Wednesday, June 6, 2012

High School Philosophy in the USA?

Some of the IPO 2012 Int'l. students at Frogner Park, Oslo. 
There is a lot of creative energy that is a result of this year’s International Philosophy Olympiad (IPO). The 39 countries that have participated in Oslo are supplying country specific information about pre-college philosophy data to the IPO Webmaster. This information is also going into pages on Wikipedia and, potentially, to other media.

I am the American Delegation Leader to the IPO and, therefore, the source of the data from the USA. Because of the limitations on my volunteer organization (essentially me at the moment) and time, I supply what information I have at almost a moment’s notice off the top of my head to the IPO. I have just done this for a page that we are creating on the organization of teaching philosophy in high schools around the world. But this blog post, more than a report, is a request for help from my countrymen who are working to advance the teaching of philosophy in schools before university.

One of my colleagues at the IPO in Oslo last month asked me the following question. “Why is it that in a country (the USA) that has such an important and creative philosophy profession, there is so little philosophy taught in the high schools?” It is an embarrassing question. It has to do with our culture, our educational system, and, actually, with some assumptions made by some of our very own professional philosophers! But, fortunately, some of us are working very hard and, I’d even say, dedicating our lives to changing this. I remember a conversation I had with Matthew Lipman in the mid 1970’s at Montclair State College. He was mentoring me as I was teaching a course in Philosophy for Children to fifth graders. They were the early days of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. He told me that children already have genuine philosophical questions. We teachers have to help children pursue their questions by giving them the language and method to discuss them well. And, by listening carefully and following their train of thought while gently guiding them in a true line of inquiry. This is also real Socratic dialogue. It seems to me to be irresponsible of the adult community in our society not to help our young develop the true philosophical thought that they are already struggling to pursue.

But, as I have said, this post is a request for help. Please read what I have supplied (below) to the IPO Webmaster and send me information that you think should be included. You can do that by commenting at the end of this post or by emailing me at Thank you, colleagues!     

The actual request for information from the IPO came in the following form of topics on which to respond.


The following is a version of the information from the USA that is being added to an IPO Wikipedia page. This is how I responded to the IPO request today.

Organization of Teaching Philosophy in High Schools
Overview from Participating Countries at IPO Oslo 2012


            There are no national or even state required philosophy courses taught in high schools in the USA. There are some philosophy and ethics courses taught in some high schools across the country, but they are created and taught by particular schools.

Two examples of schools in which philosophy and ethics courses are taught are the following.

Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey

Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York

There are, however, groups or associations that have as their mission to create and / or promote philosophy and / or ethics courses or clubs for high schools. Here is a very brief list of some of them.

The American Philosophical Association’s Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy and PLATO-Pre-college Philosophy, a facebook page:

The Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University in New Jersey

The Squire Family Foundation, Advancing Philosophy Education


Joe (José Luis) Murphy said...

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