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Year 9’s Philosophy Fridays

I think, therefore I am. As René Descartes knew, philosophy has always steered humanity’s curiosity and Mr Rigg’s Year 9 Philosophy students are proof that no question is too big or small for them to ponder.

‘Philosophy’ comes from Greek words meaning ‘love of wisdom.’ Using the tools of logic and reason, philosophy helps us to analyse the different ways in which we experience the world. It teaches us critical thinking, close reading, clear writing, and logical analysis. And it helps to inform the language we use to describe the world, and our place in it. Of course, different areas of philosophy are distinguished by the questions they ask. For example, do our senses accurately describe reality? What makes wrong actions wrong? How should we live? Why are we here? What happens when we die? What is the relationship between my mind and the world? How and why does consciousness arise? Do we have free will? Why is language meaningful? What’s the right thing to do? What does a just society look like?

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Mr Rigg’s Year 9 students have been using their critical thinking and reason to tackle some of these philosophical questions. And every Friday, they head outside and take advantage of the fresh air and the Wenona gardens to free up their thinking.

Mr Rigg said, “What is the fundamental nature of reality? Our Philosophy Fridays are intended to give our Year 9 Philosophy students time and permission to wonder about the world. This time is modelled on Aristotle’s peripatetic students, who used to walk about the Lyceum discussing and disputing philosophic problems.

Being modern Peripatetics, our students leave the conventional classroom behind on these days and walk to the garden or Undercroft, where they sit and discuss themes and problems raised in class. For example: the divine; mortality; omnipotence; and questions about reality. They then link these with other themes and or characters of interest to them from books, pop culture, and life in general.

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Students share their musings with me in writing before the next lesson. Doing so creates a record of their thoughts and conversations, which they can draw on when completing class activities and assessment. More so, students can begin to see their ideas develop in writing, and importantly, they can see and better understand how their classroom learning relates to the greater world.

In short, I like to think of Philosophy Fridays as a metaphoric menu from which students can select and slowly digest universal ideas and problems, and thereby grow wise.”

Despite the seemingly abstract nature of the questions that philosophers ask, the tools Philosophy teaches our students are invaluable. They learn how to write clearly, and to read closely, with a critical eye. They are taught to spot bad reasoning, and how to avoid it in their writing and in their work. Philosophy is of enormous and enduring interest. They learn how to ask questions well, and how to develop and express their own philosophical views.

As Head of History, Ms Poole says, “Numerous studies have found that students who take Philosophy excel in other subjects too, as a result of learning critical thinking skills. A recent UK study, which examined 3,000 Year 3 and Year 4 students found that those who studied Philosophy did better in literature. The subject is important!”