Philosophy over coding, please

grayscale photo of man thinking in front of analog wall clock

This is written as the type of opinion piece I hate – backed up with no facts and based wholly on anecdote and personal experience. I agree with the premise of my arguments, I just don’t know how much truth there is to the foundations upon which they are so carefully built. Still, it was fun to write.

The good bits of philosophy must become core to education.

Coding in schools is all the rage these days.

Across the world, tinkering with computer software is now becoming a central plank of the curriculum. This is an important and necessary shift – a digital tsunami engulfs us, and the ability to write (or at least understand) code will be the lifeboat for many young people.

It is important. But it is another step on the onward march of “vocationalisation” of the education system. The rhetoric around schooling is about how it is there to get us jobs.

Not many would disagree that one role of education is to prepare people for the workplace.

I would argue (as would others)  that education must be about more than this. 

Our economic life is just one facet of who we are. For many people, jobs are there to pay the bills. We have hobbies. We are citizens. We are mothers and fathers and parents and lovers. We are explorers and storytellers. We have to navigate a complex world – solving problems and figuring out right from wrong.

What does all of this have in common? No matter what, we need the ability to think – to ask the right questions and to structure and test our answers.

It is in helping us do this that aspects of philosophy can play a role.

Not all of it, but something perhaps in the style of Michael Sandel. The bits that help us think about questions more holistically and give us a framework for moral decision making. The world of thought experiments and Socratic discussion.

Thinking is a skill like any other that needs to be developed. Philosophy, taught well, can be the mechanism to help us develop this skill and “inquiry” can be a toolkit that allows us to see things in a bigger and broader way. Helping young minds ask bigger questions and create better answers can surely only help them in all facets of their life.

Coding is important but philosophy is essential.

There are lots of efforts to bring philosophy into schools: Philosophy 4 Children, Philosophy Foundation and others. I, for one, will be rooting for them all.



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