May 30, 2015

There are many heartening stories about schools and teachers thinking outside the box in an effort to improve the educational experience for their students. And it seems that more and more educators are looking to philosophy specifically for inspiration. The Atlantic published a piece the other day about Cajon High School in San Bernadino, California. Cajon High School has a program called AVID — short for Advancement Via Individual Determination — which includes what they call a “Socratic Seminar.” As one… Read more

May 27, 2015

My fellow Patheos blogger Vlad Chituc has an article up at The Daily Beast about the retraction of a paper in Science that claimed a mere 20-minute talk with a gay canvasser could change peoples’ minds about marriage equality. Chituc writes: The LGBT canvassing operation really does exist, but it seems like the follow-ups purporting to show a sustained change in their views never happened. According to a report they released yesterday, two graduate students, David Broockman at Stanford and… Read more

May 26, 2015

If you’re a parent, then you probably know that one of the many criticisms of the new Common Core standards in American education is that kids are being forced to deal with advanced material before they’re ready. An article in The Atlantic last year quoted Jason Cornett, a math teacher at Flat Lick Elementary School in Kentucky, sums it up: “They’re still having trouble mastering the basics and you’re trying to add stuff on top.” While the Common Core has… Read more

May 21, 2015

A secondary school English language arts teacher in Colorado, Jenn Anya Prosser, believes you can. In a recent interview, she said: You have images that support the text and you’re developing really important skills and creating an understanding of literature by reading comics. From one panel to the next, there’s a gap where you insert your own imagination into the story and that empowers you as a reader. You become more interested in what you are reading. I think that’s… Read more

May 19, 2015

Ireland has plans to formally introduce philosophy into its “junior cycle” curriculum (kids aged 12 – 16). What exactly is being introduced hasn’t been decided yet, but they’re calling it a “short course in philosophy.” But as this article in the Irish Times notes, even this proposal is being met with resistance. Already, voices can be heard suggesting philosophy is covered in the Leaving Cert RE syllabus – by virtue of Plato and Aristotle being name-checked in a module that… Read more

May 14, 2015

I’ve been increasingly drawn to the issue of education in America, especially K-12 public education, ever since I wrote an article about the importance of philosophy outside the academy. It’s also become obvious to me that the practice of philosophy — as opposed to the academic study of it — can accomplish both the idealistic and the pragmatic goals of public education. The pragmatic goal is to have our kids be prepared for economic success in the world, while the… Read more

May 11, 2015

When I was little I would spend hours watching birds in fields and forests, near ponds and lakes, or down the shore. When I wasn’t outside observing them, I was inside drawing and painting them, or caught up in some reverie about them. Throughout my childhood, I had my share of parakeets, one Senegal parrot, and a dozen racing pigeons. One time I even tried to temporarily trap some songbirds in my parent’s garage, using parakeet feed as a lure,… Read more

April 28, 2015

  When I first read about the plaintiffs in King vs. Burwell, I was immediately reminded of former Texas governor Rick Perry’s claim that “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.” As Mother Jones writes: “David King, the lead plaintiff, held extreme anti-Obama views and believed that all the people who would lose health insurance if he won his case were probably on welfare and ‘not paying for it.’” Those of us… Read more

April 23, 2015

I finally got around to binge-watching Netflix’s Daredevil series and I loved it. The feel of the show is refreshingly gritty, the plot is tight, and the casting is excellent. But what I like most is how the show’s central character deals with moral dilemmas. I find myself wanting to wear a bracelet that says WWDD? (What Would Daredevil Do?). Daredevil is based on the Marvel Comics character Matthew Murdock, a Hell’s Kitchen native who was blinded in his youth… Read more

April 13, 2015

Lately I’ve taken to calling myself a Religious Naturalist. I’m constitutionally averse to the word “religious” because of my experience with fundamentalist Christianity, but its meaning has changed for me in the past decade or so. To me, the word “religious” connotes a range of emotional experience that includes such things as awe, wonder, gratitude, and equanimity. I’ve always been curious about and drawn to nature, and I’ve had many opportunities in my life to immerse myself in it in… Read more

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