My Daughter goes to a school with core requirements. One of the requirements is that she take two semesters of philosophy. As she sat to register for classes last August and looked at the course offerings, she was briefly upset that she did not choose the school with no core. The class she least looked forward to taking was philosophy, but she figured she would try to get rid of it right away so it wasn’t a weight around her neck. So Intro to Philosophy was on the fall schedule for Freshman year.

Fast forward to this week when I asked her what her favorite class was:

“Philosophy”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because there are no right or wrong answers. Everything is a why. I love that. It makes you think about both sides of an argument”. She answered.

Makes you think about both sides of an argument.

Remember when I screamed that should be teaching for home economics? Well, now I have a call for them to teach philosophy. We don’t need philosophers, but we do need people that think like them.

I think that people have forgotten how to think. Or worse off, they never learned.

In a world of standardized tests, how often are kids allowed to think about anything? And is thinking penalized? Last week I wrote a hypothetical example. People interpreted it at least three different ways from what was in my mind when I wrote it, and each point was equally valid. Is anyone really equipped to analyze a passage of something and choose A,B, C or D? How does the creator of a test really know what the author intent was on a passage?

My daughter is an out of the box thinker (hence the apparent love of philosophy) But being an out of the box thinker means that standardized tests on ELA are not her friend. So she had to learn how to take a test- she had to teach herself how to find the most generic answer to a question on a reading passage. True, she “learned”, but was that the most valuable way for her to spend her time? To figure out what answer was the least creative and thought provoking?

My Daughter also chose a certain size college so that there would be a relatively low student:teacher ratio. Her rationale was that she does better on papers as opposed to tests, because given space, she is able to prove her thought process in a way that multiple choice just won’t do. True or false is limiting. What if it’s a combination of both?

Why have we limited ourselves to two or three choices? Why are we so quick to pick one way or another?

When did we decide to be sheep and just follow a specific flock, instead of being the lone wolf who chooses to think their own way? Remeber the old chinese food joke, pick one from column A and one from column B? Shouldn’t our thought process more resemble that? I think this hypothesis is good, but I don’t like this other implication, but over on the other side, this one statement makes sense, so lets come up with a new way of thinking?

Why do we blindly follow all the steps of a tenet just because it’s our “side”? Why are we letting others dictate our behavior and thoughts? When did we lose our individuality?

When did we forget that thinking was the most important thing?

 

 

46 thoughts on “Let’s Philosophize

  1. If your daughter is at a school where they genuinely encourage “out of the box” thinking, she’s fortunate. Sadly, several of my kids paid a price for expressing their thoughts..so much so that I found myself advising them to just “give the professor what he/she wants.” You need the grades to get into grad school? – you’d better play the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved philosophy so YAY for her. So much so in fact that I tutored in a program that was all about teaching critical thinking skills to mid/high schoolers. It was actually painful to sit with them and see them struggle to not give rote answers. Even worse to watch them turn off when I began to prompt them to actually use their heads. They had no idea that life wasn’t black or white and I really wanted all the shades of gray to be explored.
    Socialization to conform begins early, as babies even, if you think about all the times parents simply shut down self-expression in the guise of rule setting.
    We forget how to listen and our children never learn to think.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Well said. I’ve always one of those questioners, to the point where at my first job that called me “yeah, but” because I always had a follow up. This is what happens when we don’t hav3 conversations….we conform and settle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Settle is an appropriate word. Without encouragement to seek ideas or options adults become mouthpieces who simply repeat what they hear… and we are back to social media without facts or real engagement 😦

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m curious, in working with children did you feel you could teach them intellectual curiosity? Is it akin to some just have it, inherently, or did you find that it could be instilled?

      And to high school kids did you note any intellectual dishonestly. Like holding beliefs they could not justify and against evidence to the contrary, continued to hold or re-evaluate.

      And here’s my real question, in teaching critical thinking skills did you find the obstacles to be more facilities, like reading comprehension and native intelligence, or for lack of a better term, character flaws or virtues, like open mindedness, or a lack of intellectual courage.

      Is this more about acquired skills or an unlearned personal attitude?

      Thanks

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These are great questions, I will do my best to answer.
        This tutoring was part of a program in the public school system designed to help intellectually capable/skilled kids who were either, or both, unmotivated or circumstantially marginalized, to prep for college with the emphasis on critical thinking/reading/writing.

        My role in the process: to help model how to go beyond, to go deeper, to spark that intellectual curiosity you mention rather than simply settling for the expected answer. I saw the spark in some, but this was a group situation and as with any system limitation, time was not on our side. Those with the interest were also tempered by the others in the group who, I believe, had come into the process for what they saw as an easy way to get homework help. The right motivation brought out early signs that the skills were there, they just needed to be unlocked in those who bought into what the program was attempting to do. I wanted to take those kids aside, work with them one-on-one, but that wasn’t in the cards either.

        My high school group was smaller, extremely diverse but much more focused on specific topical skills. They had little to no interest in taking part in the process, but I found ways to dig deeper with them and push them to deepen their thought process anyway. We rarely stayed on topic, but when approached about more generalized topics central to their lives I could again see they had the abilities and would engage without bias. I would describe them as more resolute in their thinking. They had the abilities to question and dig, but saw no real purpose.

