Philosophy club to extend their activities to the city
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 14:03
A conference has prompted Loyola faculty and students to begin bringing philosophy to New Orleans’ primary and secondary schools.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19 and Wednesday, Feb. 20, Loyola hosted a conference for the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization. The organization is dedicated to teaching philosophy to school children in kindergarten through high school such as critical thinking and reasoning skills.
“I asked myself, how are you going to read Descartes to 7-year-olds, or middle schoolers?” Jon Altschul, Loyola philosophy professor said. “What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to be these difficult works or authors; the themes and the questions we are all asking ourselves are within stories we read and games we play with the children,” Altschul said.
The philosophy department is exploring different options for coaching philosophically adept students to teach as a part of a youth tutoring program. Altschul and the department are deliberating on the best outlet for interested students to be prepared for this upcoming fall semester. The Loyola Philosophy Club is using lesson plan resources on the organization website in order to bring philosophy to local schools before the end of this semester.
“Philosophy belongs to all of us and thinking about questions such as: What is beauty? Who am I? Do I have a purpose? These are questions we all grapple with, including children,” Jana Mohr Lone, president of the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, said.
The organization held its first conference at Columbia University in 2011.
Representatives from affluent educational institutions deliberated on learning tools such as picture books with a philosophical message, and a possible philosophy Advanced Placement course. The College Board, the American Psychological Association, Harvard Law and the Center for Creative Youth were present at Loyola for the discussion.
The conference piggy-backed on the presence of the much larger American Philosophical Association Central Division conference that took place Feb. 21-23 downtown at the Hilton Hotel.
The University of Washington has a series of courses specifically for students interested in the field of pre-college philosophy, “We teach philosophy for children. We focus on how to teach philosophy to younger students and then we send them out with mentors to have them try out what they learn,” Lone said.
The Squire Family Foundation supports the organization through funding, sharing administrative work and advocacy. The foundation’s mission is to “introduce more students to philosophy before they graduate from high school,” Roberta Israeloff, the foundation’s executive director since its inception seven years ago, said.
The organization is in the early stages of seeking grants to support regional centers, New Orleans is an included point of interest. “We’d like to set up and/or support regional centers around the country. It will be really important to have these centers where people are on the ground, in the community, and can get this going,” Lone said.
“Specifically, we are very interested in bringing together young students with undergraduate and graduate philosophy majors; we encourage college students to coach high school students in ethics bowls and to participate in many other pre-college philosophy programs we support,” Israeloff said.
The department’s initiative to bring philosophy to the youth community, proposed by Altschul and the organization, may lead to a new freshman seminar, service learning component or a small movement of philosophically adept students.
“We have a very strong mission at Loyola for thinking critically and acting justly, that includes reaching out to the community. This would be a win-win opportunity for students to give to the city, and to realize that they can do it,” Altschul said.
The department as well as the philosophy club are in the process of finding the best outlet for showing undergraduates how to teach philosophy to young children.
“I believe that PLATO has provided a perfect opportunity for me to be a part of the intellectual progress of New Orleans children,” Kevin O’Sullivan, the Loyola philosophy club public relations officer, said in email.
Jessica DeBold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org