Philosophy

In Philosophy we did weekly reactions to our reading and a final paper.  My work is here:


My thoughts on the class:

I loved the CCT Philosophy course.  I have only taken Philosophy once before, as a first year student in college.  I enjoyed it, and felt as if it contributed to my thinking, but I didn't really feel touched by it.  My only other engagement with Philosophy has been talks and interviews by philosophers I've heard on the various podcasts I listen to, especially a great one called Philosophy Bites.  While I always enjoyed those discussions, and have occasionally gotten new insights from them, they were only passing connections to the topic.

Having taken the CCT Philosophy course this semester, I can really see why it is one of the four core coursed in the CCT curriculum.  The course addressed a wide range of issues, but the real focus was on how we think, and how to improve our thinking when confronted with difficult questions.  This sounds simple, but it's not.  Our ability to effectively engage in complex thinking is essential to navigating life, but most of formal education spends no time on helping students develop their metacognitive abilities.  The ability to hold complex, often conflicting ideas, and examine them from multiple angles, is not a skill we emphasize in our education system.

At this point I've taken three of the four core CCT courses (Creative Thinking, Cognitive Psychology and Philosophy) and I can see how Philosophy adds important elements to the mix.  Cognitive Psychology introduced us to how the brain functions and how many of our basic congitive functions work.  Creative Thinking focuses on embracing creative approaches to life.  Philosophy focused on the complexities of our own thinking.  Philosophy asked me to examine complex issues without easy answers, explore my response to those issues, and then go deeper, examining why I responded in that way, and what the response and my reasons for the response meant.  Philosophy was all about meaningful metacognition, thinking about my own thinking.

The structure of the course was great.  Each week we focused on a different "real-world" issue, like abortion, selfishness, or individual rights, reading selections from various authors that addressed the issue.  We then did a written reaction and discussed the issue in class.  It is a simple model, but very effective.  It made Philosophy real and tangible, with clear applications to lived human life.

The structure of the class also made me appreciate Arthur, the professor, and the CCT students.  We addressed some really difficult issues (religion, war, abortion, euthanasia, ethics etc.) and the discussion was always thoughtful and balanced.  It felt like people were trying to engage with each other in meaningful ways while also being aware of the sensitivity of the issues.  I haven't been in very many settings where it was possible to have that kind of deep conversation without worrying about someone being offensive or offended, or simply not engaging.  It really made me appreciate the CCT culture.

We also did student presentations, which were great.  It was powerful to see how everyone took class ideas and found new ways to explore them.  There were three presentations that I thought were especially powerful.  Lorna did one on organ donation that took us very deep into ethical issues.  She gave us scenarios, but gave us the facts in phases, so the issues got more and more complicated.  Sheila did a really creative presentation to get us thinking about the nature of knowledge; she gave us a bucket of items with basic but provocative questions attached.  It was a simple but effective idea, and the conversation got very deep.  Aimee did a great presentation where we examined a selection of multicultural children's books from a philosophical lens.  It was engaging and interesting.

That connects to one of the books we read, The Philosophy of Children, which I loved!  I wrote about it several times in my assignments; basically it looked at how society views children, and argued that children often display an innate talent for Philosophy that we neglect and minimize.  I thought the process of exploring how we view childhood was interesting not only for the author's direct point (we should encourage and appreciate children's philosophical tendencies), but also for the way it examined one phase of human life through a philosophical lens.  I did my class presentation on the philosophy of the college student; how society looks at college students.  Looking at stages of human life, from childhood to old age, through a philosophical lens offers powerful insights both into how our society works, and how we view the human experience.

After this semester I feel like Philosophy should be a key component of all aspects of our education, from pre-k on up.  Who wouldn't benefit from an improved ability to engage in meaningful thought?

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