Distinguished Teaching Professors
Project Summary (2009-2012)
Project: Philosophical Engagement Before College
Although many sub-fields within academic philosophy have become forbiddingly technical in recent decades, the most basic questions driving research in the discipline are still accessible to non-specialists. What is more, professional philosophers do well to stress those basic questions, not only to keep their own eyes on the big prizes, but also to help those outside their field understand the questions that inspire it--and if at all possible to get inspired themselves. Reaching out to those outside Philosophy need not start in college; indeed, inquisitive children and teens often philosophize without knowing that they're doing so. Yet in stark contrast to much secondary education in Europe, relatively few U.S. high schools teach philosophy. My project as NEH/DTP for 2009-12 will be to explore the prospects of introducing philosophical education to high schools in Virginia.
Initially I will work with faculty at other Virginia universities to share ideas and develop projects to engage pre-college students in philosophical discussion. I'll make use of my contacts with philosophy faculty at other Commonwealth schools to help build a statewide discussion about bringing pre-college students into dialogue with my field, and about how to enhance that engagement once they enter college. That discussion would, as I now foresee it, include at least these phases.
Phase I: Convene a day-long workshop at U.Va. in which faculty and graduate students in philosophy from all Virginia universities would be invited to discuss strategies for outreach to the high school demographic. I would also invite area high school teachers who are, or are interested in, teaching philosophy to their students.
Phase II: Convene in the fall of 2010 a day-long Epic Philosophy Conference for which students from Central Virginia high schools, both public and private, would be invited to Grounds. This will comprise a number of workshops and discussion groups led by philosophy graduate students and faculty who will, ideally, have participated in the aforementioned workshop in the spring of 2010.
Phase III: In light of our experience with the first two Phases proposed above, I would plan during AY 2011-12 to work with the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities toward the creation of a web resource, Thinkit!, for Virginia secondary teachers currently teaching philosophy or who are interested in doing so. Following the model of the National Humanities Center's successful Teacher Serve Program, I would plan in light of the workshop and conference mentioned above to design a set of philosophy resources accessible online to all Virginia teachers and their students.