Philosophy: Training the Mind to Think

Philosophy: Training the Mind to Think

“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” - Albert Einstein

In my first lessons of the year with each of my Sixth Form students, I remind them; I cannot tell you all the facts, but I can teach you how to be convincing.  This skill, I believe, is at the core of studying Philosophy and something which can serve each of our pupils always. 

World Philosophy Day, an initiative proclaimed by UNESCO, is celebrated each year on the third Thursday of November.  It champions philosophy as a discipline which encourages critical and independent thought and is a tool for creating a world of tolerance and peace.  Philosophy opens the door for all of us to engage with the world in our own unique way.  We enter age old discussions from a perspective that no other can hold.  We may share ideas, agree on ideologies, or have similar worldviews but each of us do so from a position only we can inhabit.  Each time we step into those shoes and pose a question, we breathe new life into those debates.  This makes every discussion wholly different and each has the potential to spark new ideas.

Philosophy enables us to discover the diversity of the intellectual currents in the world, philosophy stimulates dialogue between us all.  By awakening minds to the exercise of thinking and the reasoned confrontation of opinions, philosophy helps to build a more tolerant, more respectful society.  It thus helps to understand and respond to major contemporary challenges by creating the intellectual conditions for change (UNESCO).

Teaching philosophy is a wonderful job.  No matter how much I learn, I can have my day flipped with the simplest comment.  With the best intentions I can enter a room with all the answers and find myself later that day on my drive home wondering how my students have left me with no answers whatsoever.

Philosophy at Farnborough Hill

Philosophy is engrained within our curriculum at Farnborough Hill, whether it is exploring identity and what it means to belong throughout our topics in our lower years or understanding our world and what that means for our place in it in our GCSE work.  Our students throughout Sixth Form, engage with philosophical discussions ranging from political freedom to our duty to the environment.

Philosophy allows all of our learners to build upon their own critical thinking skills.  Pupils learn to engage in thoughtful and respectful discourse with one another, learning to dissect the points made rather than attack their source.  Philosophy teaches students to listen carefully and engage with each other.  They must think carefully about their positions in order to form sound arguments, that become harder and harder to disagree with.

Philosophy Outside the Classroom

I hope World Philosophy Day has piqued your interest, if so, there is plenty more to explore.  There are a range of clubs which are open to all Year Groups; Social justice Club is run by our Chaplain, Mrs Nelle Dalton, and gives pupils a chance to engage with modern issues, Mr Alan Rees leads a Youth Alpha group encouraging pupils to discuss the biggest questions outside the classroom, and I lead a mindfulness class each Friday which offers a chance to discuss big topics, or sometimes the little ones too.  The Library holds a host of wonderful books to keep us all thinking deeper and some recommendations for good reads can always be found with our librarian, Ms Cathrin Woods.

Below are some personal film recommendations to help get you thinking:

The Iron Giant – Are we what we do? Or who we were made to be?

iRobot – Can computers ever one day be sentient?

The Hunger Games – Should Governments prioritise security over freedom?

Mr Joseph Choppen

Teacher of Religious Education and Philosophy and Ethics