Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why I hated Philosophy

by steven n fettig
I want to play devil's advocate to my own post about open curriculum. So a short story from my younger days. In college I was required to take a basic philosophy class. Most students took it freshman year. I knew that it was going to be a "pie in the sky" class that I would hate. So I avoided it and saved it until my last year. I finally signed up for a once a week three hour class that I knew would be so painful.

The class started and I loved it. I have always loved math, logic, and arguing deep questions. In other words everything that the class was about. I seriously considered getting a minor in philosophy but I was too close to being done and did not want to stay in school any longer (later I considered going to grad school in philosophy).

So hopefully my point is clear. If I had never been forced to study philosophy I may never have been exposed to a great field that I find very interesting. (on the other hand I was forced to take a music appreciation course of classical music that I hated. The reason may very well have been the skill of the teacher).

So my question is should learning every be forced on a learner? If so when? What content is so important that learners should be coerced to learn it.

If not, how do we ensure that learners in an open system are exposed to varied and critical content for being a successful citizen?


  1. Great points here & good post- HAPPY HOLIDAYS by the way! Sometimes with high school students I think as a teacher we all face that quintessential paradox with regard to students in that - "they don't know what they don't know"- so sometimes learning dynamic CHANGES when that "awakening" on the part of the learner occurs!

  2. I don't know the answer to that. If only every required class were taught by a great teacher, huh? Hmm, how about a 'requirement' of one class a year from outside your interests. No way to properly enforce that... And the college would provide lists of classes that students thought they'd hate and ended up loving, with descriptions from the students about why.

  3. I think this is why I value a liberal arts education so much. It's also what makes me so nervous about the idea of students narrowing their focus at such a young age. When I was in 5th grade, I wanted to be a physical therapist (I have no idea why). When I was in middle school, I had an amazing Spanish teacher who made me want to learn multiple languages and become a translator at the UN. When I was in high school, I was determined to become a writer. In college, I contemplated law school, policy, writing, and teaching. I took Social Welfare as a required course in sociology. It had a service-learning requirement that led me to continue volunteering for three days a week at a local non-profit. This led me to volunteering in multiple cities and countries and committing to a post-graduate year of service. This course that I never wanted to take because I didn't find it "academic" enough changed the course of my life. Shouldn't we expose students to those opportunities, even if they don't amount to such game-changers for them?