This file (developed for the course Wijsgerige Stromingen / Philosophy) focuses on the main philosophers in history and the central philosophical themes, working on most transversal end-terms of the societal contexts and quite intensively on the transversal end-terms of both Trunk and Learning to learn.
Description of the method for these lessons, taken from Young people become world-citizens (see NEW)
“The course on philosophy has a quite strict official plan. A teacher will prefer to use a well-chosen manual, and the teaching methods are limited to frontal teaching, in between theme exercises and socratic discussions, for good reasons. It’s a nice course in which one can bring together the main lines of our cultural history in a well-structured and problem-oriented way for a religiously diverse group of pupils.
For a manual I use the whole book by D. Palmer, Philosophy for beginners, some 400 pages in all (for the two last years in secondary education). Each chapter of ten pages is dedicated to one philosopher or one philosophical strand, with a couple of funny or to the point illustrations, that the pupils have to first read and summarize at home (flipping the classroom). For the next hour in class they also have to prepare critically focused questions that can help them to better understand the text. This stimulates their sense for detail and insight, and allows me to check whether they work regularly or not. In class I usually teach in a frontal way with a power point presentation, sometimes I teach simply telling the story of one philosopher’s life and thoughts when the class needs to more concretely connect to the subject matter. During the lesson I review the chapter, go in deeper into the topic, and if possible connect the one philosopher’s ideas to the ones we’ve seen before or to the more general history of science and culture. Meanwhile the pupils exercise taking notes – simply (copy by) writing in class, as much as they can, exercises their writing and language skills and already is a way to start memorizing content ; they don’t receive the power point files: never digitalize your content on the school website when you’re teaching this way or when your method itself is teaching them ‘how to learn’ – notes I regularly check and grade. The next hour there will be a test of at least half an hour on both the lessons and (mainly) the chapter, divided in factual, insight and application/integrative questions – which, together with the criteria for critical thinking (see Chapter 1) allow me to analyse their shortcomings or faults quite precisely. The following hour they receive their marks and feedback (newspeak for help and explanation).
Every third week or so I teach about one philosophical theme, e.g. free will vs. determinism, negative vs. positive freedom, realism vs. idealism. Next to this my pupils have to read or study one (relatively short) philosophical book, either separately either in small groups (to apply the visible learning approach with peer tutors), sometimes they can chose. This study can lead to an hour of socratic conversation in class or to an evening of discussion at my place. The level at which I teach this course is very close to introductory courses at universities. This makes it rather difficult for pupils in the last years of secondary education, but with enough attention going to real life ‘application’ most of them are at the end very happy with what they have learned. At the beginning of this course they all make a test on a paper I wrote on the cynics, more difficult than a chapter from the manual, which they take again at the end of the entire course. Nearly all pupils then are surprised about how much their thinking has improved.
The issue of religious belief is woven explicitly through the entire course. As with all the other themes this is done by presenting the thoughts of philosophers as clear and in full as possible. What first sounded sensible to the pupils will then often change when presented with the different thoughts on the same subject of the next philosopher. This makes them focus better and think harder. But to stress the universality of reasonable thinking is also to induce respect for every person, whatever his or her convictions, and to underscore the importance of both the freedom of expression and correct reasoning. In my class there are Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Atheists and what Etienne Vermeersch once called ‘something believers’. No parent has ever complained.