Last week we took a look at the curriculum recommendations which Ben Franklin laid out for America’s early grammar schools. These schools consisted of six classes (a.k.a. “grades”) geared toward boys between the ages of 8 and 16 which taught everything from English grammar to classic literature.
One of Franklin’s more surprising recommendations was the suggestion to begin studying moral philosophy in the fourth class. A year later, students were to build on this foundation by studying logic and reasoning.
While teaching philosophy to young students seems a little overboard to modern minds, it turns out that Franklin – and other schools in America’s past – may have been on to something. As Quartz reports, modern schools are noting a number of side benefits which come from teaching philosophy to young children:
“Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study (pdf).
More than 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England participated in weekly discussions about concepts such as truth, justice, friendship, and knowledge, with time carved out for silent reflection, question making, question airing, and building on one another’s thoughts and ideas.
Kids who took the course increased math and reading scores by the equivalent of two extra months of teaching, even though the course was not designed to improve literacy or numeracy. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds saw an even bigger leap in performance: reading skills increased by four months, math by three months, and writing by two months. Teachers also reported a beneficial impact on students’ confidence and ability to listen to others.”
British educator Charlotte Mason once noted that “the life of the mind grows upon ideas.” Would we see more academic growth in today’s students if we gave them challenging food for thought by reintroducing philosophy into the curriculum?
Image Credit: Sean Stephens (cropped) bit.ly/1eBd9Ks
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.