Fact, Value and Philosophy Education

Philip Cam

Abstract


In Fact, value and philosophy education I tried to show how philosophy can help to overcome the fact-value divide that continues to plague education. In attempting this, I applied John Dewey’s suggestion that philosophy may help to integrate beliefs about matters of fact with values in society at large, to the curricular division between subjects that deal with knowledge of matters of fact and those that are largely devoted to subjective understanding and personal expression. The paper centres on the claim that philosophical dialogue about what we should believe and value can help to effect a mutual adjustment between our reason and our sentiments and bring us to think as whole human beings. It argues the case by first looking at the use of reflective practical reason to effect a change in our desires and conduct when we deem them to be undesirable. The use of reason to provide us with courses of action and other practical remedies to deal with what we see as defects in our character suggests that our cognitive and affective powers are capable of working together through mutual adjustment. By extension, I argue that reason can help us to examine the moral dimension of problems and issues in various areas of study, while making our understanding of them responsive to our feelings. The introduction of an educational means to give effect to this mutual adjustment brings us back to the role of philosophy. Philosophy provides the opportunity for reasoned dialogue that brings the factual material that students encounter into connection with what they are learning to value. It brings a normative cast to the study of history, society, literature, art, science and technology and enables the knowledge that students gain through their studies to be applied to matters of value. In general, it brings moral sensitivity to all kinds of subject matter and enables students to apply their knowledge and intelligence to the formation of values. In the years since I wrote this piece, I had the privilege to assist with the initial draft of documents on ethical understanding as a general competence in the Australian national curriculum and of constructing and implementing a pilot program for ethical inquiry in New South Wales primary schools, which led to ethics becoming an option for students who do not attend religious instruction. In different ways, both experiences brought home to me the importance of incorporating considerations of value throughout the curriculum and the value of philosophical inquiry as a means of doing so. Reflection on these experiences resulted in my book Teaching Ethics in Schools (ACER Press 2010).


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21913/JPS.v1i1.993

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