I recently received an e-mail from a parent asking why kids should study philosophy. To paraphrase:
“I don’t understand philosophy, so I am not completely sure whether it is valuable to a child. I was looking at the US school curriculums, and they don’t cover philosophy at either middle school or even high school level. So, looks like the study of philosophy will not help the kids in their school prep…? Why would you recommend that kids take philosophy courses?"
Only yesterday I was planning the development of a large philosophy course for one of the schools I work with. When discussing what students would be evaluated on in this course, I argued that, if the course was properly created, students should emerge from it with the critical communication skills, the sharp analytical skills, and the self-awareness that will allow them to succeed in all other realms. And this is why I think all students should do philosophy. A child properly educated in philosophy, I believe, has a true foundation for education.
Studying philosophy means entering into conversation with the greatest minds of humanity. We read them and come to see the world from their perspective. To do this we must develop our reading skills and our empathy – we develop techniques to see the world as others do. But then we see their blind spots, argue against their logic, present new evidence, and slowly, begin to build our own position. This is intellectual exercise in its purest forms. We read critically, we analyse ruthlessly, we question endlessly. We develop the confidence and the skills to question all ideas and, in the process, we search for and develop our own language skills to communicate our own views.