Why teach philosophy to children?

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What is the most practical subject to study for economic success? It may well be philosophy! On graduate school entrance exams, philosophy students outperform other humanities students, and even most STEM students, in combined verbal and quantitative scores. Philosophy students excel in high-tech professions. Philosophy majors who go into business are, by mid-career, consistently doing better than those who majored in business.

How could this be? The combination of skills that philosophy teaches – understanding multiple points of view, analytical reasoning, and clarity of communication – gives philosophy students a flexibility of mind ideally suited to our rapidly-changing world.

Economic benefit is not the only reason to study philosophy, but philosophy’s practical value needs to be emphasized at this time of economic stress in our workforce.

The President of Ireland understands this, writing that “the teaching of philosophy is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to empower children into acting as free and responsible subjects in an ever more complex, interconnected, and uncertain world.” He has launched a nationwide initiative that has introduced philosophy into Irish schools.

While we have no such top-down support for philosophy in elementary and middle schools in this country, we can do much working from the bottom up. Kids naturally ask questions. And more questions. Exploring them can be joyful and exhilarating, for parents and teachers as well as kids. Teenagers, too, are natural philosophers. Just ask one of the 1,100 New Hampshire high school students who attended HYPE, a day-long philosophy conference held at UNH last month, organized by Souhegan and Spaulding students and sponsored in part by New Hampshire Humanities.

Click here to learn more about Timm Triplett's Humanities to Go program, "Introducing Children to Philosophy – And Why It Matters."