Should We Teach Philosophy In Public Secondary Schools

Someone is always coming up with the brilliant idea that by teaching some college level course the average secondary school student will greatly profit.  we will have students able to think cognitively and will be able to do critical thinking and write great essays, yada, yada, yada.  I know, I know, these people have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved several hundred miles thick with good intentions.   Okay, wise guy, what’s your solution?  Well, first we could teach children according to their capacity for a change.  What a novel idea.  Just think of the possibilities.  But we don’t and that’s a real shame.  So let me set a few ground rules for you.  I have a fair knowledge of statistics.  It was a requirement for my degree that I should demonstrate some knowledge of descriptive statistics, you know, things like averages that only describe the data and never prove anything.  And then I was required to be able to do statistical analysis, things like regression that prove one’s point according to the research study or experiment.  I went a little farther and took a few advanced courses as well as SAP programming.  Let’s just say that I am proficient at such things.

So let us begin with the distribution curve that so many teachers have never understood and most parents are totally unaware of its existence.  If we measure the height of a groups of students who are of the same comparative age, we would get a distribution curve of the individual height of each student.  And if we used the normal formula for finding the average of this group we would see that the curve of the individual heights, when plotted on a graph, would show a cluster of the average heights and spread the the left and the right.  The greater frequency of for the average height would reach its highest point in the middle and the two ends for the shortest and tallest would be very low.  Essentially, very tall individuals and very short individuals are more rare in distribution of populations that those of the average or mean height.  We also know this curve by its shape, the bell curve.  So taking this a step further we will introduce the term IQ, a measure that has as many supporters as it does detractors.  One way to think of the IQ scale is that it tends to measure the ability to learn.  Please note that this measure is not by any means infallible.  But it does provide a useful starting point when it comes to setting standards for the education of children.

Now the standard measure of IQ always uses the unit of 100 to denote the average.  That means that most of the individuals will cluster around that mean.  The divisions of average, above average, below average, and so forth are measures in increments of 16 units.  Thus someone who scores 116 on the test or assessment is still within the bounds of being average as is someone who scores 84.  On a more practical side, if someone is 16 points below 100, or the mean, that individual is , rather thick, when it comes to learning ability.  But the percentage of the population that is in that range of 100 to 116 is 34 percent (I’ve rounded it for convenience), and by that same standard, that percentage of the population that is in the range of 100 to 84 is also 34 percent.  Thus the average individual makes up about 68 percent of the population.  this is why thje idea that every child should go to college is rather an absurd one.  Those below 84 are considered “intellectually challenged”, if one wants to use the politically correct language.  Still, a spade is a spade.  Any individual with an IQ below about 44 is dead.  There is a lower limit to intelligence.  On the other hand we have seen scores close to 200, something of the upper limit.  Once an individual scores 164 or above that individual is in the genius category.  That category makes up only one percent of the population.  Funny thing is, if some one with an score of 80 sat next to you, you would recognize right away that they had a challenge to intellect.  But an Einstein could sit next to you and you would never know it.  Interesting, no?  Now this much I can tell you.  If you have scored above 100 but less that 117, your ability is only going to be average.  But let us say that you are in the next range of 117 to 132.  Hey, now you can do more and it will show, people will notice.  Then there are the betweens, those who score between 133 and 163.  These people are really smart, almost genius, or so it might seem.  The difference between the groups is significant.  It is not a quantum leap where the next energy level increases by one.  It is an exponential leap where each level leaves off and the next begins.  I am in that genius group at 170 and I met a man who was an easy 185.  Let me tell you, I was amazed because he was so far above my own level.

Now why did I go through all this dissertation?  Critical thinking can be taught to the average student but it is like pulling teeth.  One can try and teach fundamentals of economics, philosophy, and a host of other intellectual knowledge, but the effect will be very limited.  So many liberals and progressives suffer from the equality syndrome.  Yes, we all have the right to be taught rocket science and neurosurgery, but very few of us will understand what is being taught.  God protect us for idiots and assholes of good intentions.  The old method of segregating individual students into three or more groups was a sound one.  Sometimes a mistake was made, but if your IQ is 95, let me tell you, there is not way you will ever understand calculus or Foucault no matter how many hours you put in studying.  America is not Lake Wobegon where the children are all above average, an impossibility at best.  That is not how life works and yet we want to measure schools and school districts by the number of children they send off to college each year, even if that college education is dumbed down each year.  By the time one takes all the remedial courses one might be able to f=graduate in eight years from a four year school.

So we need to separate out the greatly above average from the rest and give them the access to the advanced classes because they are the only ones who will benefit.  Hell, I was reading Freud and Plato at fifteen.  I remember a fair amount but many of the ideas were far above my ability.  And that is the funny thing about ability and age.  Back then learning was still a bit difficult for me.  It didn’t help that I suffered for severe dyslexia and that took me years of overcome on my own.  But as my age and my amount of knowledge increased, learning has become very easy.  I am amazed at how easily I can learn new things.  That too, is an exponential function.  You young people will never know it until you’re an old fart like me.  So create curriculum that cater to the average and the less than average and the above average and keep them separate.  One can always try to stretch the boundaries of the average but you can’t stretch them much.  Will we ever see such a plan?  Hell no.  Education is an industry and a racket.  It serves itself first and the public last.

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