for a place
Am I just a brain in a vat? Can you be friends with a robot? Am I in control of my own decisions? These are just some of the thought-provoking questions up for discussion at Philosophy Café – a fortnightly club for students in Years 9 to 13.
Philosophy is part of the Key Stage 3 curriculum at Blackheath High School. Much educational research has shown the value of teaching Philosophy in schools, for example, improved scores in reading and Mathematics, as well as the development of wider skills such as confidence, patience and self-esteem.
Philosophy Café aims to extend the natural curiosity of the students beyond the formal settings of the curriculum. Topics are often chosen or suggested by students, and after some initial teacher input, students lead the discussion in the areas they want to explore. While they often bring in their own perspectives, students are also introduced to important thinkers, movements and ideas in the history of Philosophy.
This can be illustrated by a recent meeting where we discussed whether good art can be produced by bad people. This allowed students to draw upon current affairs (with reference to the #MeToo movement that has shaken Hollywood to its foundations) while also reflecting on different perspectives in the philosophy of art and the nature of ethical judgements. Who knew that talking about movie stars could be so intellectual?
Students may come for the biscuits, but they stay for the stimulating conversation!