Monday, 29 August 2016

Schools aren't teaching the most important subject for kids

Not too long ago, Jana Mohr Lone was at an education workshop in her hometown of Seattle when someone gave her a note.

The note was written by a fifth-grade girl. As Mohr Lone read it, the girl's words began to fill her with joy.

"Ever since you left, I've been looking at my surroundings more and being careful about who I'm talking to and what I'm saying," Mohr Lone later recalled, reading the note over the phone. "I'm thankful because you made me think deeper about things and care more about life."

Mohr Lone isn't a guidance counselor or a therapist. She's a philosophy teacher, the founding director of the University of Washington's Center for Philosophy for Children, and the 20-year president of PLATO, a nonprofit focused on bringing philosophy to schools.

She had spent an hour each week for the last year visiting the girl's school to teach the ancient discipline. And now, just a couple months later, she was already seeing her impact firsthand.

Schools' essential function (at least in theory) is to give kids the skills they need to navigate adult life. Amid the heavy focus on math, science, and reading, however, they've skipped over one of the oldest intellectual pursuits.

While programs have been spreading across US high schools over the last several years, when it comes to elementary education one question still lingers: Why don't more schools teach philosophy?

The surprising benefits of kids asking questions

The questions philosophy raises about life merit it a spot in the school schedule, but it's the wide-ranging benefits to other school subjects that make it so valuable for students.

Numerous studies have found that kids who take philosophy go on to excel in reading and math, too.