Tuesday, January 24, 2012

high school philosophy

Brian Leiter, whose blog I regularly follow, and whose links I regularly recommend (see my link to Domhoff in the previous post), has a link to an essay about teaching high school philosophy in Brazil.

I've had the experience of teaching philosophy in high schools. I taught something called
"Theory of Knowledge" in two different "International Schools" in Slovakia.

First of all, I must warn anyone who knows something about philosophy that what's being called "Theory of Knowledge" is not epistemology; it's not the sort of thing that's called "Theory of Knowledge" in textbooks or course descriptions in the English-speaking world. In itself, that fact is odd.

There are many details one might reveal in a reasonably long discussion. I haven't got the time for that now.

I did, however, want to say that my experience with the attempt to teach Philosophy in two different Slovak high schools was almost uniformly unrewarding.

Don't get me wrong. I won't say that every student was hostile. Nor will I say that most students were indifferent. I can't say that my students in the two settings were necessarily more prejudiced than, say, students I taught at the University of Toledo (where I taught for four years).

However, the very bureaucratic structure in which my course was embedded assigned little importance to the course I was teaching. Students got a very small number of points toward their degree from doing well in the class.

Consequently, the very brightest students focused upon other subjects, and characteristically never read what I assigned (or asked) them to read. And, I'm not an idiot either. So, when I realized that students weren't (in all probability) going to ever read what I assigned them to read, the whole exercise began to resemble a bizarre sort of shadow boxing.

To be sure, there were talented students who read things a month or so after I had assigned them, and then even became excited about them. In the meantime, the course would have moved on to another subject.

Incidentally, the organizational structure within which these lessons happened is called the "IBO". I've blogged about their version of teacher training before. I haven't a good word to say about them, but I can add a link to that on-line essay later....

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