Philosophy, the oxford dictionary says is (quote) “ the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and reality, especially about the causes and nature of things and principles that govern existence”(unquote). This being the case, while teaching philosophy, teachers have always encountered problems. Teaching Philosophy is different from teaching core subjects like physics or chemistry, for while the latter dwells on a set of conclusions drawn from certain premises or accepted facts, the former is associated with the investigation of concepts using argument and analysis as its tools. This would imply that the process of teaching philosophy involves a completely different frame of mind and distinctively different trend of thought. This would require the student to be open minded and inquiring. The problem about teaching philosophy then is that students generally are more worried about finishing assigned tasks and getting through the reading material than with trying to understand the basic concepts involved. They just do not want to know “how or why”, but want to wade through it without too much effort. They want answers to the problems and blindly adopt methods to arrive at solutions without pausing to question. This is a stumbling block, and a huge one at that, in the way of a teacher who is trying to teach philosophy. In fact as Galileo once said ” You cannot teach a person anything, you can only help him to find it within himself.”
So the question remains” how then do we teach philosophy, if it is so difficult? Some time must be spent in bridging the gap between your expectation and that of the student’s without compromising on your expectations. Slowly drive them through the rough terrain and make them buy your approach. Be direct with them about how they need to change their attitudes and how they need to do so. Help them to develop their critical and independent abilities by way of lectures and assigned homework. This helps to reinforce the fundamentals. Introduce them to new things slowly and do not incorporate all the details at the same time. Leave some questions unanswered and motivate students to find the solutions themselves. It will sharpen their critical skills. Group assignments help to foster integration of ideas and hone analytical skills. Allow the students to discover new things at their own pace and in their own way. The results can be simply amazing.
The inquiring mind needs to be nurtured. Motivate, and encourage the students by appreciating any progress that has been made. Always be available to solve difficulties and assign extra work for the student who is ahead. A combination of individual tasks, group tasks, and assignments followed by effective tracking of progress will make the teaching of philosophy a more realistic task. Teaching Indian philosophy is slightly more difficult. There are 6 orthodox systems, which deal with the perception of truth. The other six systems of philosophy involve exploring the aspects present in religions.
The bottom line here is that while teaching philosophy, the teacher must guide, and motivate the development of critical thinking, stimulate curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, encourage debate and discussion, create the potential for high level intellectual interaction and above all be passionate in your approach. The end result from untutored minds can be very valuable and very very refreshing.
February 28, 2008 12:56 AM
February 28, 2008 12:56 AM