Philosophy and Theatre for Pre-College Students
Philosophy is typically not a part of the high school curriculum in the United States. But philosophy is recognized as one of the best tools for developing writing and critical thinking skills. Often philosophy is perceived as too difficult or too abstract for teenagers. My presentation will describe how using drama can be an effective way to teach philosophy to teenagers, helping them engage in philosophical debates. I will suggest why using drama has an advantage over Matthew Lippman's famous "storytelling" approach to doing philosophy with children. Merely reading or listening to a story, while still vastly preferable to having students read a "dry" text, can remain a passive activity. Thus students can remain disengaged from the philosophical issues, sometimes willfully so. Writing and performing short skits ensures that students are actively engaged with the issues, and allows them to formulate philosophical positions using examples drawn from their own lives. I will illustrate my claims by describing a current effort to teach philosophy to teenagers in the Cleveland Municipal School District. This school district is in a desperate state of disrepair, as are many other school districts in the United States. The Carroll Cleveland Philosophers Program is an attempt to help high school students in this district regain a sense of self-esteem and achievement by doing philosophy. I will describe this program which brings high school students on to a college campus once a week for a philosophy enrichment class, and provide some examples of philosophical drama written by teenagers.
Keywords: Philosophy, Pre-college education
Dr. Paul Thomson
Asst. Professor, Philosophy Department, John Carroll University