        As to your last question, and something I found fascinating with the sociological background I have, was that I firmly believe 50-75% of the kids I worked with had a latent ability to think critically, to question and dig. However, they lived, socialized and learned in environments that didn’t encourage that. Society hadn’t encouraged that. And yes, class, race, gender… play a role as well, but the abilities were there inside of them. Of course, that was the point of the program and it was new. The plan was to start the process early, elementary school or earlier, but this school system took a backwards approach.
        Ideally, starting from the moment any/all kids enter the system at the preschool level immediately begins the process of tapping into the potential that they already have to ask why, and then reinforces the skills.
        Even with programs and curriculum such as this that start from day 1, there has to be reinforcement from family, friends, community… those factors play a huge roll as well.

        Complicated issues, but bottom line, from what I witnessed, the potential is there to see kids, all kids, become exceptional, thinking, engaged adults if they are given the chance.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Wow, what a thorough and informative responce. I very much appreciate it. And thank you so much for the effort, energy, and time this reply must have taken. I can only imagine the high level of commitment you brought to your students as evidenced by your answer here.

        I was hearten on the whole by the programs intent, and then crestfallen by the proverbial nurture/nature bugaboo, but rallied again by your …50/75% have a shot at not just sleepwalking through it all.

        Because social media applications and the techniques used to manipulate mass public interaction damn near minute by minute alarm clocks the need
        for an epistemology wake-up call.

        Thanks again Deb, and enjoy your weekend.

        Regards,
        Doug

        Liked by 4 people

  3. One of my personal soap boxes, too. It bleeds into all areas of life. An unemotional one that’s easy to discuss is in the realm of retail/tech advances. Whenever something new is put out on the market declaring it will eliminate the need for the ‘other’ old technology (paper hardcopy files, thumbdrive storage vs cloud storage, smart phones vs desk top computers, cds vs mp3s….for example) I say, “Why not ‘in addition to’ rather than ‘instead of’?”
    Have a great weekend, LA.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. YES. So much! To all of this.

    Philosophy was the one class that T-boned my brain in a most enriching way. In the first class, the professor just let us have it by asking “why?” to every single intellectual answer we could muster. I could never wrap my head completely around the class, and I loved it.

    Original thoughts and different personalities aren’t always embraced. I mean, people talk a good game about respecting the differences, but they really don’t want to understand them. It’s a matter of expediency and long since held beliefs that things should ‘fit’ a certain way. Which is when I always borrow that professor’s “why?”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re right….no pun…..people are so consumed with being right that they’re egotistical in thinking that anyone else has a valid point, thought or idea. It’s disheartening

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Another good one here! My kids have started questioning why I do certain things the way I do and the answer is invariably “because that’s the way I was taught.” They are teaching me to think about alternatives. Sometimes my way is still the best way but occasionally they come up with some logical replacements. Happy World Smile Day!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ll smile to your wife while you lie to her about your mistress, and nod knowing, with an oh so slight eye roll, when you roll about that nonexistence IPO you float to impress at the party,, but if you’re an intellectually bully, or are intellectually lazy, or God forbid, intellectually dishonest with me, you are forever on my shit list.

    One’s personal life is their conjure and while one may be a “cad” by design and honest admission, well…I can be o.k. with that. Sorta.

    But our collective world is magical enough. We often need to sit and think a spell. To better protect self and others from those who try to hex our understandings and appreciation for the consequences in the here and now. From those who choose to pixie(or now pixel) dust a particular narrative to achieve power or payment or particular beneficial beliefs.

    They, and ain’t there always a they, have learned to attack and attach a wizardry to the very facilities by which we process and decipher the codes of our shared understandings
    of the workings of our relation and reactions to the realities of world. I frowning at you Facebook, and playing tattletale, Twitter. And Instagram, your this years itch.

    You want to practice wellness. Think about your intellectual health. And how to better it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, LA. Love that your daughter’s enjoying philosophy. It sounds like she has a good prof too. I did science in college and spent my work life as a computer science prof, but my favourite thing in retirement is getting together with some other retired profs from different disciplines to discuss the philosophy readings we’ve assigned ourselves! Definitely no right or wrong answers. Mind you, all of our spouses think we’re nuts!! Anyway, it sounds like your daughter is getting exactly what she should be at her school. Learning new things, growing as a person.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My mother used to say that no education is wasted because it teaches you to learn, question and formulate opinions. Of course she lived in a time where education was not as costly as it is today. I still believe that any type of education is not wasted, there are so many types, traditional, trade based, experiential, certificate based- it all counts as learning and as your daughter has found out education takes many forms. The world needs more out of the box thinkers, hell we need more thinkers!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good for her, one of my biggest bugbears when I worked in a school was the fact that children were told how to think, never question. Yes there were lessons when they were asked ‘why does this happen’ but if the answer wasn’t the one that was acceptable it was dismissed without a thought. Even in art, a lesson that should encourage free thought, the children were told exactly what to/and where to paint draw. So every piece of art work was the same.

    The times we live in now are not helping thinking, I found myself heading to the internet more and more to see how somethings were repaired/made instead of taking the time to think it through and do it for myself. I have stopped that now. Stat navs have stopped people reading maps or using their inner compasses, and don’t get me started alexa. The internet tells the un-inquiring mind what to think, very few people think or question any more. It is a very real worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your daughter is fortunate to follow these classes. I had a few philosophy classes at college and it changed my way of thinking completely. Today with social media and algorithms determining what you see online we are even more challenged to really think for ourselves. Making up your own opinion after checking different sources, stating and debating seems to be a real challenge for many. I think that philosophy helps growing this ability that is vital! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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