Why is philosophy not taught in high school? I have heard some arguments against it, but they all seem pretty poor such as: "parents would not like their children questioning their views". It seems like philosophy has a lot to give in a high school setting, at the very least classes like Critical Thinking would give students tools for assessing arguments. I could understand if most people went on to college, but many don't and it seems like some of the skills which philosophy bestows could greatly benefit our society. I really don't see why professional philosophy has not ventured down this route. I would be very thankful for any insight on this topic. Thanks, William P.

The question needs to be clarified a bit, I think. Philosophy is taught in high school in certain countries: for example, in France, in the last year of high school, 'terminale', all students studied philosophy; in the US, philosophy courses are taught in some high schools, largely private schools; however, it does seem to be the case that philosophy courses are not regularly taught in American secondary schools. I agree that the skills taught in philosophy courses--careful reading, clear prose, the construction of arguments--would be beneficial for all students, for they are highly 'portable' and are used in all walks of life. I am inclined to think that one reason that philosophy courses are not generally taught in high schools--at least today--is due to the tests to which schools must teach; another reason that philosophy may not be taught in high schools is that there generally aren't qualified teachers of philosophy working at the secondary level. (Here the contrast with France is striking: most French secondary school teachers have completed or are completing doctoral work in the field in which they teach; indeed, some of France's best known philosophers taught for some time at the secondary level.) This, however, is just speculation. Perhaps some study has been done on the topic, of which one of the other panelists is aware.

I'd like to add that there is a small but growing movement in support of secondary-level philosophical education in the U.S. I myself have started the High-Phi Project (www.high-phi.org) and we work in conjunction with such organizations as PLATO (http://plato-apa.org/), and the Squire Family Foundation (http://squirefoundation.org/). Many of us involved in these organizations share your view that secondary education in the U.S. would be enhanced with more philosophy. However, Professor Greenberg is right to point out that as of now, many schools lack an incentive to add this subject to their curricula because there is little incentive to do so. In addition, many teachers lack formal training in philosophy. We are also trying to rectify that with such things as an upcoming NEH-funded Summer Institute for high school teachers: http://high-phi.org/neh-seminar/.

Mitch Green

As others have noted, some schools do offer classes in philosophy. And with the current budget cuts going on, philosophy is not the only subject that is being ignored. Philosophically speaking we should also come to grips with the arguments of the likes of Aristotle and Plato who contended that the study of philosophy is not for children or teenagers but should instead be taken up at about 40!

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