why we should be thankful for our philosophy classes in high school...

When I came in the US for my 1st year of college, I obviously was concerned about my level of english, whether I would be able to fit in with my classmates and whether I would have the expected level in the other required subjects. My english was acceptable although my oral skills were mediocre; the "fitting-in" part was spotty at times; however there was not much worry for too long about whether I had the expected level in the other subjects. The expectations on a 1st year entry college student in a decent university are (IMO) rather low in world history, political science, calculus and foreign language. I wasn't complaining though, it gave time to work on the "fitting-in" part :). But don't take my word for it, instead listen to this teacher of world litterature in Pennsylvania. She argues that the negligence of subjects of "culture generale" (liberal arts) in US college allows for the gouvernment to abuse the concept of democracy. Here are extracts of her argument:
"The question my experiences in the classroom raise is why have these young people been educated to such abysmal depths of ignorance [..]Geography, history, philosophy, and political science - all missing from their preparation. I realize that my students are, in fact, the oppressed, as Paulo Freire's "The Pedagogy of the Oppressed" pointed out, and that they are paying for their own oppression. [..]
Meanwhile, this expensive stupidity facilitates US funding of the bloody work of death squads, juntas, and terror regimes abroad. It permits the war we are waging - an unfair, illegal, unjust, illogical, and expensive war, which announces to the world the failure of our intelligence and, by the way, the creeping weakness of our economic system. Every man, woman, and child killed by a bomb, bullet, famine, or polluted water is a murder - and a war crime. And it signals the impotence of American education to produce brains equipped with the bare necessities for democratic survival: analyzing and asking questions.[..] I don't think serious education is possible in America. Anything you touch in the annals of knowledge is a foe of this system of commerce and profit, run amok [..] in the rapacity that the industrial revolution created, people first surrendered their minds or the capacity to reason, then their hearts or the capacity to empathize, until all that was left of the original human equipment was the senses or their selfish demands for gratification.[...]"
You can argue that she is pushing the enveloppe to a certain extreme but she sure does make a lot of sense on several points. The argument "ignorance permits war waging" is quite compelling. She also quote Goebbels" when I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver" ( I think it was actually Goring who said so). Anyway, her article made me thankful for "classe de philo" in terminale (senior high school) even though I totally bombed my philo exam "au bac" ;). Here is the complete essay.


  1. Anonymous4:06 AM

    Laalai: a cannibal or a redemptor?

    Interesting post, which links philosophy to culture-G. I should say the strength (and by the same process) the weakness of the French education is the very large base of liberal arts disciplines students are expected to acquire before they reach their high school diploma. I believe geography and history could actually make responsible citizens (provided they learned their lessons, anyone for Taochi?). On the philosophy side, the souvenir of "Master" Laalai is not pleasant to every student at the Lycee francais de Tananarive. How could the elaborate debate of Descartes against Hume bring take-aways to teenagers? The rigor of the reasoning (wasn't philosophy verbal mathematics?), and the remote relationship between Kant "Critique de la raison pure" and your (hardtime) growing experience made it all ....quite impossible for you to become, from philo only, a well-articulated citizen. Anyone for a cup of coffee with BHL?

  2. I guess philosophy stands out in the difference of curriculum between high school here and back home. But in general, 99% of my freshman class back then did not hear of Neruda or Hugo either. Speaking of BHL, he is now in Israel, trying to explain the lebanon mess from Israel's perspective:
    How are you doing there over there ? tandremo mandrora aminy tany so dia vo lako sur la place publique !:)

  3. Hey Lova,

    Why do you always have to be so serious and not just stick to our fave Brit's, Janet's, Brangelina's topics?

    9 hours a week made me allergic to philosophy in general. I didn't have the chance (I think it's an experience of a lifetime) to be in Lalai's class but his successors are as special as they can be. For instance, we had a crazy one : her name was Coste, she loves reggae and her son's name is...Akhenaton...I didn't make this up...i swear!!. She gave me an average 6 during my Tle year and miraculously I popped a 15 for the bac...I guess all this means I AM the mighty one here...nobody cares jogany...oh ok...

    bzzzz Lova

    ps : i work on fridays sometimes, but in september i won't have time anymore!!

  4. hey JoGany,

    1st time I am ever accused of being serious ;), I kind of like it, it means I am more mature (yeah right :) !).
    I will resume Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson talk very soon :), it's just that everything has been said already....heard of Tom Cruise financial problems...?
    good going in Philo, I had 6/20 , yay me !

  5. Tom Cruise?? financial problem? no way...because of Katie Holmes and the alien baby?!! aha ah ah ah ah....

    Your post is really interesting by the way. In Canada I think it's nearly the same system as in the US (hum... cheaper!!) BUT people here really care about Injustice and Humanism.
    So maybe it's not only in schools (especially philosophy courses) that you can learn to become a good citizen but also with a big help from our social environment.

    (Don't you think all this sounds smart? it's incredible how I'm able to make a full sentence of mere intellectual words on summertime!)

    Lova : it's all about loving, sharing, loving and the sharing...

  6. >Jogany yep, that and the fact that he is not as "money in the bank" at the box-office as he was before ( because of the insanity and all I guess)
    see, that's why I think that Canada is a bit ahead of here in terms of international relations. There is no "we could care less about the rest of the world's opinion " attitude.
    "and the giving, the having, the holding ..." :) best wedding minister ever ;)

  7. Anonymous11:31 PM

    what your teacher said may be true as soon as you have good teachers. otherwise it is a complete loss of time.
    for example:did you have mr lucien(the malagasy one in h-g).no passion in his lectures.
    the worst was rajaonarivelo (philosophie).woow!you could sleep during her lecture,she "doesn't drive your mind" very far.
    but when you have good teachers,it's cool.they can "awaken" your mind to those kinds of questions.
    putain je me suis coltiné uune moyenne de 8 toute l'année en philo.as in hg,i didn't have good scores in class.However our teacher,patrick segrestan wouldn't let us daydream.he would make us exercise by asking question about situation
    et puitain j'ai eu 16 en au bacc.
    faly azho tamin'izany
    big up to the 2004-2005 generation

  8. >anonymous, thanks for visiting and sharing your experience. Je ne connais pas ces profs, je suis sans doute trop vieux :) tout a fait d'accord sur l'importance du format de la classe et de l'energie du prof....

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