• Albero
    60
    Besides watching the matrix movies, I remember the first time I was exposed to anything philosophical was when I read excerpts from Kant and Socrates in high school for an optional course. Do you think it would be a good or bad idea to have these classes mandatory for let’s say, elementary school? How could this positively or negatively impact kids?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.1k
    I think it would be a great idea and I can’t see any negative consequences.
  • Saphsin
    266
    I got introduced to philosophy in an elective class when I was 13 in middle school, it could be doable a few years earlier. The issue is difficulty and lack of experience to think about such questions, maybe start off with something simple even such as simple like “where do numbers come from?” that can spark curiosity.
  • Tzeentch
    910
    Interesting topic.

    For two reasons I think being taught critical thought should always precede being taught philosophy.

    The first is that critical thought is often required to understand why philosophers think a certain way. Without it, many ideas of philosophers will seem absurd to children who grow up in a world that lives according to very different principles.

    The second is that critical thought is one's only weapon against a faulty or opinionated teacher.

    Philosophy is a type of teaching that shouldn't be taught to someone who is incapable of challenging the ideas. I think that goes against the nature of philosophy. That's why teaching children should be done with caution.
  • Olivier5
    1.7k
    In my experience it's useful to start from them kids' own philosophical questions rather than ram Kant down their throats.

    As a teen I was babysitting for pocket money. One night, two wonderfully funny, happy and beautiful kids, 7 and 5, asked me very very seriously the following question: Why do people die?

    Maybe their grandmother had died or another kid at school, something like that. Or maybe they had learnt about death in a less direct way.

    I got the sense that they were asking me because they trusted me. I was not yet an adult, still a kid like them. Adults tend to lie to their children about these things, they whitewash the tragedies of life not to scare them.

    So I tried to tell them the truth the way I saw it. Told them that when you play a lot with a toy, the toy gets a bit broken here or there, always, and sometimes you can repair the damage and sometimes not. And when the toy is totally broken then it cannot be repaired anymore. The same thing happens to people. They take hits, they get a bit broken here or there, and in the end you can't repair them anymore. But this takes a long time, people are much stronger than toys, they live much longer, so you don't have to worry about it right now.
  • Wayfarer
    11.4k
    No. It would be good to imbue them with the qualities necessary to understand the problems of philosophy when they are sufficiently mature to plumb them,
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    627
    Yes, but limiting it to an introduction to logic, focus on the first 9 rules of inference, an introduction to common fallacies and possibly branch into common cognitive biases.

    I would not introduce any ideologies until they are 16 or (probably) older.
  • bongo fury
    862
    It happens in any non-religious school as "Religious Studies". Which many such schools (sample of one) now call "Philosophy and Ethics".
  • Jack Cummins
    1.5k

    I think that it would be a good idea because it would enable ideas to be addressed openly rather than leaving children struggling alone with ideas.

    In some ways philosophy is touched upon in religious education and some other studies, including literature. But this is often mystified.

    Perhaps if people were encouraged to think for themselves by the introduction of philosophy at some point in education they would be able to develop more critical self awareness. This might enable them to develop more of an understanding of the world and enable them to think about the world around them and the future.

    Surely, philosophy is just as important as other subjects, just as much as more abstract subjects such as chemistry. I have come across many very educated adults, especially those who have gone down the hard science direction and they often are not able to engage in the most rudimentary philosophy discussion.

    Philosophy being part of children's education may enable a more balanced education and by encouraging it at an early age it may pave the way for great philosophers for the future.
  • Isaac
    4k
    It would be as terrible an idea as is pedagogically teaching children about anything. Children are not mindless vessels to be filled with the 'wisdom' of adults, they are active, interested and insatiably curious. Sitting them down in a classroom to 'learn' about philosophy would be disastrous. One more subject matter which might otherwise have been interesting made hateful by association with imprisonment.
  • Jack Cummins
    1.5k

    I can't think that it would be more unpleasant than some other subjects. I can remember how miserable I felt at about age 10 to have a double period of Maths which I hated in contrast to the delights of Art or English.

    Besides, philosophy would not have to be taught in a textbook, dry manner. It could be about every day concerns. It would require good teachers to make it enjoyable.

    Of course, some children would take to it more than others, but that applies to all learning inside or outside of school classrooms.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Would it be a good idea to teach young children about philosophy?

