I had a conversation recently with a colleague about the difference it makes, in his view, when students who have had philosophy in high school enroll in his undergraduate philosophy classes. He said that he almost always recognizes students who have studied philosophy in high school — he observes deeper thinking about the questions explored in the class and an enhanced ability to write and reason well. We talked about the relative invisibility of philosophy in the United States, and the difference it would make if philosophy were a subject (like history) that all high school students studied, the way they do in many European and Latin American countries.
Soon after this discussion, students in a philosophy class taught by Michael Burroughs at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis sent the following comments on to me, reminding me again of the value of philosophy from the students’ points of view.
Aysahn Roach: “What is philosophy? To me philosophy is a class to have group discussions on different philosophers such as Aristotle and Socrates. Not only does this class cause debates, but it also helps us really get into the subjects that we are talking about, such as forgiveness. I would offer this class to anyone who is willing to learn or likes to debate about different subjects.”
Robert Coats: “We discuss key points about life that I would never have thought of. This class allows me to think outside the box. Some topics we have discussed are: the good life, forgiveness, and destiny. We have discussed more but these topics really stick out to me. Other classmates seem to be really interested in these topics and engage in conversation on them. Listening to the thoughts of others and how they perceive a question really gets me thinking. I believe philosophy is not only beneficial to me, but also to the whole class.”