Middle School Philosophy, Day One

Starting today, I am teaching a seminar on philosophy to a group of ten 7th graders and 8th graders at my son’s charter school. We will meet 45 minutes a day for three or four days a week. Today will be our first meeting and our only meeting this week.

The goal of seminars at this school is to introduce the students to new ideas. My son Shem (12) is actually a sixth grader, but he will be part of the philosophy seminar as well. One of his previous seminars was from a recent PhD in English at UNLV whose son is also in Shem’s class. The focus of that seminar was super-heroes…so I am not sure if can compete with that one. I will try.

Today, we will be kicking things off with Socrates. I will be using Socrates as a model for philosophical thinking and a philosophical approach to the world. Something like that. Socrates is a super-hero…right?

I will be using this 10 minute portrayal of The Apology by Plato in class:

I love Socrates. I fall way short of being Socratic myself, but I feel inspired when I read Plato’s narrative of Socrates, especially as I find myself more and more alienated from the political world around me.

I am a political philosopher. I taught political philosophy during my year at BYU and my three years at BYU-Idaho. I also taught ethics for three years in the philosophy department at Utah Valley University.

At Casper College, I was never allowed to teach the only political theory offering…despite being the only political theorist on the faculty. Attempts to teach theoretical courses and philosophy courses in Ethics were greeted with administrative disgust. If any place needed a Socrates…I am just glad it is not me.

My recent immersion into my dissertation and preparation for this brief seminar have reminded my why i love philosophy and theory. I am excited about the next few weeks and the future.

What are some philosophical concepts that you might share with middle school students? Any ideas for brief readings or philosophers to highlight? Shem has requested some Rawls. I think he is just sucking up.

Categories: Philosophy

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