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Philosophy can teach children what Google can’t

In the controls of driverless automobiles, on the end of the phone when you call your bank or favorite merchant: we all know the robots are coming, and in many cases, are already here. Back in 2013, economists in Oxford University’s Martin School estimated that in another 20 years, over half of all jobs are substituted by smart technology. Like the possibility of robot-assisted alive or hate it, it’s foolish to deny that kids in school now will enter a vastly different workplace tomorrow — and that’s if they are lucky. Far from jobs being brought back from China, futurologists forecast that pornographic jobs will be increasingly outsourced to digitization in addition to blue-collar ones.

How should educationalists prepare young people for professional and civic life in a digital era? Luddite hand-wringing will not do. Redoubling investment in science, engineering, technology and math’s (Stem) topics will not fix the issue either: hi-tech training has its own imaginative limitations.

In the long run school-leavers will need different skills. In a world where technical expertise is increasingly narrow, the skills and confidence to traverse areas are going to be at a premium. We’ll need people that are ready to ask, and answer, the questions which are not Googleable: Just like what are the ethical consequences of machine automation? What are the political implications of mass unemployment? As a society, we will need to be more philosophically engaged.

“The teaching of doctrine,” he said in November, “is among the most effective tools we have at our disposal to enable children into behaving as free and responsible subjects in an increasingly complex, interconnected, and uncertain world.”

In 2013, as Ireland fought against the after-effects of this fiscal crisis, Higgins launched a nationwide initiative calling for discussion about what Ireland appreciated as a society. The end result is that for the first-time doctrine was introduced into Irish colleges in September.

In the UK, a community of philosophers and educators is still lobbying hard for a GCSE equivalent. And Ireland, a country that was once deemed “the most Catholic nation”, is currently exploring reforms to establish doctrine for children as a topic within primary schools.

This expansion of doctrine in the program is something that Higgins and his wife Sabina, a philosophy grad, have explicitly called for. Higgins’ perspectives are ahead of the time. If educators will need to find wise, philosophers will need to get over themselves.

Thinking and the desire to know do not come naturally — contrary to what Aristotle thought. Unlike, say, sex and gossip, philosophy isn’t a universal interest. Bertrand Russell came nearer when he stated, “Many people would rather die than think; most do.” While we may all have the capacity for doctrine, it’s a capacity that needs instruction and cultural nudges.

It encircles the dual requirement of strenuous labor under a stern overseer. This necessitates tolerant dialogue, and imagining divergent viewpoints while weighing them up. Philosophy helps children — and adults — to articulate questions and research replies not readily drawn out by introspection or Twitter. At its best, doctrine puts thoughts, not egos, front and center. And it’s the very fragility — the unnaturalness — of doctrine that requires it to be inserted, not just in schools, but in public areas.

Philosophy will not bring back the jobs. It is not a cure-all for the planet’s present or future woes. However, it can build resistance against poor judgments, and unentitled certitude. Philosophy in our classrooms would better equip us all to comprehend and to challenge the conventional wisdoms of our era. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the president of Ireland, a country that was once a sub-theocracy, knows this.

Philosophy can teach children what Google can’t – and Ireland knows it | Charlotte Blease
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