Through the Philosophical Lens

This experience will never cease to amaze me, just when I think I cannot possibly have another ‘light bulb’ moment it strikes yet again! Today it occurred during a Philosophical Enquiry session at Kailua High School. The first thing I must explain is that this module and the associated curriculum has been constructed from scratch by Dr Makaiau, Dr Miller and a member of staff from the school. It is a dynamic method of teaching pupils social studies through a philosophical enquiry based approach. As you can imagine this has been no mean feat and they are currently in the first academic year of piloting the programme and in the midst of formally getting it recognised as a subject at High School level. I have had the pleasure of attending a number of classes and each time I have attended, I have left feeling awe inspired.

Today was no different and each member of the community was asked to share an example of a life experience, memory or event and link it to the various philosophical lenses: aesthetics, culture, economic, epistemology, ethics, logic, metaphysics, politics, social, interactions between humans and the environment. The experience that I chose to share was my current research visit to Hawai’i.

Starting from the most obvious choice for this beautiful part of the world, I peered through the aesthetic lens and considered the immense beauty of the islands, their people and culture. I thought back to my first moments here and just how genuinely blown away I was by my surroundings. I was equally intrigued by the cultural aspects of my environment and love the general tone and warmth I have received from the people here. My earlier blog posts are a testament to this and I have internally deliberated how much of the effectiveness of the P4C model of Hawai’i is culturally influenced. From my perspective, the cultural values of the island embody the spirit and essence of P4C and it is this unified blend of cohesion that is one of the major contributing factors to the success of the movement. Economically, I have become absorbed in the way organisation of P4C time is distributed through the curriculum and how these decisions are made. The leadership of schools is managed in a comparatively dissimilar fashion to their English counterparts and this has a direct impact on the way in which P4C is cultivated and grown. The role and function of SAPERE in UK is not that different however, the way in which they approach the promotion and subsequent development of P4C does differ. My belief that epistemology lies at the very heart of P4C practice has only been further heightened during this visit. The excitement and underlying tone of eagerness, curiosity and intrigue are sparked by the notion of how do I know what I know and what is knowledge. Relating this to a school context, it is the idea that we are encouraging pupil to push the boundaries of their own and conventional societal knowledge that enthuses me as an educator. This throws up all sorts of big ethical questions and dilemmas that have led me to question what is essentially the right approach for schools to take to educate the future generations? This includes the contemplation of policy, curriculum, content and the desperate need to explicitly link all of these areas to the betterment of the individual pupil and cohorts. Is it time for an educational revolution? And is the education that we currently provide essentially right for the time we are now living in? I cannot claim to have made much headway with regards to possible solutions and outcomes but without a shadow of a doubt, I can certainly proclaim that these fundamental questions and thoughts will influence my future choices and judgments.

Whilst investigating interactions between humans and the environment I could not help but wonder just how much the physical and cultural environment relate to the level of sincerity and friendliness people display. I am sure we have all experienced an increased level of happiness and array of smiles when it is a warm sunny day as opposed to the dull, grey weather we are so often frequented with. There is just something about the extra dosage of Vitamin D that puts an extra spring in one’s step. I classify myself as a deeply logical thinker and I have always found the need to understand why things happen, how they fit together and subsequent consequences and actions. I inherently refuse to take things at face value without having some sort of deeper, underlying understanding. Perhaps this is the reason I find myself so strongly drawn to P4C and all that it represents. Conversing with the P4C team here and developing a detailed insight into how and why they operate the way they do makes absolute logical sense to me. I believe this is one of the primary reasons our working partnership has developed such a strong bond in a relatively short period of time. From a social perspective this has helped me to connect and cement our relationship. Sharing the same ideologies, beliefs, values and thinking has ultimately had a powerful impact on my life. In short the familiarity is like looking at a mirror image.
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The political dimensions of this visit have not been overlooked in the slightest. Although this is a personal, professional blog I have had to be mindful and considerate of the comments I make and think carefully about the ramifications they can have and at the same time remain true to myself and the purpose of the visit. Being here and empathetically sharing the bureaucratic pressure teachers have to face has raised the issue of politics, policy and implementation. In essence the nature of teachers is similar to ‘the nature of children’ (refer to earlier blog post). They face the same challenges and pressures and essentially they share the same love, care and passion for making a positive contribution to the lives of their pupils. It is a universal hallmark for good teaching!

Ultimately, I would like to end this reflection from a metaphysical perspective. Aside from waking up and finding myself on this idyllic, paradise like island and pinching myself to have the realisation that I am actually here, I think about the future and wonder if one day this will all seem like a distant dream. I certainly hope not and I intend to strengthen these bonds over the coming years and decades. I get the distinct feeling that it is just the start of a great big adventure …

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