Page 26 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Why teach philosophy?
Leading academics claim children must be taught
to think for themselves rather than just taught to pass tests. Speaking at a conference at Cranleigh School in Surrey the group of philosophers explained how a philosophical curriculum is vital to help young people survive in a world dominated by political and social complexity.
The group believes that the introduction of subject-based philosophical enquiry and ‘thinking’ methods would:
• enable children to develop as con dent, independent thinkers, equipped with the strength of character to  ourish in a complex, rapidly-changing world;
• create increased empathy in young people that would improve the world for future generations;
• teach children to understand how to interrogate sources and better understand what is real or fake news;
• enable children to better cope with virtual reality and social media;
• enable children to confront and deal with failure and disappointment;
• develop better, more understanding, future leaders and public servants.
Dr John Taylor, Director
of Learning, Teaching and Innovation at Cranleigh School reports on the Conference as he asks ‘Why Teach Philosophy?’
Becoming a school of thought
Since philosophy is the art that teaches us how to live, and since children need it just as much as adults, why do we not teach it to them? The question was asked over 400 years ago by Montaigne. It remains as pertinent as ever, as over 100 delegates at Cranleigh School’s inaugural School Philosophy Conference would attest. They gathered in the spring sunshine on March 16th to hear from world-renowned advocates of the teaching of philosophy in schools, Professor AC Grayling
and Professor Angie Hobbs, and to participate in workshops run by leading practitioners from groups such as The Philosophy Foundation, SAPERE and A
Level Philosophy. The conference also featured an update on the proposed GCSE Philosophy and an introduction to a programme designed to allow philosophical and ethical study to be embedded within the curriculum for 14 - 16 year olds by means of the Higher Project Quali cation.
The educational value of philosophy teaching is not to be found merely by its inclusion as a discrete curriculum subject. Philosophy belongs within education as an integral part of the processes of teaching and
learning. It is no coincidence that it was the philosophers of Ancient Greece who established the  rst schools. For life itself is a source of philosophy and ethical challenges, so if we are serious about seeing education as a preparation for
the whole of life (as opposed
to training for work, or, more narrowly still, assessment hoop jumping), philosophical thinking must be part and parcel of all aspects of schooling.
At Cranleigh, we are on a
journey of discovery,  nding out what it means to see teaching and learning as philosophical activities. It means  nding more time for open-ended questioning, taking seriously the idea of letting students formulate,
test and re ne their own ideas, and becoming accustomed, as teachers, to not always jumping in with the right answer, but being ready to ask the right question – the one that will help the student to see for themselves how to take the next step.
In concrete terms, implementing ‘Cranleigh Thinking’ is being made possible through a series
of curriculum changes: the introduction of 50 minute lessons, allowing time for re ection and discussion, the piloting of the Foundation Project in year 7 at
Cranleigh Prep School, the creation of a programme of seminars for sixth formers exploring history, ethics, culture and philosophy as
a preparation for Extended Project work and from this September,
the launch of a similar programme for GCSE students, linked to the Higher Project.
Beyond this, we are beginning to embrace philosophical questioning in all subject areas. One notable instance: our Director of Music
ran a philosophical discussion with a year 9 class on the question ‘If you discover that a composer was wicked, should this knowledge affect your enjoyment of their music?’
This is a perfect illustration of how readily we can move from
the topics we teach everyday
into a rich world of philosophical questions. If we want our students to do more than simply leave school with their heads full of the ‘facts they need to know’ – if we want them to learn to think for themselves and form their own understanding of what they have been taught – then we need to go back to where schooling began, with teachers joining young people in the shared pursuit of philosophical understanding. We need our schools to be schools of philosophical thought.
26 Independent Schools Magazine
Peter Worley, Emma Worley, Professor AC Grayling, Professor Angie Hobbs, John Taylor, Michael Lacewing, Lizzy Lewis
For conference presentations see

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