    Yes, it would. We should teach them that, generally speaking, philosophy is a largely irrational activity which has little relevance to their future lives, and that the more advanced one's philosophy education is, the more this tends to be true. And yes, before you ask, I have evidence.

    I have spent literally years on an uncountable number of philosophy websites, including this one of course, trying to interest philosophers in discussing nuclear weapons, an ever imminent catastrophic existential threat to everything we hold dear all over the planet. This project has been a complete and utter failure. As just one of so many examples, see this thread:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/9333/insanity-squared

    Very close to totally dead except for my posts.

    And, the situation gets even worse if you try to engage academic philosophers. I spent every day for months on a group blog run by a leading academic philosophy organization. Mostly Phds and philosophy grad students. The blog has thousands of articles, and only a single article about nuclear weapons. And that single article exists only because the exasperated editor finally posted it in a hurry just to shut me up.

    Philosophy is a land of fantasy my friends.

    It would be wise to teach children this before they become brain washed enough to get sucked in to believing the credentials and authority scam.
  • Mww
    2.1k
    The history of philosophizing can be taught; a specific method for philosophizing can be taught. Philosophy itself, re: the system of reasoning based on conceptions alone, cannot.

    Give a kid the conditions under which he may develop his own reasoning. Then stand aside.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    952


    As someone who has spent a bit of time in academic philosophy, I wouldn't expect a group of philosophers to be able to give great insight into nuclear proliferation. I think you'd have better luck with maybe those with a background in international relations or even game theory, possibly. Philosophers, especially academic philosophers, largely shut themselves off from the world to place exclusive focus on theoretic rationality. With an issue like nuclear proliferation I think you'd need to be able to talk about practical enforcement mechanisms and oversight... something which I wouldn't expect philosophers to have much of an idea about.

    We should teach them that, generally speaking, philosophy is a largely irrational activity which has little relevance to their future livesHippyhead

    In my view, it's that good philosophy is too rational, and in that sense it has little to no relevance to their a messy, irrational world. Just because something makes sense does not make it real. I think a lot of philosophy is bullshit, but good philosophy is generally too rational and abstract to have much of relevance to a child's future in a world where history is anything but rational.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    As someone who has spent a bit of time in academic philosophy, I wouldn't expect a group of philosophers to be able to give great insight into nuclear proliferation.BitconnectCarlos

    Thanks for engaging Bitconnect. I can hardly disagree based on the experiences I've reported, but there's really no reason why this has to be true. As example....

    Nuclear weapons seem to be a near perfect representation of the human condition. They combine in one easily understood tool (a box that goes boom) both the genius and insanity of the human condition. The genius and insanity both arise from the same source, the way that thought operates by dividing reality in to conceptual parts. This division process allows us to rearrange the parts in our mind to create new visions of reality, that is, to be creative. This very same division process creates a human experience of being divided from the rest of reality, a perception which gives rise to fear, and from there most other human problems, such as war and nuclear weapons.

    I'm asking academic philosophers to reflect upon what nuclear weapons can teach us about the human condition. As example, the fact that we can't be bothered to discuss nuclear weapons even in a presidential campaign teaches us that either 1) we are incurably stupid, or 2) we don't really give a shit about civilization and each other no matter what we say, or 3) perhaps both.

    Nuclear weapons can teach us that there's really no point to further philosophy or science, because whatever is learned will all be swept away in the inevitable coming firestorm if we don't get our heads out of our butts. Yes, this is debatable, so how about some expert level rational debate from the people we are paying to perform such a function?

    I'm not demanding that academic philosophers become technical or political experts, which I agree is best left to others. I'm asking them to be philosophers, and to focus their attention on what is arguably the single most pressing threat to the further existence of human civilization, and thus philosophy.

    I'm asking them to reflect upon what nuclear weapons can teach us about the human condition. As example, the fact that we can't be bothered to discuss nuclear weapons even in a presidential campaign teaches us that either 1) we are incurably stupid, or 2) we don't really give a shit about civilization and each other no matter what we say, or 3) perhaps both.

    Nuclear weapons can teach us what a delusional dream we are living in when we can contently ignore a huge gun aimed right down our mouths. If we were powerless homeless people, the nuthouse paddy wagon would already be on it's way.

    I'm only asking academics to be activists to the degree this should be asked of any citizen, well, except that to the degree they posses some cultural authority perhaps they carry a large burden of responsibility than Joe the Plumber etc.

