Don’t Know Much Philosophy

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Paul Hostetler /

It’s no secret that the American education system is in need of a serious lesson–or even a radical upheaval. There’s never a shortage of discussion about the shortcomings of the teaching profession, and most of our so-called experts can’t even seem to agree on what subjects should be taught in our schools, let alone how.

Writing in the Indypendent (Sept. 8, 2010), Stanley Aronowitz takes all those gripes a step further and examines the conspicuous absence of philosophy classes from the curriculum of secondary schools. Aronowitz sees this as a “telltale sign that we don’t take critical thinking seriously as an educational goal” and argues that a philosophical foundation is an essential tool for discerning and skeptical students and citizens.

Aronowitz acknowledges that some educational overhaul would be necessary for reform to take place. He proposes that education majors be encouraged to focus on subject matter with additional studies devoted to fostering critical thinking. Experienced teachers, he suggests, should be engaged in curriculum planning and encouraged to broaden their own interests. Given the current state of things, that all sounds like an academic’s pipe dream, of course, but Aronowitz gets an A for his willingness to dream big.

This article first appeared in the January-February 2011 issue of Utne Reader.

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