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Should Philosophy be mandatory for all secondary school students in the UK?

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  • View Poll Results: Should Philosophy be compulsory for all UK students?
    Yes.
    43
    32.33%
    No.
    38
    28.57%
    They should actively encourage it, and 'no'.
    47
    35.34%
    They should actively discourage it (xD?)
    5
    3.76%

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    (Original post by TheSelfAcknowleged)
    Personally I think we'd need greater social shifts though: maybe the state (through education) can legislate for this? Hmm... that's a difficult question, don't you think?
    The state, in my experience, tends not to smile upon a system of education that enables the transfusion of critical thinking in the collective consciousness.

    All modern day nation states, which today have a greater tendency to centralize power and regulate than ever before, use education to mould a docile, obidient citizenry. They propagate the myth that their national-or "imagined" community in the words of Benedict Anderson-is primordial and hence special.

    This is especially the case with the state in which I live (Pakistan). The education-even the university of cambridge O levels- propagates a hyper-nationalist and militarist narrative leaving many students with a strong sense of cultural and national exceptionalism that stifles their ability to engage critically with societal and global problems.

    We need reform of secondary education but i do not expect the state to spearhead that change. It is more concerned with utilitarian productivity than proper education.

    Sorry if i sound a bit leftist here, but this is what i think based on my best judgement. I may be wrong.


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    (Original post by The Owl of Minerva)
    The state, in my experience, tends not to smile upon a system of education that enables the transfusion of critical thinking in the collective consciousness.

    All modern day nation states, which today have a greater tendency to centralize power and regulate than ever before, use education to mould a docile, obidient citizenry. They propagate the myth that their national-or "imagined" community in the words of Benedict Anderson-is primordial and hence special.

    This is especially the case with the state in which I live (Pakistan). The education-even the university of cambridge O levels- propagates a hyper-nationalist and militarist narrative leaving many students with a strong sense of cultural and national exceptionalism that stifles their ability to engage critically with societal and global problems.

    We need reform of secondary education but i do not expect the state to spearhead that change. It is more concerned with utilitarian productivity than proper education.

    Sorry if i sound a bit leftist here, but this is what i think based on my best judgement. I may be wrong.


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    No you raise very good points. But the utilitarian approach does have it's advantages though: I guess it's a debate about whether or not actually teaching people things meaningfully is practical and needed and will create greater benefits.
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    (Original post by Zedd)
    I'm happy for you. But for the majority of people the tools which philosophy uses can be, to lesser or greater extents, learned via more practical subjects. With the topic of this thread being: 'Should [p]hilosophy be mandatory for all secondary school students in the UK?' (rather than: 'Is high-school philosophy worthless?') then my answer is a most definite 'no'.

    For what it's worth, philosophy only becomes difficult at honours level and even then it's simply because pleasing highly critical people is, clearly, a rather difficult thing to do.
    May I ask what your main focus would be in terms of an ideal national curriculum? Would you advocate greater knowledge in the sciences or do you believe certain humanities e.g. are more important than others?
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    (Original post by sinfonietta)
    We did learn basic philosophy in mandatory RE classes at the school I went to (I was in secondary 2004-2009 / RE was mandatory for students for the first four years). Then I studied it again this past session (2011-2012) simply out of interest - but I won't be studying it again (formally, anyway) in future.


    No, I don't think it should be mandatory. It would just be another course that takes up space in a student's timetable when they could be studying something they actually want to learn about instead. :/
    Oh, well I went to a Catholic school :P
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    Well I love Philosophy so much that I went and did a degree in it so I suppose you'd expect me to say yes. But no. I don't think it should be compulsory at all. I think people find Philosophy, or gravitate towards it, because they are suited to it. I don't think you can force it on people. I'm wholy against the idea that just because you enjoy something or just because you think something was worthwhile for yourself, then it should be mandatory for all. I would rather that it be an option for all.

    I grew to despise most of the subjects that were compulsory at school because SATs/GCSEs/A levels are all about jumping through hoops and churning out responses in exams/coursework that exam boards want to hear. Read any mark scheme on AQA etc and you'll see it straight away. There's no space to explore subjects from different perspectives - it's their way or no way. There is no encouragement to actually enjoy the subjects or retain any of the information for the long term - everything is taught and assessed with the goal to passing an exam. Passing an exam does not an educated person make. It's pretty soul destroying. For that reason, I wouldn't want anyone's experience of Philosophy to be tarnished by exam boards and the secondary educational system.

