Over the course of my high school years, I have been led to believe that every question has an answer. However, the deep life questions I had in mind could not be answered from a textbook. So, I found myself in the school library with a thick, paperback book titled: Philosophy Made Simple. The book’s title proved to be a misnomer. After glancing at the text for about 20 minutes, I realized that Philosophy for Dummies might have been a better choice, but also that philosophy is not an independent study. Because philosophy is such a foundational subject for all other fields of study, and simply too abstract and confusing to be studied individually, it ought to be a required course for high school students.
One very practical reason why philosophy should be included into required curriculum is that it is excellent college preparation. Throughout elementary and middle school, students typically fill their brains with matters of fact and right answers. However, the college level of thinking requires students to think in terms of ideas, which cannot necessarily be proven but must be evaluated. Because philosophy based in logic and reasoning, philosophy students must learn how to argue effectively. They must be able to defend why one belief or value outweighs another. Students will also learn to view everything critically and analytically. They will no longer take every claim at face value and weigh both the merit and error of a particular idea.
Philosophy is also an essential field of study because it makes sense of all other school subjects. Science will never be more than a collection of experiments, facts, and theories to students until they grasp the philosophy behind the scientific method-the way that we all find knowledge about the physical world by gathering observable facts. History will always be the study of the past tense unless philosophy is brought into the picture. After all, did our nations founders just come up with the idea that a government’s power comes from the people?
Although most people think of philosophy as purely theoretical, few realize that philosophy is really applied on a daily basis. We all like to believe that we exercise tolerance in our daily conversations, and tolerance comes as a result of philosophy. Few philosophers believe that they posses absolute knowledge; therefore, most can disagree knowing that all belief systems begin with some truth. Everyone from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to the store cashier will face ethical dilemmas. The true lifelong philosopher sees issues of ethics alongside concepts such as moral realism and relativism, subjectivism and objectivism.
Let’s go back to my epiphany at the school library where I concluded that philosophy is a collective study. Imagine the difference one course could make if students had the opportunity to discuss their ideas with a class, learn to argue their ideas, consider the merits of other ideas, and discover truth by questioning everything they once assumed to be true.