Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If High Schools Taught Philosophy

For some reason, I found myself thinking of my freshman sociology class.  The professor was dedicated to breaking down the assumptions college freshman tend to carry over from an institutional high school education, which, for me, meant it was pretty unexciting. (I went to a high school where we called the teachers by their first names, everyone cussed as they saw fit (teachers included), and all discussion was allowed, no matter how 'inappropriate,' so long as it was constructive.)  One thing that I remembered was the professor pointing out that high schools don't teach philosophy, and she claimed this was because of the institutional nature of high schools, and they didn't want students questioning the school's authority.  And I had an insight.  If high schools taught philosophy, nothing would ever get done.  It would be sheer hell for anyone who taught any subject besides philosophy.  Here are some examples of what classes would be like if high schools taught philosophy.


"...and therefore exposure to water causes the carbon to explode."

"But will it really? How can we know?"

"Well, if you'll remember the scientific method—"

"No, I mean, how can we say that one thing causes another?"

"We can discuss metaphysics some other time, but now—"

"But why talk about cause and effect when we can't even be sure it exists?"

"Interrupting like this will get you sent to the principal's office."

"... But will it really?"


"...leading to Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo."

"But how do we know this?"

"Well, there are plenty of first hand accounts, as well as—"

"No, I mean, how can we be sure that Napoleon even existed?"


"We've never seen him, and even if we did, we'd need to consider the possibility that he's an illusion."

"Fascinating, but completely irrelevant to the discussion."

"Well, I guess I have to question the relevance of a lecture about a battle we can't really know ever happened."

"If you keep interrupting, I'm sending you to the principal's office."

"... But how can we be sure the principal exists?"


"For warm-ups I want one lap around the football field."

"But that's impossible."


"Well, if I run one lap, first I'd have to run half a lap."


"So, before I run half a lap, I'd have to run half that.  And before I run a quarter lap, I'd have to run half that.  Before I can run any distance, I'd have to run half that distance first."

"Look, either you run the lap or I send you to the principal's office."

"...But to get to the principal's office, first I'd have to go half the distance to the principal's office..."


  1. I took a philosophy class in high school. The highlight was when the teacher brought in his Doors album and we listened to it in the dark while eating special recipe brownies another student had brought in.

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