Jun 032013

What a strange and alien idea! Teach kids philosophy, give them ideas, show them how to articulate ideas in argument, make them conversant with the intellectual themes of the age? Elitist poppycock! Let them eat Freedom Fries! No wonder the French are so easily satisfied with things like universal health care!


Why this emphasis on philosophy in France?

Other countries have school-leaving exams which cover the history of ideas and religion and so on. But the French are very clear that that is not what theirs is.

The purpose of the philosophy Bac is not to understand the history of human thought but to leap into the stream that is the actuality of human thought.

If you learn about what Kant or Spinoza once said, it is not so much to understand their argument as to use their argument.

Napoleon launched the Baccalaureat in 1809, and philosophy was one of the subjects in the first ever exam (though back then it was oral, and in Latin, and only 31 males took it).

The idea behind philosophy was itself entirely philosophical.

In the newly created republic (and yes, I know Napoleon had just made himself emperor, but the point still holds) it was important to create model citizens.

Had not the great writer and thinker Montesquieu himself said the republic relied on virtue, and virtue consisted in the capacity of individuals to exercise their own freely-formed judgment?

So the purpose of teaching philosophy was – and remains, in theory – to complete the education of young men and women and permit them to think.

To see the universal arguments about the individual and society, God and reason, good and bad and so on, and thus escape from the binding imperatives of the now – by which I mean the dictatorship of whatever ideas are most pressingly forced on us in the day-to-day by government, media, fashion, political correctness and so on.

How wonderful, you cannot help thinking. What a great idea. Now that is what I call civilisation.

via BBC News – Why does France insist school pupils master philosophy?.

  3 Responses to “Why does France insist school pupils master philosophy? @ BBC”

  1. The philosophy I learned in high school for my French Bac taught me more in one year than probably all four years of high school lit did…

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