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Philosophy: Not Just for the Ivory Tower Anymore?

I don't know about you, but the first and last philosophy class I ever took was in college. Well, the Squire Family Foundation has been working for some time to change that and is co-sponsoring a two-day conference this month at Teachers College, Columbia University, on teaching the subject to young students.

Thumbnail image for Plato-raphael.JPG

The June 28-29 conference, according to a Squire Foundation press release, aims "to provide precollege teachers with the tools and resources they need to teach philosophy to students in elementary, middle, and high schools."

Among the panels to be offered are:

• Philosophical Sensitivity and Preparation of K-12 Philosophy Teachers
• Ethics in the Classroom
• Metaphysics in the Classroom
• Collaborative Models for Teaching Pre-College Philosophy

Other co-sponsors for the event include the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy and the Teachers College program in Philosophy and Education. The conference is billed as the first PLATO Institute. (PLATO is short for the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, a national network for those who teach precollege philosophy.)

I have to imagine some folks who believe subjects like social studies, science, and music aren't getting enough time in the classroom may be leery of trying to add still another subject to the mix.

But in a story my colleague Mary Ann Zehr wrote a couple of years back about the Squire Foundation's work to get philosophy into the curriculum, the group's executive director offered her rationale for why it's a good idea, and may well have benefits that go beyond that subject.

"Some administrators are reluctant to offer [philosophy] because if you offer a new course, you have to take another one away," said Roberta Israeloff, the director of the Squire Family Foundation. "We're trying to show that kids who take philosophy do better on standardized tests because it improves critical thinking and creative thinking."

Image: Plato, from Raphael's painting, "The School of Athens"

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