Thursday, June 30, 2011

PLATO Institute Pre-College Philosophy Conference: Part 2

It was amazing to see and hear all these professors and teachers speak for 2 days on the state of philosophy education in the country. It is an uphill battle, as it seems that many people in education don’t see the practical applications of teaching philosophy, but if this conference showed anything, it’s that there are many dedicated professionals out there with a passion for sharing big ideas and big questions with their students.

Today, Ethics did not come up in our discussions, but what was discussed were the mediums in which we could bring ethical, aesthetic, and metaphysical questions to students: children’s books. Though this theme was often repeated, it seems like a really good idea. Debora Tollofsen of the University of Memphis suggested the use of children’s books to discuss metaphysics, while Thomoas Wartenberg (Mount Holyoke) and Ariana Stokas (Bard College) suggest using art and the creation of art to spur students to think critically about what makes one piece of art good and another bad.

There was talk as well of developing models for the collaboration of middle and high school teachers with professors of philosophy. Also, the creation of Philosophy Outreach Programs seems like an interesting thing – philosophy grad and undergrad students going out to schools and discussion philosophy with students who would not normally encounter philosophy education in their everyday lives.

The trend here seems to be that we need to teach students about philosophy when they’re young and keep them reflecting on themselves and the big questions as they grow. This conference is hopefully the beginning of many. It is certainly an exciting time to be an educator.