    Philosophers, especially academic philosophers, largely shut themselves off from the world to place exclusive focus on theoretic rationality.BitconnectCarlos

    The great irony is that, THIS IS NOT RATIONAL!! Would we consider an academic philosopher rational if they gave their lecture to students with a loaded gun in their mouth?? And what are nuclear weapons other than a huge loaded gun?

    Ok, so I'm being hysterical again, gotta agree, but that seems a more rational response to nuclear weapons than sweeping it all under the rug and pretending that doing so is an example of expert level rationality.

    I think a lot of philosophy is bullshit, but good philosophy is generally too rational and abstract to have much of relevance to a child's future in a world where history is anything but rational.

    Philosophy which doesn't serve a civilization living on the knife edge of total destruction is not good philosophy. It may be very sophisticated, clever and articulate, but such philosophy is not a product of reason.

    Here's an idea. No offense will be taken if you decline. If you still have contacts, invite them here to debate me on this subject, in a new thread. They can do so anonymously, so no threat to their careers.

    I installed wallpaper for living until age 45, and I will happily take on as many academic philosophers as you can bring to the table. Me against entire departments, the more the merrier, bring them on if you can.
  • TheMadFool
    8.7k
    What a great idea! However, we'd need to scale down the contents of a philosophical curriculum to match the cognitive abilities of young children. Is this possible? Perhaps elementary school philosophy is a bit too much to ask. High school seems not too bad a choice as an entry point into philosophy. Teenagers, the high school crowd, seem to be capable of dealing with abstractions at a level that permits of productive discussions on and learning of philosophical subjects. As a bare mininum critical thinking seems a must.

    There maybe downsides to this though. Some philosophical ideas are as pernicious as they're appealing and I believe there are many precedents where the youth have been, let's put it this way, "led astray". In light of this fact, facilitating a meeting of young minds and certain ideas may not be the best of moves. :chin:
  • Pfhorrest
    4.1k
    Propositional logic is basically algebra with words and so should be teachable to kids who are also learning algebra.

    Following most philosophical arguments just requires that basic level of logic, so those algebra kids should be apt to do philosophy too.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    1.5k
    Depends on how young they are, I suppose, but teaching logic and rhetoric as tools in evaluating claims would be useful. As for teaching philosophy, hell no. It would be ideal for them to learn how to think, but might be catastrophic for them to be exposed to the bizarre caperings of most philosophers at a young age.
  • Valentinus
    971

    After being exposed to various ideas, some children start comparing them and asking questions themselves. Any curriculum developed by whoever is going to either feed that fire or put everything into coffins.
    We are not blank slates.
  • Pinprick
    569
    I think it should be an elective course only. I can only imagine the shitstorm that fundamentalist Christian parents would create if philosophy was a required class. Not that I mind pissing off fundamentalist Christians, but you couldn’t pay me enough to deal with the everyday drama of teaching philosophy as a required class to any age children.

    That said, for the backward or uncultured children (of which I most definitely qualified as), philosophy, or at least philosophical thinking, can bring some much needed intellectual excitement to their not-quite-yet closed minds. And maybe it could help with typical teenage angst or rebellion, or maybe it would just cause more, I’m not sure which.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    952


    What is your plan when it comes to nuclear proliferation? What kinds of positions would you like philosophers to push to the public? I'm interested to hear. We never discussed nuclear proliferation in any of my philosophy courses. You might want to just pitch your ideas to a different crowd instead of philosophers - maybe nuclear scientists or international relations experts from the way you were describing things in your post above.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Hi again Bitconnect, continued thanks for your engagement.

    I'm wary of hijacking this thread any further, so perhaps we could continue here if you have continued interest? Until then, here's a brief reply...

    Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that reason alone will not be sufficient to avoid nuclear disaster, and that little of significance is likely to happen until after the next detonation. Hopefully that will be an accident and not an act of war. Human beings learn primarily by pain, and not reason, so the best we can probably hope for is a manageable dose of pain which wakes us up.

    I don't necessarily demand that philosophers advocate policy positions, though they often seem happy to do so on other subjects. Instead, philosophers might use nuclear weapons as an entry point in to an examination of our relationship with knowledge, the source of nuclear weapons. Surely our relationship with knowledge is an appropriate topic for philosophers to explore, yes? I can expand on this significantly if it interests you, but probably shouldn't do so here.

