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I’m pleased to announce the publication of a journal article which I co-authored with my friend and colleague Grace Lockrobin of Thinking Space (UK). Our article, Against directive teaching in the moral Community of Inquiry: A response to Michael Hand, is published in the Journal of Philosophy in Schools (Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2020). It's one of a number of thoughtful replies to that issue's principal article, Moral education in the community of inquiry by our respected colleague Michael Hand. I would also draw your attention to Tim Sprod’s elegant reply Direction in a community of ethical inquiry.
What is at stake in this issue of the journal is whether philosophical educators should guide students towards particular conclusions concerning the moral acceptability of certain behaviours that they consider to be clearly right or wrong. Michael Hand argues they should; but many respondents – including Tim, Grace and I – beg to differ. It was an honour to be part of this correspondence alongside a group of luminaries in the field of Philosophy for Children.
I’m delighted that another of my articles is due to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Human Affairs later this year. Entitled ‘Unveiling and Packaging: A model for presenting philosophy in schools’, this article will appear in a special issue of the journal exploring the theme of how philosophy is presented.
What's new on The Philosophy Club blog?
The Philosopher Activist
In The Philosopher Activist I interview Violet CoCo, an inspirational environmental and social justice activist in Extinction Rebellion. She opens up about how studying philosophy helped her come to terms with the climate and ecological emergency, how it opened her eyes to the failure of the social contract, and why she now sees civil disobedience as a moral imperative. She says:
I doubt that philosophy has equipped me with all the skills that I’ll be needing to survive the tumultuous times ahead - but it has absolutely set the course for my life beyond university. It’s given me both a unique perspective and some necessary tools to navigate through a revolutionary moment in history. And it’s equipped me to facilitate ongoing conversations, among diverse voices, in the service of positive social change.
Read the interview in full here.
'Blobs' fall flat
In 'Blobs' Fall Flat, I offer a critical review of the book The Blob Guide to Children’s Human Rights. It was always going to be a tall order to create an educational resource that combines human rights education with socio-emotional learning, as the two domains use entirely different conceptual frameworks. But that’s just what was attempted in The Blob Guide to Children’s Human Rights. In this blog post, I take a look at what went wrong, as well as recommending a range of other teaching materials that introduce human rights more effectively. Here's an excerpt from my critique:
Rights-based discourse is concerned with concepts like respect, dignity, autonomy, individuality, entitlement, duty, protection, and violation, whereas socio-emotional discourse is concerned with concepts like sympathy, kindness, cruelty, hurt, solidarity, need and helplessness…
The book’s failure to deal with the tension between the socio-emotional and human rights frameworks leads to what I see as a significant problem. In the socio-emotional domain, the emphasis on subjective experience leaves room for the kind of relativism that the authors articulate: ‘the Blobs can be interpreted in a hundred different ways. There is no right and wrong about the Blobs’. By contrast, in the human rights domain, the emphasis on the universality and objectivity of rights necessitates rational justification, shared evaluative standards, and public accountability. For rights to have weight, their meaning must be broadly agreed upon. It is erroneous, not to mention dangerous, to imply that ‘there’s no right and wrong’ about human rights. The book therefore suffers from a misalignment between the prescriptiveness and universality of rights, and the contingency and variability of emotional responses.
Read the post in full here.
Congratulations to one of The Philosophy Club’s expert facilitators, Kai Tanter, who in 2018 received the University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts Dean’s Honours List for his Masters Thesis in the field of philosophy of language and logic, and has since been working on a PhD at Monash University. Kai has been a much valued member of our facilitation team since 2013: dependable, sensitive, insightful, and exceptional at building rapport with students. We warmly wish Kai much success in his academic career while he continues to contribute his talents to The Philosophy Club.
Educational Ethics During a Global Pandemic
The following announcement is shared on behalf of researchers who are not associated with The Philosophy Club.
School teachers, school leaders, and others in education are invited to join a discussion group about ethical challenges in education since COVID-19. This is a collaborative project with Harvard University's Justice in Schools, School of Education at the University of Newcastle and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.
These days it might be hard to avoid thinking about the risks of COVID-19 at work, and for many of us the impact of it has created changed work conditions, which have had challenging consequences for our students and their families too. Some of us are going back into remote learning, homeschooling our own kids, whilst others might be teaching kids who have 'fallen behind' or who are harder to reach and support. Some teachers are concerned about balancing health risks and financial security or the loss of some external professionals or extracurriculuar activities at schools. The pandemic has created unique ethical as well as practical issues.
The project Educational Ethics During a Global Pandemic offers a Professional Development opportunity that’s coupled with a Research investigation, with the intention of shaping policy and practice, and supporting each other through challenging times. You are invited to consider: What are one or two ethical questions or dilemmas that you've been wrestling with while trying to educate during a pandemic? What is making you morally anxious, or what values or principles are you finding it hard to live up to? It is hoped that this time spent in collaborative discussion with colleagues will provide you with a chance to make sense of the challenges and opportunities that are arising in your work during this difficult time and offer valuable insight for practice and policy. The sessions are free, no obligation, after school bell (AEST) and open to school teachers, school leaders, educational support, SLSOs and EC educators.
Upcoming online sessions, fostering open discussion, will run on several dates from 17 June 2021 to 8 July 2021. Please visit the project website for further information.