PHIL 285.001 – Moral and Philosophical Issues in Education

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Instructor: Rob Willison. This course meets TR 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. in PH 385.

This course addresses questions about the philosophy, ethics, and politics of education. We’ll begin with foundational questions. What is education? How does it differ from informal learning and general cognitive development? What are its proper aims? Next, we’ll think more specifically about how education should function in our own society, with its democratic aspirations. Can our schools make our society more democratic, or do we need a more democratic society to have a better school system? Should our schools educate students so that they share a single, American identity, or should students receive instruction tailored to their distinct cultural identities? Is racial integration in the schools an important goal, or a distraction from ensuring that each student receives an adequate education, regardless of race? What about single sex education? Finally, what are the ethics of pedagogy—what does a teacher owe her students? Are some methods of instruction and discipline oppressive or liberating, and how should we weigh those considerations against effectiveness? How should vocational training and sports be integrated into a liberal education? To help us answer these questions, we’ll read philosophers (like Plato, Paolo Freire, and Elizabeth Anderson), but also social scientists, historians, and legal decisions.