    Also, I fear that it wouldn't be taken very seriously by a lot of kids. I went to a Catholic school and Religious Studies was compulsory from 11-16. You would think that in a Catholic school of all places, kids would have at least some respect for RS, but they didn't. RS was an excuse for the majority of the class to mess around and take advantage of the tutors gentle nature - they basically just made facetious remarks about religion or talked among themselves for the entirety of the class. By the age of 15-16 the tutors just put videos on in the lessons and gave us easy stuff like having a whole page of Bible chapters and verses on a sheet and having to write down a short summary of that particular passage. When I worked as a teaching assistant for year 3 in primary school the tutor did the exact same exercise - they were 7-8 year olds.

    I would rather that Philosophy be an optional subject in all schools. At my school, philosophy was not offered at all - the nearest thing to it was 'Religious Studies'. Luckily, A-level religious studies has elements of philosophy in it which started my interest in it as a degree choice. So I was never forced to have an interest in philosophy - it was presented to me in an optional subject when I was 16-18.
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    (Original post by TheSelfAcknowleged)
    No you raise very good points. But the utilitarian approach does have it's advantages though: I guess it's a debate about whether or not actually teaching people things meaningfully is practical and needed and will create greater benefits.
    Of course. It is true that calculated utilitarian benefits are important to consider. However in this debate that you have mentioned, i fear that the state will rule out a reformed pedagogy as unpragmatic and not worth its time and energy.

    Indeed in the current economic climate, the humanities and social sciences have suffered the most disproporionate, severe and crippling funding cuts. This tells one a lot about the priorities of the state. Hence my stance that reform which actually brings about a more philosophically informed pedagogy will never come about through the actions of the state.

    Surely there must be some other way?


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    I don't think it should be compulsory to be taught at secondary school.

    To be honest, I can't see it being taught very well. I doubt there'll be enough philosophy graduates who want to teach at secondary school, especially as many kids will go with the whole 'this is pointless rubbish' view and not bother. Therefore, many teachers teaching the subject wouldn't really have much idea about it, which would be worse for the subject. After all, these pretend philosopher teachers would encourage sophistry, not philosophy, and it would taint the view of true philosophy (nice Plato argument I had to throw in ).

    However, I do believe it should be encouraged, and perhaps bought up in the occasional lesson. After school clubs with say debating on a more philosophical level (questioning commonly accepted views, for example) or mentioning it to people who may be interested would be good. The trouble is, the necessary jump to A-Level philosophy is too much for many, but that is the unfortunate happening of the subject at this time.
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    (Original post by TheSelfAcknowleged)
    I agree.

    Also, I personally think the sciences are harder generally speaking for most people; in fact I got a C at AS-Level maths (despite getting an A* at GCSE and being predicted an A ).

    But maybe we need to change the whole structure of education. What does it mean to be educated? Does it mean being good at rational thinking or is it more practically applicable. Of course they're not mutually exclusive and often highly intertwined: but you get what I mean. Personally I think some form of seperation or streaming is needed in our education system: it seems a bit irrelevant to our potential. Some are better critical thinkers, whereas some have other just as relevant talents <-inserts Aristotle's virtue theory here about flourishing by exercising function ->.
    I completely agree with you! i dont think that the exams lend themselves to intelligent people, except for perhaps English. But A levels are just a memory game, i dont think you even need to understand the information so long as you are able to remember it, for some the phrases "in intellectu" or "reductio ad absurdum" mean nothing but they are able to apply it.
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    Im with everyone claiming an abscence or even supression of critical thought in education, its ridiculous as a rule you are penalized for maintaining a definite opinion in Essay subjects you simply learn topic matter and regurgitate. a general integration of critical thinking into our education system is important but I don't think compulsory philosophy is they way to go, it should simply permeate in all subjects in fact religious studies should b made compulsory from an early primary age, in such a religiously plural country like the United Kingdom it would breed practical understanding, without producing empty headed respect for the religious, it would mitigate the stupidity of fundamentalism and intolerance on both sides, maybe ethics would be worth making compulsory.


