Tag Archives: Ethics

Philosophy can teach children what Google can’t

An edited extract from an article by Charlotte Blease in The Guardian:

How should educationalists prepare young people for civic and professional life in a digital age? Luddite hand-wringing won’t do. Redoubling investment in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects won’t solve the problem either: hi-tech training has its imaginative limitations.

In the near future school-leavers will need other skills. In a world where technical expertise is increasingly narrow, the skills and confidence to traverse disciplines will be at a premium. We will need people who are prepared to ask, and answer, the questions that aren’t Googleable: like what are the ethical ramifications of machine automation? What are the political consequences of mass unemployment? How should we distribute wealth in a digitised society? As a society, we need to be more philosophically engaged.

“The teaching of philosophy is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to empower children into acting as free and responsible subjects in an ever more complex, interconnected, and uncertain world. Philosophy in the classroom offers a “path to a humanistic and vibrant democratic culture”.”

– Michael D Higgins, Irish President

(In 2013, as Ireland struggled with the after-effects of the financial crisis, Higgins launched a nationwide initiative calling for debate about what Ireland valued as a society. The result is that for the first time in a country once deemed “the most Catholic country” philosophy was introduced into Irish schools in September as an optional course for 12-16 year-olds to reflect on questions that — until now — have been glaringly absent from school curriculums)

Thinking and the desire to understand don’t come naturally — contrary to what Aristotle believed. Bertrand Russell came closer when he said, “Most people would rather die than think; many do.” While we may all have the capacity for philosophy, it is a capacity that requires training and cultural nudges. If the pursuit of science requires some cognitive scaffolding, as American philosopher Robert McCauley argues, then the same is true of philosophy.

Philosophy is difficult. It encompasses the double demand of strenuous labour under a stern overseer. It requires us to overcome personal biases and pitfalls in reasoning. This necessitates tolerant dialogue, and imagining divergent views while weighing them up. Philosophy helps kids — and adults — to articulate questions and explore answers not easily drawn out by introspection or Twitter. At its best, philosophy puts ideas, not egos, front and centre.

Philosophy won’t bring back the jobs. It isn’t a cure-all for the world’s current or future woes. But it can build immunity against careless judgments, and unentitled certitude. Philosophy in our classrooms would better equip us all to perceive and to challenge the conventional wisdoms of our age.

Sounds good but tough to roll out. May be there are established pedagogical ways to tackling these intractable questions and teach in class-rooms.

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Source: medium.com/the-guardian/philosophy-can-teach-children-what-google-cant-141f4cc3d995

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Toward Civilization

 

An inspiring piece from Seth Godin

If war has an opposite, it’s not peace, it’s civilization. (inspired by Ursula LeGuin writing in 1969)

Civilization is the foundation of every successful culture. It permits us to live in safety, without being crippled by fear. It’s the willingness to discuss our differences, not to fight over them. Civilization is efficient, in that it permits every member of society to contribute at her highest level of utility. And it’s at the heart of morality, because civilization is based on fairness.

The civilization of a human encampment, a city or town where people look out for one another and help when help is needed is worth seeking out.

We’re thrilled by the violent video of the iguana and the snakes, partly because we can’t imagine living a life like that, one where we are always at risk.

To be always at risk, to live in a society where violence is likely—this undermines our ability to be the people we seek to become.

Over the last ten generations, we’ve made huge progress in creating an ever more civilized culture. Slavery (still far too prevalent) is now seen as an abomination. Access to information and healthcare is better than it’s ever been. Human culture is  far from fully civilized, but as the years go by, we’re getting better at seeing all the ways we have to improve.

And this can be our goal. Every day, with every action, to make something more civilized. To find more dignity and possibility and opportunity for those around us, those we know and don’t know.

Hence the imperative. Our associations, organizations and interactions must begin with a standard of civility. Our work as individuals and as leaders becomes worthwhile and generous when we add to our foundation of civilization instead of chipping away at it.

The standard can come from each of us. We can do it. We can speak up. We can decide to care a little more. We can stand up to the boss, the CEO, or the elected representative and say, “wait,” when they cross the line, when they pursue profit at the cost of community, when they throw out the rules in search of a brawl instead. The race to the bottom and the urge to win at all costs aren’t new, but they’re not part of who we are and ought to be.

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