Tuesday, October 1, 2013

End of Term Update: Where Have We Gone?


As Hawaii’s public schools finish the last few days of the first term, I thought it would be the right time to pause and reflect on the philosophical activities students and teachers are engaging in during the school day. I have spent the better part of the past three school years as Kailua High School’s Philosopher in Residence, which means I traded in my own classroom and high school English courses to work alongside nearly 40 teachers who aim to implement (or experiment with) philosophical inquiry into the courses that they teach. I have participated with teachers and students in inquiries from pretty much every subject area on campus (Social Studies, Language Arts, Math, Foreign Languages, Special Education, Art, Health, ROTC, and the Sciences).

I find the willingness of these teachers and students to be revolutionary, which is the reason I wanted to devote this post to simply reflect and share many of the students' questions that have been (and in many cases are still being) explored in Hawaii’s public schools. I see it to be a progress report of sorts.

This term students have created and engaged in meaningful philosophical inquiries concerning the following questions (this list is by no means exhaustive or thematically organized. The intention is to provide a “greatest hits” of the term).

   Where do our thoughts go after we die? Especially if we do not write them down.
   What makes something a “fact”? Is this different than “hard data”?
   What does it mean to “accept” somebody?
   Why would we be willing to destroy nature if we appreciate its beauty?
   What makes a hypothetical example not a “real” example?
   Is it true that in order to see things clearer, you need to go through a bad experience?
   If the definition of immaturity is the inability to think on one’s own, according to Kant, and if no idea is ever original, are we forever immature?
   What makes something art? Is the artist the same thing as the art?
   Is it possible to truly see “things as they are” without interpretation?
   Can we ever say that we “are” somebody? Aren't we always in the process of “becoming”?
   What if your “chosen” path is not your “intended” path?
   What are the reasons some things look better in your head than on paper?
   Can I assume as technology and people's needs of consumption keep increasing, no matter what we do, the environment will continue to decrease?
   What are the reasons enough is never enough? Is satisfaction just an illusion?
   What are the reasons we let fear triumph over all other feelings?
   Can I assume younger drug users get the idea that drugs are “ok” or “fun” from celebrities or media?
   Who deserves a chance to live?
   If there is conflict, then will humans seek peace? Likewise, if there is peace, will humans seek conflict?
   Is there an importance or necessity to waiting? Do humans innately understand this importance?
   In order to be a terrorist, is it necessary to physically harm someone?
   Is there always a value to a variable that makes a statement true?

The questions by themselves are inspiring, but they do not paint the whole picture. The ensuing inquiries are what truly detail the importance of the activity of philosophy. My intention this term is to blog more often and use this space to share the questions and philosophical thoughts of Hawaii’s students in hopes of engaging a larger audience in meaningful philosophical inquiry. As I stated in my first post, I am not entirely sure how to accomplish this objective, but I do know we are all hungry for what the activity of philosophy has to offer. I cannot imagine what our world would look like if the schooling experience provided children the opportunity and skills needed to sit and rigorously inquire into and discuss meaningful topics, such as the ones listed above, with their peers.

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