Philosophy in the Schools
Environmental Ethics Outreach Accordion Closed
Students who study environmental ethics (Philosophy 331) have an option to participate in a community outreach project with students at Ponderosa High School. This project is coordinated by a team of students who have completed or who are enrolled in the class. These students work closely with the faculty at Ponderosa, Rachel Steagall, Chair of the Math and Science Department, and John Taylor, the Sustainability and Innovation Coordinator. Students develop a two-part lesson related to what Ponderosa students are studying in their science class. The first part of the lesson is classroom based and focused on philosophical concepts and analysis. The second part of the lesson is field-based activity, where students have an opportunity to see how the concepts apply to the natural world.
NAU student mission statement for environmental ethics outreach
To actualize participants full potential by facilitating an opportunity to foster critical thinking and engagement with the environment in a creative and supportive atmosphere.
The Environmental Outreach Program was inspired by Jacqueline Mackey, who graduated with a degree in environmental studies from NAU in 2011 and is currently enrolled in an MA program at Prescott College. Students enrolled in environmental ethics at NAU in the summer of 2011 developed Jacqueline’s idea as part of their coursework. They worked as teams and developed a curriculum, structured a budget, created a marketing plan, incorporated GIS technology, designed a logo, and wrote a mission statement. Their creative and productive efforts were informed by their study of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Peter Singer, and Jack Turner. Students used GPS devices to locate indigenous species like agave and sugar sumac. They discussed how the Sinagua used such plants and how it affected their relation to the land. The pilot program included discussions about Leopold’s Land Ethic and the land community.
High School Student Program Testimonials, 2014
“It was amazing. I made friends and had an amazing time.”
“I liked the movie…and I liked the discussion of the Colorado river and how it was getting lower and how to find out ways to save it.”
“[The tour of NAU campus] was the best field trip ever, I learned a lot and think I want to go to college here!”
Mentor Program Accordion Closed
The Northern Arizona University Mentor Program allows advanced philosophy students to introduce local high school students to philosophy. In the United States, unlike in Europe and Latin America, students usually are not exposed to philosophy before college. The Mentor Program addresses this gap, and provides an introduction to philosophical inquiry at an earlier age than is typical. This enables high school students to gain a deeper understanding of the material they are studying in their classes. The mentors facilitate discussions that are related to subjects in the high school classroom. For example, in a literature class they might discuss Jean Paul Sartre and existentialism. In a science class, they might explore concepts in the philosophy of science, such as Thomas Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions. The high school students enjoy interacting with NAU students, and it often motivates many of them to think more seriously about attending college. High school students who have had mentors visit their class have ended up studying philosophy at NAU and have become mentors themselves.
The Mentor Program has a student director, who leads discussions where mentors share their experiences and talk about what they have learned. The Mentor Program is overseen by Dr. Jeff Downard and Dr. Julie Piering in the Department of Philosophy.
Student Mentor Mission
Our mission is to work philosophy into the high school curriculum and offer students the opportunity to ask us about college. We want to show students that even if they haven’t found their coursework in high school particularly enthralling, there are more areas of inquiry awaiting them at the university level. We hope to inspire students to think about what their education means to them, whether it is a means to an end or an end in itself.
Moral courage Accordion Closed
Bringing the Lessons of Moral Courage to High School Students
Dr. Julie Piering has been investigating the idea of moral courage, and identifying how this virtue might be exercised in everyday life. She has given several talks on this idea in Flagstaff and Sedona and has received support from the Martin Springer Institute to develop a curriculum that will enable high school students to think about this idea.
Certain studies reveal the propensity for humans to fail to demonstrate moral courage. Examples are taken from the Milgram experiments and the Stanford Prison experiment. The idea behind presenting these stories and studies about moral courage is to make students aware of the historical propensity for human beings to submit to authority against their better moral judgment. Said simply, by being aware of our own frailty with regard to moral courage we might arrive at a better understanding of it. If students are asked to consider what they would do under such circumstances, they might assume they would do the right thing and then dismiss the matter. However, the discovery that under conditions of authority, or even merely of haste, the majority of human beings show moral weakness. This tends to make even the most morally secure person wonder just how morally courageous they might be. The design of the curriculum addresses what moral courage is and how we can better understand it under consideration of real examples incorporated with the philosophical inspiration of Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Arendt, and Card.