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Joseph Cardella says why we should introduce Philosophy in schools


In its series of Public Lectures, Ledikasion pu Travayer (LPT) invited, on Saturday 28th of May at GRNW, Prof Joseph Cardella. He is a Philosophy teacher in Lycée Labourdonnais and the initiator of the Université populaire de l'île Maurice. The lecture was on "Should Philosophy be introduced in secondary schools in Mauritius?" and aimed mostly at the GP and literacy students of LPT Campus.

He first of all questioned the question. "When we ask if Philosophy should be taught, we could also ask why is Maths taught, why Literature, why PE, why Visual Arts?". Philosophy is "thinking on our own" and to ask ourselves why things are how they are. To learn to question established attitudes and not to say "It has been always like this, therefore it is normal".

Philosophy as a secondary schools' subject is not an issue really. In some schools abroad there are classes with 7-8 year olds where they are brought to reflect on questions like "What is a friend?", "Are we all equals?". And even at that age, he emphasized, children are able to give opinions that make adults ponder.

Children, he said, are philosophers who perpetually question what surrounds them and will often ask to adults "Why do I have to go to religious ceremonies?", "Why do you smoke?", "Why did you marry?" and these are questions that adults often try to escape. Very often adults will just tell them to stop asking 'stupid' questions. This is how children and adolescents stop being inquirers.

Joseph Cardella also questioned the way of teaching history or social sciences. Most often teachers just deliver so-called 'facts' that pupils have to retain and regurgitate. In fact, these two fields should be perpetual fields of inquiry (etymology of 'historia', is ‘enquiry’.). History or sociology are not a 'fixed' spheres but should continually be questioned.

Philosophy, he said, is a subject which also frightens the religious and political leaders. They fear that people, when reflecting, become too much aware of intricacies and reject what is preached.

The General Paper (GP) subject, he said, could be a real philosophical insight of society, but the way it is often taught is not appropriate. Teachers (around the world and in Mauritius) tend to deliver speeches and prevent students to express themselves. Are teachers who teach GP formed about Theory of Knowledge or are they just English Language teachers who are bound to 'do' GP at HSC levels?

During the debates, GP students in LPT Campus from different colleges said that teachers in Biology, Maths, and Management, even in Cathecism, could and do have teaching approaches which made them THINK.

It was also said that we are in a Capitalist society where Education is not about Knowledge but about Certificates that you pay for. The ideology makes you think that having a Diploma will ensure good employment but, Joseph Cardella pointed out, in Tunisia for example, it is not Certificates that gets you a job. And that was a contributing factor for the unemployed mass of Diploma holders going to the first symbolic Tahir Square.

Another question during the debate concerned the hyper-specialization; i.e for example Education systems tell you to learn cellular mytosis but in no way asks you to think about ethics, evolution, history of philosophies: the Capitalist system of Education makes us producers and not thinkers.

It was a very interesting debate on how the predominant ideology could suppress what we think and impose it's own on us.

Jean-Yves DICK