    For this thread my point is that children should be taught that when it comes to philosophy professionals, the emperor is not wearing very many clothes. In the true spirit of philosophy, they should be taught to think for themselves, and not just blindly accept badges of authority.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    It would be as terrible an idea as is pedagogically teaching children about anything. Children are not mindless vessels to be filled with the 'wisdom' of adults, they are active, interested and insatiably curious.Isaac

    Completely agree! My youngest son even learned how to read with no formal instruction at all.
    Reveal
    Meaning, we never worked on reading as a separate thing even once. He would ask me or his brother or sister to read things on the screen when he playing Minecraft; he would ask for help spelling things when he wanted to search for pictures and videos online; and then one day I found out he could read.


    The trickiest thing is math because it takes training.
  • Isaac
    4k
    Completely agree! My youngest son even learned how to read with no formal instruction at all. Reveal


    The trickiest thing is math because it takes training.
    Srap Tasmaner

    Excellent! My two both learned how to read without any input from teachers too. Neither have had any formal lessons at all prior to university and both have degrees, one doing her doctorate right now. Only trouble is one then has absolutely no call for self-congratulation as I played no part at all in their success.

    Maths is tricky. My eldest found it really hard yet my youngest found it easy - but the books are out there. Ian Stewart was the key (wrote a lot of popular maths books), great intro to the subject.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    The only classrooms my children have ever been in were part of "co-op" programs -- homeschooling parents who form groups to have something like school a couple days a week. For one of these, I was drafted as the math teacher for the older kids. I've always said this happened because what we had here was a bunch of ultra-conservative Catholics, but luckily one of them had married an atheist nerd who knew some math. (This period of religious zeal is now well behind us, thank god.)

    I don't know if I did those kids any good at all. I used to call my class "Guided Head-scratching" because their levels of math attainment were all over the place and I couldn't just pick up at Chapter 9 and carry on, so I did stuff like ask them why the interior angles of a triangle add up to 180, and we would spend days figuring out the deep connection between triangles and circles, or we would derive the quadratic formula from scratch and figure out the connection between algebra and geometry. It was fun for me, but I have my doubts any of them caught the wonder of math I was trying to get across.

    Lately my oldest son and I have been filling in his math gaps so he can get a GED. At the moment it doesn't look like any of mine are headed for college, but you just never know. Life is twisty and unpredictable, and there's no one right way to do it.
  • Isaac
    4k


    Cool. I did a bit of 'group work' with my local home-ed group too, much the same experience (but without the religion - more 'yoga and yoghurt' - curiously similar obsessions with candles and incense though...). Very different to teaching in a more academic setting, much more challenging as you can't rely so much on prepared lectures, but I like that.

    It was fun for me, but I have my doubts any of them caught the wonder of math I was trying to get across.Srap Tasmaner

    Yeah, it's not for everyone, but I'm sure it was a damn sight better than most kids get in conventional schools.

    Lately my oldest son and I have been filling in his math gaps so he can get a GED. At the moment it doesn't look like any of mine are headed for college, but you just never know. Life is twisty and unpredictable, and there's no one right way to do it.Srap Tasmaner

    Absolutely. Good luck with the GEDs, I find myself more and more of the opinion that the 'standard' academic path is becoming less of a necessary route. It obviously opens some doors, and academic life was good to me for a while, but a lot of employers now are recognising that it's such a 'factory line' that the certificates don't really distinguish potential employees in the way they'd like.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    It's actually a very curious experience going over things like fractions and exponents with someone who has a very rich conceptual apparatus -- he's absorbed a certain amount of philosophy from me and we have long conversations about art and politics with many fine distinctions.

    One of my younger sons just independently discovered Tom Leher and excitedly sent me a video of "New Math", where Leher jokingly points out that in new math it's not getting the right answer that counts but understanding what you're doing! Tim can follow the various conceptual explanations I give of what we're working on (and I usually end up trying several until I find one that helps even a little) but it's really true that the concepts don't mean much until you have practiced the skill enough to more or less master it, which I think would come as a surprise to most philosophers (or would have in the past, anyway, with a very blinkered understanding of how people think).

    In one way, this makes it a lot like what he did when learning various musical instruments, but it's also quite different because he was listening to music (and thinking about it!) before he could play, and later could understand (and try endlessly to explain to non-musician me -- here he goes back to the tonic, see?) music he still could not quite play. There's not all that much math he could just experience without doing it. (I mean, I used to make Moebius strips for the kids and have them draw a line that ends up on "both" sides of the paper, but I don't think my attempts at describing how crazy it is that Newton's method converges so quickly really landed.)

