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Live webchat with A C Grayling and Peter Worley, campaigners for Philosophy in Schools on Tuesday 19th October 2010 between 9 -10 pm

(163 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Oct-10 11:25:04

On Tuesday 19th October between 9 and 10pm we'll be joined by philosopher AC Grayling and Philosophy in Schools expert Peter Worley who are backing the The Philosophy Shop's 4 Rs Campaign.

The aim of The Philosophy Shop's Four Rs (4Rs) campaign is to gain public support for making Reasoning a feature of the school curriculum. A related goal is securing Government commitment to a formal place for Philosophy at all levels of education, not just at university and postgraduate level, so that all young people can benefit.

Join AC Grayling and Peter Worley next Tuesday between 9 and 10pm who'll be happy to answer your questions on philosophy in schools as well any other questions about philosophy or send your advance questions to them here.

Eleison Thu 14-Oct-10 14:30:21

My experience is that SATS, and, later, GCSEs and even A levels, force teachers to require children to approach learning in a more and more uncritical, unthinking way. They are given bite-sized predigested bits of information to learn, bite-sized selections of literature to read. And they are told to answer questions with the specific form of words that examiners are instructed to reward. Answers that are correct but original can miss out on marks. Examiners are less and less skilled (there are even moved towards automated marking by software).

The whole of my children's education is distorted by this tyranny of the demands of assessment over the needs of learning. The critical thinking that was taught across the board by the simple development of properly reflective essaywriting skills has been eroded to the point where university teachers are having to make good the failures of earlier education.

I don't think this deficit will be made good by introducing philosophy, especially given the real danger that it will be introduced in a special 'for schools' over-processed manner. On the contrary I think that proper critical thinking across a range of subjects is a precondition for embarking on philosophy. I would much prefer a campaign to improve the ways in which existing subjects are taught and assessed.

CaptainNancy Thu 14-Oct-10 14:36:57

<<marks place, opens dictionary...>>

sandy06 Thu 14-Oct-10 20:22:05

Great idea to bring philosophy into schools. My son has just started in reception and his school "teaches" philosophy eg they encourage children to realise that sometimes there aren't always answers to questions, that the process is as important as the result etc. We need such initiatives that encourage our children to think, question, explore - especially in these times of excessive testing, so they aren't just learning by rote, and so they learn early on how to work out moral dilemmas etc.

Yes philosophy underlines so many aspects of our day to day life, helping us live valuable lives (partic in the absense of spiritual guidance for many).

I studied Philosopy as part of a dual degree at Uni (therefore greatly pleased to have a chance to communicate with AC Grayling and Peter Worley, thanks Mumsnet); I came to it through a love of literature and art, not through it being taught directly at school. But think how it could get kids really thinking and engaged if it were taught at primary and secondary level - the challenge would be how to make it interesting, relevant and exciting.

Jux Fri 15-Oct-10 08:44:58

Yes, go for it, and as soon as possible. Does an apple taste the same to you as it does to me? Am I a brain in a vat? What is consciousness? Dubito ergo sum, and all that. The earlier it can be introduced the better.

sfxmum Fri 15-Oct-10 11:47:55

when I was in the equivalent of year 6 and until the end of secondary philosophy was a core subject at school (foreign, state school aeons ago)
I did not realise it was not the norm in Britain

EdgarAllInPink Fri 15-Oct-10 16:36:18

if you do want philosophy in school, then it has to be meaningful to be worthwhile - i saw philosophy lessons for sub-16s in France that were all Chalk & talk and no discussion. Worthless - without an active debate the class are just learning ideas - i doubt somehow that can be achieved in typical UK pre-16 classes.

Appletrees Fri 15-Oct-10 23:15:14

I think this is great. I'd like to see a lot of logic on there. I have a couple of questions.

How would you introduce it for primary?
Is it just vague "let's ask a lot of intriguing questions" or will there be teaching of logic and clarity of thought?

