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Philosophy at schools: Teaching youth how to think

ministry of education
(Photo: Twitter)
ministry of education

Khalid Dalal

The writer is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah, and works currently as a senior advisor for media, strategic communication, PR, international cooperation, and business development locally, regionally and globally.

A close examination of the Kingdom’s latest reforms literature would lead us to conclude that success hinges on the ability to develop how people think and accept the logic of reform. This development is indispensable to the process of bringing about the envisioned change.اضافة اعلان

 The connection might not be visible to some, but the general impression behind these reforms is that reasoning, critical thinking, and sound judgment have not been taught properly at our schools. So the recent decision to reinstate philosophy as a course in school curricula — after nearly a half-a-century hiatus — aims to help rebuild these essential skills.

 In a nutshell, if we succeed in teaching the younger generation, which is the target of all sorts of reform, how to think, we will be one step closer to the target culture required as a catalyst of positive change.

 One vital aspect of such a drive is shedding off years of dominance by some religious ideologies that reject philosophy and logic despite the fact that hundreds of Holy Quran verses urge people to think, contemplate, and question.

 The golden age of the Arab-Islamic civilization, which succeeded as a melting pot where all cultures, races, and ethnicities became an integral part of and major contributors to the unparalleled scientific and cultural achievements, was characterized by embracing philosophy, especially in the Abbasid era.

 Through the school philosophy course, which is planned for the 2023–2024 academic year, we expect young Jordanians to be introduced to their ancestors who excelled in philosophy, including Al-Farabi, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), history philosopher Ibn Khaldun, in addition to theologians who studied philosophy and employed their knowledge in defense of the Islamic faith, particularly Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali. These teachings will allow the youth to learn about Islamic legacy by enriching them with comprehensive arguments and counter-arguments.

If we look around, we find that Jordan preceded the philosophy-in-school decision with a very important move to revive the heritage of iconic Muslim scholars. Waqf authorities, upon Royal directives, established several chairs for the study of four prominent and revered scholars of Islam, including imams Al-Nawawi at Al–Salt Grand Mosque and at the World Islamic Sciences and Education University (WISE), Al-Ghazali at the University of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, Al-Razi at the University of Jordan, WISE University, and the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque, and Al-Suyuti at Al-Husseini Grand Mosque.

These four imams accept an adequate degree of logic and philosophy as instrumental in understanding and defending Islam and its teachings.
If we succeed in teaching the younger generation, which is the target of all sorts of reform, how to think, we will be one step closer to the target culture required as a catalyst of positive change.
 Returning to the present, research conducted by Durham University a few years ago found that “encouraging primary school pupils to have philosophical discussions can boost their maths and reading results”.

 Additionally, professor of the public understanding of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, Angie Hobbs, said: “The teaching of philosophy can help young people think for themselves, challenge misinformation, and resist attempts to indoctrinate them”.

“Philosophy, with its rich history of arguments and ideas, allows young people to reflect on what constitutes a flourishing life — for both individuals and communities. A life in which potential is realized in a way that benefits all,” she added.

 So, what more do we need?

Let us do it right by preparing teachers to handle the job according to the best practices and make sure that we do not spoon-feed students the very subject that requires them to think independently and freely.

 This is a step in the right direction, and we should all aim for its success.


Khalid Dalal is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah, and works currently as a senior advisor for media, strategic communication, PR, international cooperation, and business development locally, regionally, and globally. [email protected]


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