Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PLATO Institute Pre-College Philosophy Conference: Part 1

Today was the first day of the PLATO institute’s first conference at Columbia Teacher’s College. The 4 panel discussions covered the applications of Ethics, Epistemology, and Social and Political Philosophy in the classroom, but also the idea of developing Philosophical Sensitivity in teachers. This is the ability to pick out philosophical questions from curricular material as a way to integrate philosophical ideas into content discussions and promote reflection.

Basically, the day boiled down to these main points:

1) Teaching students to think critically and philosophically about their world should be an important part of schooling

2) Certain teachers should look towards developing their “philosophical awareness” or the ability to pick out philosophical questions from the material in his or her classes. Consequently, philosophy can be attached to pretty much any subject taught in schools. It’s all about finding the right questions to ask.

3) Teachers must be guides and facilitate a discussion, but the topics should be dictated by the students and their interests. The big ideas and big thinkers of history are there for the students to find at their behest. We, as teachers, can help guide the students to those questions using the students' own experience as a platform.

Also, there’s apparently something called a Philosopher in Residence at some schools, which totally blew my mind. This is a person who helps students and teachers find and develop philosophical ideas within the curricula, and are a resource to develop these discussions in the class itself. I'd love to see how this works in practice.

All in all, a good day with some excellent ideas. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s discussions.