    I should think about this a lot more because everyone knows there are connections of all sorts between math and music, but learning them has noticeable similarities and differences.
  • Isaac
    4k
    It's actually a very curious experience going over things like fractions and exponents with someone who has a very rich conceptual apparatusSrap Tasmaner

    Not sure if this is the same thing you're talking about, but the thing I found with mine is that they never took anything for granted everything was questioned and everything was 'tried out' in a whole bunch of different conceptual frameworks. I think that's why each had a different experience with maths, one saw it as a game, the other as a tool. From the latter I'd get things like "why don't we just use decimals instead of fractions, then we could do all the sums on a calculator? It's not like we're ever going to measure anything accurately enough for it to be exactly 1/3 and not 0.3333... stopping at some point?". To her it was like learning how to use a hammer which was specialised for nails no-one ever encountered. But English GCSE was the worst with both, by a long way, the whole experience was like pulling teeth. Something about the ambiguous nature of language and literary expression did not sit well with mine when asked to provide the 'right' answer for an exam. With regard to the OP, I dread to think what irritation an attempt to pass a Philosophy GCSE would have initiated, but I'd be surprised if the examination centre emerged unmarred!

    I don't know if it's still the case (nor even ever was outside of the UK), but we found most universities to be really quite accommodating when it came to alternative educational routes. Mine only did two GCSE's (English and Maths), but places asking for five almost all accepted two (plus interview) when they learned the kids were home educated. In hindsight I felt we might even have been able to get away with less.

    Interesting what you say about music and maths. I'm learning music theory at the moment. I think it's fascinating how the addition of one note can change the mood of a piece just because of a mathematical relationship between it's sound wave and those around it. Kind of like experiencing maths, in that you're quite viscerally responding to some fairly unadulterated mathematical patterns, but like many of these 'ways in' you hear a lot about in education they only get so far. You could probably link it to wave functions, but start to draw a tenuous line to simultaneous equations and you'd be on very shaky ground. One of the things I've found in self-directed education is that the topics of conventional schools are non-existent. It's more about getting some objective met. Learning to build roofs requires learning trigonometry, it doesn't then lead to learning calculus just because that's in the same school subject. The job's the subject, not the tools we use for it.
  • deletedusercb
    1.7k
    I think the key word is 'teach'. What does this mean? Inevitably children are taught philosophy. Ideas both implicit about the world, what it is made of, perception, right and wrong epistemology, ontology and much more are all 'taught'. I think it would be excellent to add subersive teaching to this, where the children are challenged via questions and explorations to think about the nature, especially where the adult is also curious and engaged and open.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    My parents (neither college educated) taught me "philosophy" in this manner. I was a teen during the sixties when MANY contentious social issues were on the table. So I'd come home from school with some new idea which I would present in the usual "I'm 17 so I know everything" manner. Whatever opinion I expressed my parents would always jump to the other side of the issue.

    I eventually caught on and joined the game. Whatever anybody school said I'd jump to the other side of the question.

    I painfully remember when the Kent State students were murdered by the national guard. The next day my girlfriend at the time ran up to me almost in tears saying something like, "Isn't it horrible?!!!" Being the totally clueless genius nerd that I am I immediately began an exposition on why public disorder can not be tolerated, or something like that. You can imagine how that went over.... :-(

    To me, that little incident kind of sums up we, um, philosophy giants. Articulate, rational, clueless.

    But not you dear reader, of course I'm talking about those other people over there.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    When I was a teen my Dad and I would often retire to the family room after dinner to engage in debates that could go on long in to the night. As can often happen in philosophy land, sometimes the debates would get overheated and we'd wind up yelling etc. (Remember, it's the sixties, everybody is yelling about everything all the time)

    What was cool about this nonsense was that no matter how overheated our debates got, they never made a dent in the bond of love between us. In fact, it brought my Dad and I closer together to realize that no matter the circumstances, nothing could break that bond.

    And so, being both brilliant and clueless, I've spent the last 25 years unconsciously trying to recreate those early bonding experiences with, um, anonymous strangers on the Internutz. You can imagine how that's gone over.

    Like I said. Articulate, rational, clueless.
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