Sunday, March 26, 2006

AP Philosophy Exam?

It is an immense calamity that a philosophy class is not given, nor is there an AP Philosophy exam, or an SAT II philosophy exam. Why is this? Personally, I have no explanation for the reason why this is so. A possible explanation is the difficulty of the subject matter, and that allowing this class to be taken in high school would show an increase in the suicide rate. However, there is an AP Psychology test, which is while different subject matter, a similar type of soft science as philosophy (awkward wording, I’m sorry, I’m working on it). The

It is possible that philosophy as a whole does not work well on a standardized test. Teaching anyone something beyond elementary philosophy would be very difficult to do in a year, and philosophy is so vast that it cannot possibly be learned in one year to the depth that AP United States history is learned. A course in the history of philosophy is more practical, but even that would take years to be learned.

So if it is not possible to teach the subject in the allotted time, is it possible to teach the subject in terms of complexity. Could the average level 9/AP high school student thrive in a detailed philosophy class? I believe that it is very possible, but it takes dedication. A philosophy class would be structured as a class of small quizzes to ensure the students understand the material, and with a lot of writing. Philosophy is a discipline that requires extensive writing to be able to express all the ideas it desires. Few philosophers are concise.

I suppose that it is possible to teach an AP ancient philosophy class. By ancient, I mean Thales to Augustine. This may include Ancient Eastern philosophy (I do not like calling it ‘Eastern’, but the idea is known to most. It is possible that all of Ancient philosophy, east and west, could be learned in a year. The structure for the West would be, The Hebrew Bible, the Sophists, Presocratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Stoics, Cynics, Skeptics, Epicureans, Cicero, Jesus, Plotinus, Augustine, and I am undecided about Boethius. Ambrose and Jerome may be covered, as with the Pirkei Avot. For the East, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism would be covered. Zoroastrianism may be covered in the West, and Jainism and Shintoism could also be covered. This is a fair amount of work for an AP class.

If there is an ancient philosophy class, there probably should also be an AP Medieval and Modern Philosophy Class. However, the latter may be too much material to be covered in a year, if it is to be assumed that it begins with Bacon, Descartes, or the Humanists. Well, I guess when compared with ancient philosophy it is not too much more, if philosophy ends at Quine, or the post-moderns.

For medieval philosophy, it would be from Muhammed to Khaldun or so. There are fewer philosophers covered for this time period when compared to Modern Philosophy. Possibly starting modern at Spinoza, and ending the Medieval exam at Pascal, but it would be beyond absurd to call Pascal, or all those before him (Hobbes, Descartes, Erasmus, Bacon) medieval philosophers. However, there is a wealth of medieval philosophy to be taught and learned in high school.

A problem may arise in the fact that I am not sure that students would want to take Medieval Philosophy, or even Modern or Ancient philosophy for that matter! Regardless, the option should at least be open to budding philosophers who want to show that if they are going to major in philosophy, they at least took the class and did well in high school. I say we petition the AP board to create a philosophy test. They are going to begin giving a Chinese AP test, there ought to be a philosophy one too.


Blogger Sean said...

You are 16?

I'm sure you give your teachers a run for their money.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Brian P A Coughlin said...

my brain done broke again

7:15 PM  
Blogger No Where said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who says there is not enough demand for such a course. Had it been offered in my high school i definately would have taken it. I took AP Pyschology and AP Calc. I took several humanities courses my senior year (History of great ideas[religions], Social Problems, etc) and I wished that ANY of those had been AP classes! It is possible that this may have to start as a grassroots effort finding those students who would enjoy and commit themselves to this type of class before anyone would consider teaching it.

9:38 AM  
Blogger No Where said...

Sorry. By accident, I deleted the comment. What I said was: 'There's not enough demand for such a course'.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Erik said...

That last line I think is sloppy. It doesn't matter what ever else there offering. It should not be argued that because they are offering Chinese it follows they should offer Philosophy--anymore than because they offer psychology, the inclusion of history is justified.

On the whole though, I think a very nice argument. Though I remain skeptical about whether or not such an idea can actually get off the ground, at least not in the sense of an explicit philosophy class. If we suppose that a prerequiste is a fascination for the questions philosophy asks, ought we, indeed can we, form a test that measures this?

My sense is that philosophy in the pre-undergraduate level, and indeed at any point in life, must begin with the self. Though, I concede that having a "philosophy class" would seem helpful, it is not clear what one would be doing in the same sense as a more discrete and quantifiable subject area. If anything perhaps a course of logic, or maybe a course that is about reading and writing critically in the way that philosophy ought to be practiced.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Sage said...

I've just now discovered all the philosophy blogs on-line. Greetings!

I teach philosophy at the high-school level in Canada. I did my Masters, and was tired of teaching grade 10 history, so I rallied for the course myself. It took two years, but it has been a very successful experience. There's no shortage of high school kids into philosophy. I teach two courses, and get about 2-3 sections of each course each semester (over 300 students each year).