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    No. If I wanted to read some philosophy (incidentally I do like to now and then) then I'll do it on my terms, reading what I am interested in. I certainly wouldn't want to have be examined on a subject which is, essentially, all opinions, however.
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    (Original post by AspiringGenius)
    It's a nice idea, but in reality, it would become a joke subject like RS at GCSE. Many students before A Level stage are just mentally not in the mindset to study philospohy. I can imagine the uproar at my previous (low performing state) school, where things like "why do we have to do philosophy. It's bull****." will be said.

    It will be a nightmare to teach to students who don't want to learn it, teachers will avoid it and it will become a necessary evil for the school who dnnt want to do it, but are required to.

    Also, when the majority of low performing state school pupils are going to end up in vocational manual jobs, what is the aim of philospohy. On a very pragmatic level, it is no use whatsoever to them.

    Give philosophy the respect it deserves and leave it as optional. That doesn't mean it should be encouraged for students aiming at academia
    It's nauht truee!!
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    I really enjoyed doing philosophy at A-level but making it mandatory means that everyone who doesn't care will just make it awful for those who do :I

    It's definitely a useful subject but a fair amount of employers don't understand this, and that's usually the criteria for making a subject compulsory.
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    (Original post by Fatfis)
    Im with everyone claiming an abscence or even supression of critical thought in education, its ridiculous as a rule you are penalized for maintaining a definite opinion in Essay subjects you simply learn topic matter and regurgitate. a general integration of critical thinking into our education system is important but I don't think compulsory philosophy is they way to go, it should simply permeate in all subjects in fact religious studies should b made compulsory from an early primary age, in such a religiously plural country like the United Kingdom it would breed practical understanding, without producing empty headed respect for the religious, it would mitigate the stupidity of fundamentalism and intolerance on both sides, maybe ethics would be worth making compulsory.


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    I agree. I too am arguing for a more philosophically informed ciriculum and pedagogy rather than making philosophy compulsory. The latter approach is, i believe, not only impossible due to limitations imposed by the state but will also create a backlash by the public.

    I have to admit though, the prospect is appealing to me.


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    (Original post by somethingbeautiful)
    Well I love Philosophy so much that I went and did a degree in it so I suppose you'd expect me to say yes. But no. I don't think it should be compulsory at all. I think people find Philosophy, or gravitate towards it, because they are suited to it. I don't think you can force it on people. I'm wholy against the idea that just because you enjoy something or just because you think something was worthwhile for yourself, then it should be mandatory for all. I would rather that it be an option for all.

    I grew to despise most of the subjects that were compulsory at school because SATs/GCSEs/A levels are all about jumping through hoops and churning out responses in exams/coursework that exam boards want to hear. Read any mark scheme on AQA etc and you'll see it straight away. There's no space to explore subjects from different perspectives - it's their way or no way. There is no encouragement to actually enjoy the subjects or retain any of the information for the long term - everything is taught and assessed with the goal to passing an exam. Passing an exam does not an educated person make. It's pretty soul destroying. For that reason, I wouldn't want anyone's experience of Philosophy to be tarnished by exam boards and the secondary educational system.

    Also, I fear that it wouldn't be taken very seriously by a lot of kids. I went to a Catholic school and Religious Studies was compulsory from 11-16. You would think that in a Catholic school of all places, kids would have at least some respect for RS, but they didn't. RS was an excuse for the majority of the class to mess around and take advantage of the tutors gentle nature - they basically just made facetious remarks about religion or talked among themselves for the entirety of the class. By the age of 15-16 the tutors just put videos on in the lessons and gave us easy stuff like having a whole page of Bible chapters and verses on a sheet and having to write down a short summary of that particular passage. When I worked as a teaching assistant for year 3 in primary school the tutor did the exact same exercise - they were 7-8 year olds.

