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Archive for May, 2010

Speech from The Philosophers’ Football Match 9/05/10

Posted by Philosophy Foundation on May 11, 2010

Are there any women here today?

It’s great to see so many living philosophers in one place at this bizarre, ridiculous, wonderful event.

I think the collective noun is a ponder of philosophers. If there are not very many does it reduce to a ‘pond’ and if there are too many then does it become ponderous?

It will hopefully build some bridges between the different sections of philosophy education. We have people from the primary sector, secondary schools, university lecturers and professors, and philosophers in the media. There are footballers and Monty Python fans! And this whole event is about making more people aware of philosophy. Bizarrely, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this event that is all about reason.

But, as many a philosopher has said before: ‘what’s it all about?’

Today is about the 4 Rs: reading, writing, arithmetic… and reasoning!

The day is of course also about enabling kids from all backgrounds and ages to benefit from doing philosophy – and this has never been more important, since providing access to philosophy to youngsters is under threat even at university level. Witness the close of Middlesex philosophy department and the threatened job cuts at King’s and at Liverpool.

The critics say that we should focus on the foundational skills and not waste our time with new-fangled subjects. Well, first of all, philosophy is hardly new-fangled but secondly and more importantly: What could be more foundational than concepts and reasoning? Understanding how things connect to one another and learning to critically evaluate what is presented? Reading, writing and arithmetic count for very little if children do not reason – if they do not think. So, deepening understanding through reasoning skills and habits will improve the 3 Rs not hinder them.

The Cambridge Primary review, which came out last year, says as much: that reading and writing hasn’t improved in 55 years – you only have to look at the 3 Rs themselves to realise that: “reading, writing, ‘rithmetic”? The reason the Cambridge review gave for this was that education does not deepen understanding; it teaches to the test.

So, we should think seriously about the need to address good thinking in education

And that’s where philosophy comes in!

My view is that philosophy shouldn’t be squeezed in as an added extra – it should inform the whole of education to make education about good thinking and not just about a list of unthinking skills. There’s a sense in which, historically, education came from philosophy so philosophy’s coming home!

Maybe there are those who would see a ‘thinking citizen’ as a threat.

I will leave you (and possibly Mark Steel) to ponder that.

I would like to finish with a quote from the 16th century writer Michel de Montaigne. He said:

“Take Palvel and Pompeo, those excellent dancing masters when I was young: I would like to have seen them teaching us our steps just by watching them without budging from our seats, like those teachers who seek to give instruction to our understanding without making it dance.”

Today we have made understanding dance!

Thanks to…

Our sponsors and partners: firstly, our trophy sponsor Routledge – thanks very much to them, also Introducing Books, the marvellous On Idle for having done so much for today, Rebellion, Mitre, Open University, Performance Ticket Printers, TPM, Philosophy Now and Prospect and Dr. Stephen Law for donating copies of his books The Philosophy Files. A huge thank you of course to all our wonderful players of the beautiful game – thanks to your enthusiasm and generosity we have had an amazing and memorable event. Thanks go to everyone – but especially to our captains Arthur Smith and Dr Jim Parry, Ref Nigel Warburton, and special guests Bettany Hughes, Simon Hughes and Mark Steel – as well as our managers AC Grayling and Graham Taylor, and to our wonderful match day commentator for today’s event Laurie Taylor. And a quick thank you to The Dagenham Girls Pipers Band as well for their fabulous music. We would also like to thank the Monty Python team for allowing us to us their material as inspiration for today’s event. And finally, thanks to all of you who came to this fantastic event today.


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