Barack Obama, from yesterday’s YouTube conference:
And I’m a big believer that the most important thing that a kid can learn in school is how to learn and how to think. If Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, are asking questions, know how to poke holes in an argument, know how to make an argument themselves, know how to evaluate a complicated bunch of data, then I figure that they’re going to be okay regardless of the career path that they’re in. And I think that that requires more than just rote learning — although it certainly requires good habits and discipline in school — it also requires that in the classroom they’re getting the kind of creative teaching that’s so important.
I think the two things that could do the most to promote this aim are (a) a really good statistics course, to give people a feel for working with data, and (b) a really good critical thinking course, of the kind the best philosophy teachers deliver to college freshmen. If those courses were integral parts of the high school curriculum, then we’d see many more people who can make and evaluate arguments, especially arguments based around numerical data.
There have been intermittent attempts to bring philosophy in high school in various Australian states, but it would be great to see something similar attempted in America.
UPDATE: Via Larvatus Prodeo, I just saw this link to an article about teaching philosophy in schools in Queensland. It seems there is much more philosophy going on in pre-tertiary education than I’d realised.