    I would rather that Philosophy be an optional subject in all schools. At my school, philosophy was not offered at all - the nearest thing to it was 'Religious Studies'. Luckily, A-level religious studies has elements of philosophy in it which started my interest in it as a degree choice. So I was never forced to have an interest in philosophy - it was presented to me in an optional subject when I was 16-18.
    I totally agree actually. The reason I can't apply to cambridge is SOLELY because of philosophy. And that's a real shame: AQA aren't such a good exam board when it comes to philosophy!
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    If my school offered philosophy I would have chosen it, but I don't think it should be a mandatory subject.
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    (Original post by TheSelfAcknowleged)
    But my point is this: history, geography and other subjects are just as irrelevant to the 'real world'. My point isn't that it is useful, rather it displays your potential! Please give me a list of 'useful' subjects that you consider important.

    This is a common misconception: philosophy isn't for God-lovers, God-haters, rational people or irrational, or even good or bad people. It's a debate over beliefs: surely education should at least partially consist of exercising faculties irrespective of it's real-life application? It also helps differentiate between the intellect of candidates for certain positions.

    (Original post by TheSelfAcknowleged)
    It displays rational capacities, however. It's relevance is really quite irrelevant :P For example, when are you going to use historical, concise geographical and other basic knowledge in your life? It's not really pretentious because it involves deep thought.

    How have you got to the conclusion that philosophy is 'pretentious'? It is a subject not a person.

    If using such a vocabulary means I've swalled a thesaurus, then yup I have :P
    With the thesaurus comment was referring rather specifically to:

    (Original post by TheSelfAcknowleged)

    - It rewards comprehensive capacities and the exercising of it to come to a rationally maintained and formulated argument
    I hope you get what I mean when I say that philosophy emancipates you from formulaic work on other subjects
    Although your posts on the first page of this thread (including the OP) are rather verbose and waffley (which in itself doesn't present a nice picture of philosophy if you are its champion) so rather than referring specifically to your vocabulary, maybe I should have mentioned the general style of your writing (it's clear, don't get me wrong. It does actually paint a good picture of philosophy with regards to its reputation for refining clarity of thought.) which I find rather pretentious and almost inaccessible to most people.
    Anyway, I got the impression that by 'mandatory for all secondary school students' you meant compulsory for GCSE and/or A level. If so, how is the history/geography argument valid? They aren't compulsory in this sense.
    As an alternative to making philosophy compulsory (since you seem to be focusing on skills rather than knowledge), I would like to advocate for computer science. There is lots of overlap (in terms of skills) with philosophy (as well as developing other skills, such as maths and ICT competency. Not saying that philosophy doesn't develop other skills outside of the overlap too.) but also has real-world application which is clear pretty much from the word go. It would interest a different demographic of students for sure, but I would guess that less people would be alienated by being forced to study CS than would be alienated by being forced to study philosophy.
    People who want to study it should of course have the option and I agree with you that it should perhaps be compulsory earlier on so people know whether they want to study it or not by the time they reach GCSEs, but to suggest that it should be compulsory at GCSE level is a bit stupid (IMO of course ) because it would just bore students like me (even if I like discussing philosophical **** every now and then) and there would be no point to it being compulsory.
    I have tonnes of angles on this issue, but I cba discussing them on TSR as people on here are quite stupid and not worth it (you seem quite clever though).
    BTW peopl neg for stupid reasons (just look at the post I made on the first page which has like 8 negs, as well as the one above mine), so I wouldn't worry about whoever negged you, they are probably just snobby science students. If you've been here since 2010, surely you should know that by now.
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    I had it in college. It was cool
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    Just to get the dicussion rolling again, it seems to me that people on TSR always think that their subject should be compulsory. I once saw someone post that classics should be compulsory. Just lol. I'm sure there are those that think sociology should be compulsory. Those who voted yes, are you sure you haven't been swayed by the fact that it is your subject.
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    (Original post by Zedd)
    While it might give all these philosophy graduates something to do I don't think it's conducive to society to focus too much on 'philosophical' questions at too young an age. 'Logical' reasoning, analysis, argumentation, and solutions can be provided by the simpler subjects, at least up to the undergraduate level. Besides, it would be worthless in the eyes of universities.
    Worthless? That's funny, it's considered the most valuable subject you can have to study a law degree at Oxford University. And we were told that by an Oxford admissions tutor.
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    (Original post by funsongfactory)
    Worthless? That's funny, it's considered the most valuable subject you can have to study a law degree at Oxford University. And we were told that by an Oxford admissions tutor.
    If you say so. I imagine they would rate an A-Level in law more important or at the very least of the same importance. Correct?

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