Doesn't philosophy as a discipline rely on a pretty firm grasp of perceived reality on the part of the philosopher? Which the early years child will probably not have. They find it easy to mix up fact, fantasy, truth, reality, dreams, imagination, the literal. How is a six year old going to conceptualise a table not being real, for the purposes of an argument, or the sound of a tree falling in a wood when no one is there.

Likewise how about moral philosophy -- you are going to run into some problems there. Parents might get a bit sticky if teachers tell their kids there may not after all be such a thing as "good" in itself, and it is all relative. How will you keep teacher bias out of moral philosophy? At higher levels the student has enough acuity to read teacher bias, and it's probably not hidden anyway, so it doesn't matter. In early education they are utterly trusting of their teacher.

I think this is going to be a lot of 13-year-olds talking about abortion. Tell me I'm wrong.

Appletrees Fri 15-Oct-10 23:16:32

I mean, I think it could be great, it's a great idea. But I bet it will be dumbed down and over processed to nothing until it's eventually added to the curriculum.

Shallishanti Fri 15-Oct-10 23:27:05

there is already a lot of expertise and experience around the use of philosophical thinking in all types of schools check out folks would be a shame to reinvent the wheel.

Eleison Sat 16-Oct-10 09:42:52

That link doesn't seem to work, Shalli.

It is true that there is already related work. My sons have something called 'Ethics and Philosophy' as a subject at sec school. It makes me shudder, really, as it is so poor, really just rebranded RE without the challenge of having to use religious knowledge as a startpoint for reflection (I know religion is not an essential startpoint, but it is a possible one, that also has the benefit of conveying cultural knowledge)
And 'critical thinking' is offered as a course in sixth form. It claims to teach a properly questioning approach, the capacity to evaluate evidence and reasoning, etc. But this should and could be something taught in all subjects. It is a procedural virtue that students need grounding in throughout their thought -- one that has been eroded by the assessment system and might be further eroded by chucking in another, novel, watered-down version of a subject

EdgarAllInPink Sat 16-Oct-10 13:53:26

Unfortunately eleison that is what i fear. I have a Masters in philosophy too - it's not that i don't see the value in the subject. I don't see how you can communicate philosophical ideas at any worthwhile level to younger kids. Even sixth formers struggle with notions such as existence not being a quality...The language required for many of the key notions is quite higher level. Unless you are just teaching Ethics e.g 'Is abortion moraly permissible'?

English language currently (i believe) includes a discursive wriitng element - where there is scope for writing opinion pieces such as that.

I'm thinking time could be carved out of RE time (where the same question could be asked.), but as that is theoreticaly a legal requirement : how?

TwentiethCenturyHell Sat 16-Oct-10 13:56:42

I'd love to see more philosophy (especially logic) taught in schools. I did Ethics and Philosophy at sixth form (actually RE) and it was a great course. Three out of 6 of us doing the course went on to do Philosophy at university, including me. There does seem to be quite a lot of misunderstanding about what the subject actually entails IME.

Shallishanti Sat 16-Oct-10 15:31:06

or just google P4C

nogwells Sat 16-Oct-10 20:34:39

There is something called Critical Thinking at DSS's school although he is only in year 7 and it is a GCSE onwards subject. I'm not sure I understand philosophy myself, but if I were taught it would understand it just as well as I can say I understand higher maths. I'd certainly be behind any move towards expanding thought and reason in schools and it isn't philosophy but anything that encourages discussion and discovery should be what school is about.

ClaireyFairy82 Sat 16-Oct-10 20:51:27

I think this is a great idea and wouldn've been one of the changes covered in the New National Curriculum, that shouldn've started next September, until the new gov came in a ditched it! So it's not going to happen any time soon I'm afraid.

I'd love to teach skills of learning more than content, but Michael Gove likes to keep subjects in boxes.

Leo35 Mon 18-Oct-10 13:33:26

Another Philosophy grad here. I have read the Go Petition statement and also the comments above and I am looking forward to a lively argument tomorrow night: in the best possible sense and meaning of argument of course!

It's a wonderful subject and the basis of all learning: the ability to question and reason. It should also sharpen up pupil's written work and verbal powers.

