Every Monday after school the Philosophy Club meets. It happens to meet in my classroom. As a consequence, I happened to sit in on it a few weeks ago. I was not assigned to it as a moderator. I was not looking for something to do after school on Mondays. I was not asked to stay in my room to ensure the safety of the students in Room 14. The topic simply caught my attention and I sat down (after asking the students if that was ok) and have participated every Monday since.
I have always liked philosophy. There is a connection between philosophy (the love of wisdom) and theology (words about God). And the “Ph.” in Ph.D. at the end of my name does stand for “philosophy,” after all. But my Ph.D. is in Education and Religion, not philosophy. What has kept me attending Philosophy Club has less to do with my philosophical interests and more to do with my pedagogical interests. Philosophy Club is a student-run, student-taught, student-driven experience.
As part of my previous work with the Quaglia Institute, I frequently noted that one of the ways the Internet has changed the context of education–even if our educational systems have not changed–is that anyone at anytime can learn anything. As a result, I had met middle school students who knew how to write code. High school students who knew more about the American Civil War than their history teacher. I have met elementary school students who can tell you every kind of dinosaur and the prehistoric eras they are associated with. I have met incredibly accomplished musicians and mathematicians and poets and political analysts and equestrians and inventors and… you get the idea.
Well now I have met students who know more about Philosophy than, at least, this Doctor of Philosophy. These teenagers have read Nietzsche and Kant. They debate Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard. Yesterday I was corrected on the relationship between “will to power” and nihilism. I am riveted. Not by the subject matter (though it is of interest), but by depth and breadth of understanding of the young men in this club. They are teaching me philosophy and I am learning from them and that is what keeps me coming back. At the end of the meeting yesterday, homework was assigned and I asked to be added to the MSOffice Group where readings are shared and assigned. I am now an official member, and not just a bystander, of CM’s Philosophy Club.
In a previous blog post Walking the Talk: Chapter One, I talked about students as teachers when both teacher and students need to learn. Having students research and then present on a topic is one way to think of students as teachers. But Philosophy Club has me wondering what else students have to teach that they already know something about and I know little or nothing about. What would my classroom look like if I asked students to teach me and their fellow students something they are passionate about; something they have learned or are learning on their own; something they study because they are motivated by wanting to learn it, not to earn a grade or credit? And what if after being taught, my responsibility was to draw out the connections between what I had just learned and what I know something about–theology? How would my class be different? What would it do to the Self-Worth, Engagement, and Sense of Purpose of every student in my classroom?
I guess what I am talking about is a shift in our very philosophy of education–from students as learners to students as teachers. Who has joined the club?