All of us have had the experience of being frustrated and clueless in our first philosophy class—if not for most of them. And, lets not forget the terror of a dropping GPA . To many, philosophy is as punished, as obscured by past personal failures, as math has been. This is a terrible crisis. It seems like just another cliche, but this is a cliche that needs to change because effectively teaching sound reasoning is probably the simplest and most effective solution to cleaning up our squalid political world–and setting the foundation for a better future.
If philosophy is the path to sound reasoning, and sound reasoning is the method to a better future, then it should also be that philosophy has been subjected to the best research in learning theory, and that the classes that teach philosophy are arranged so that even the mediocre IQ can manage to learn to think with the best thought-technology around. It should be arranged so that learning sound reasoning is an accessible, manageable and personally profitable process. This is not the case now.
Philosophy is taught using text full of old words, old syntax and cultural backgrounds that are no longer salient. Professors have to either ignore or teach all the background necessary to understand philosophical principles, hundreds or thousands of years of it, in a single semester—and then teach the important principles themselves. Students are left with their heads spinning and many if not most are filtered out of philosophy, all together.Philosophy has become an elitist discipline, with only those indifferent to grades, or those highly motivated, or those who are intellectually gifted or all-of-the-above making it through even a minor successfully.
The text and the language, they have a huge part to play in the study of philosophy, and they definitely should be introduced—slowly and consistently. This is one of the great strengths of the UNF philosophy department: they introduce the literature well. However, there needs to be a large scale move to make philosophy universal. Philosophy, of all the academic disciplines, is the most important for a thriving society. It is the great measure of sound thought. Which is of great need in all societies, but especially in such societies that vote people into office based on slogans, like “flip, flop”, and on posters with pleasant pictures like HOPE. We, as a democratic society, have sold ourselves to the decore of the political arena, where car salesmen dressed as leaders determine the salience of political debate. Since I’ve studied philosophy, every year people become dumber because I see past there flash, quickly. we need an entire nation, a world, of people who see past the flash—a world of philosophers. At very least, we shouldn’t let our college students get out of school without being compelled to vomit after watching C-span, or having the ability to see past the glare of bright colors, catchy slogans and the raucous of political collective-monologue.
I was walking through the UNF campus last semester, and it suddenly occurred to me that these students are the best our nation has to offer. They’re the university students. Most of our nation doesn’t have university degrees. At very least, these people, the minority educated class, should be able to reason soundly. However, listening to even philosophy students about to graduate, makes me realize: we need to do way better. Listening to everyone else makes me want move to Alaska—the part that even Sarah Palin can’t see from her front porch—build a shack and give up on the world except for the periodic angry letter and manifesto mailings. But, then again, that sounds like the Unabomber, so guess I’ll take my chances with city life.