There's a lot of opportunity there, but how is it to be done? I read with interest all the comments from Mumsnetters with children much further into the education system than mine are.

Looking forward to the webchat, and I think the first question is how is to be done given that we generally all think that Philosophy is A Good Thing? Are there no dissenting voices on this first point?

I also note that the emphasis is on reasoning rather than philosphy/history of ideas. I'd like them to expand on this, just for clarity rather than any belief that the latter would be the way forward.

Will try to think of some pertinent questions before 9pm tomorrow!

dawntigga Tue 19-Oct-10 12:48:35

Marks place.


BeesBump Tue 19-Oct-10 12:50:35

Yet another philosophy grad here!

Exited to see a real push for philosophy / reasoning / critical thinking to be taught more openly in schools. It does of course already happen through RS / RE and Ethics and Philosophy courses, but this is down to the interests of the individual teachers and schools.
I have taught RS and Philosophy to 11 - 18 year olds for 11 years, the last 7 years at A Level where we make a point of distinguishing the two subjects, which is important in any introduction in schools. My experience is that kids love philosophy with some of the debates that are possible. However the real value lies in learning reasoning skills. This should be possible at all stages as the content can be chosen to suit the age group...(there is an A level in Critical Thinking which introduces the skills which are then practiced against scenarios / news stories / historic events etc.)
- Would like to know what thoughts people have about how this might be built into schools teaching, appropriate training and that it shouldn't be assumed that the RE teacher is the one to take it on (although it might be)!

hatwoman Tue 19-Oct-10 13:29:13

agree very strongly with those who have mentioned logic. I did philosophy as an undergrad and although reading and thinking about Descartes and Plato and pondering whether an action could be morally the same as inaction was great fun the thing that was the best fun - and which has stood me in incredible good sted in my adult professional life - was formal logic. It still informs so much of what I do - I write reports and I use law a lot in my work and logic is always there. It helps me think, helps me formulate arguments, helps me write. It helps me pare things down - sort relevant from irrelevant info. I have seen some awful pieces of written work by people with degrees (arts and social sciences) who have never grasped any of this. And it's a real shame because it's not rocket science.

(and in the interests of declaring my real old fogey-ness I'd get everyone doing Latin too - a linguistic applicaton of logic. The world would be a much better place with a dose of logic and latin grin)

WreckOfTheHesperus Tue 19-Oct-10 13:29:59

Could perhaps be combined with learning how to debate? I think that reasoning and debate go hand-in-hand, and are excellent in encouraging assertiveness and confidence as well.

Apologies if I missed it on your website, but, in these cash-strapped times, has your proposal been costed?

SkippyjonJones Tue 19-Oct-10 14:11:47

Brilliant idea. It is taught in my dds school and I can see how it has improved their reasoning skills already. Meal time discussions have become very interesting. It should be taught in all schools.

Pernickety Tue 19-Oct-10 14:33:22

Another Philosophy graduate here too. I still get so many people rolling their eyes when I declare what my first degree subject was. It took me until a few years after graduation to be proud of it.

I would love to see philosophy in primary and secondary schools, maybe framed in a 'learning how to think' and 'undertsanding how we form our beliefs' sort of context.

I do wonder how the subject would be facilitated and by whom? What sort of training would teachers need?

Socy Tue 19-Oct-10 14:56:58

I also did philosophy as half of my first degree, but I agree with Beesbump and others that the emphasis for school children (at least pre-A level) should be on reasoning or critical thinking - which I took as part of my philosophy course.

I think critical thinking A level should be the default instead of the current General Studies - it is far more useful when you get to university. Teaching A level students 'how to read critically' would also make the change to university easier for them, and is anyway a useful life skill.

Who would teach it? Currently unemployed philosophy graduates of course!

WowOoo Tue 19-Oct-10 16:40:36

I'll be working when Mr.Grayling is here. Oh no no no.

We have many of your books and love them! Thanks.

Totally back this campaign.

Reasoning, logic and critical thinking can be taught at varying levels in primary. Many many excellent teachers already do so!

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