Here's what I teach (for better or worse). They're both general survey type courses with a smattering of everything - just to get them excited about thinking!

Grade 11 open level (which means anybody, of any ability, can take it - university stream to "basic" stream): Logic - just fallacies which involve lots of role plays. I think this section of the course should be required for every student. People just don't know how to argue! Death - dualism, materialism, idealism. God - teleological, ontological, cosmological theories, Pascal's Wager, Nietzsche, Ayer, etc. Art and beauty - formal theory, subjective interpretation, expressionist art, found art (in which students bring in art they found at lunch), etc. Taoism - via The Tao of Pooh. An independent study - a biography on any philosopher of interest. I end with a unit on Gender to keep them interested right to the end - Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hume, Locke, etc. views of women. This course is more about learning some basics than actually doing philosophy. We watch lots of Monty Python and have many rousing debates (beautifully argued - or else).

And if anyone's still reading...

Grade 12 university level (this is the highest grade in high school here, so this is a university prep course - lots of essays!) Logic to start - fallacies plus some formal logic stuff. I love logic, but most kids really can't get it. I make sure they can identify premises and conclusions at the very least. Epistemology - Plato, Descartes, Hume, scepticism, rationalism, empiricism, pragmatism, hard/soft determinism, etc. (We discuss the film "Being John Malcovich") Human Nature and Ethics - virtuous ways to live, Stoics, Epicureans, Jesus, Plato, Mill, Kant, Rand, Nietzsche, Lao Tzu, etc. Politics - virtuous ways to govern, Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Mill, Marx, Anarchy. Independent seminars on the relationship between academic and popular philosophy. And I end off with Love, Sex, and Friendship. Plato's Symposium, Aristotle's Friendship, Montagne, and a bunch of contemporary dudes.


9:44 PM  
Blogger Brian Hillman said...

Blasted Canada.

It appears that your course is quote good, and I would be the first one to sign up for it. I am positive there are schools that teach philosophy, but without any standardized philosophy tests (AP, SAT II) it is difficult to have them instituted into school curriculums. It appears that your course would be quite god, and I would be among the first to sign up for it. The problem is that it is difficult to do even a survey of philosophy in only one year; even in two years is a bit of a stretch. Plus I am unsure if there is a great demand for philosophy classes in many school systems, and with new progressive classes being instituted centering on film and current events, a 2600- 3000 year tradition of critical inquiry is not going to be around the top of the list. Yea philosophy!

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looking for my philosophy test grade and ran across this kool i love philosophy philosophy in itself means love of knowlidge

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello everyone, I'm not sure if there will be anymore comments after I post mine but I have time and what the heck I love philosophy!

Fact is, many people love philosophy but do not know it yet because they are not exposed to it. I believe at least there should be one grade 12 university course in every american higheschool. I'm just about to finish philosophy and we covered metaphysics, epistemology, logic,aesthetics and a general view of philosophy. Within these there are the philosophers of course, plato, aristotle, Kant, Descarte, Sartre, and a whole bunch of other ones. The only problem I see is that many students have the potential for doing well, BUT for those who do not find it interesting or it does not suit their type of thinking, then they begin to drop the course. In my class about 5 or 6 people droped it. Anyhow I have a bout a 95 in grade 12 u level philosophy course and I know it is very hard for other students which do not have the capabilities to think philosophically. That's why I think in a philosophy course there should be some thinking and application but also a large section on knowledge about the history and the theories as they relate to each philosopher. This would scare students less and might lead to take philosophy later on. Thanks

10:17 PM  
Anonymous centrini said...

You are still perfectly correct on your question about the absence of either an AP Philosophy course or SAT II exam in United States high school curricula.

How can the country that boasts of being the prized daughter of the 18th century and the light of freedom and democracy to the world, deny its citizens a rigorous, standardized and historical training in the philosophical tradition upon which it is based?

Ontario is the only English-speaking political entity that REQUIRES a philosophy course for its high school diploma.

Blast Canada.

Let the facts that this requirement is very new - first passed in the early 1990's - and has seen a tremendous response in the Canadian student body - as "sage" testifies - give us hope for our waning civilization.

And let it remind us that humans naturally find pleasure in pure knowledge!

France claims to be the only country in the world in which philosophy is a required subject for a high school diploma - although contemporary French method is categorical and comparative, and not historical.

However, in both Italy and the Germanophone countries, a rigorous and extensive examination of the history of philosophy is widely demanded of there students seeking the MATURA exam.

I do not know what happens in the UK or the other First World powers, although I would not be surprised if they would put us quickly to shame!

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, personally would love it if there were such a course offered at my school. Unfortunately though, I don't think that the school would ever be able to find enough people to enroll in it.

6:54 PM  

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