they will retreat into claiming that all they are really saying is that teaching should be done intelligently.  By jingo, what a brilliant idea.  Let’s (not) buy the book about it.

They are, in short, being philosophically sloppy.