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F&M Stories

F&M Students Take Philosophy to High School Classrooms

For Franklin & Marshall professor Lee Franklin, philosophy offers students a chance to get comfortable voicing their opinions and discussing complicated topics, giving them a sense that their ideas matter. That鈥檚 vital for students鈥攁nd not just at F&M. 

Franklin, who is also the interim director of the faculty center, teaches the internship-for-credit course Philosophy at McCaskey. F&M students enrolled in the class visit nearby McCaskey High School throughout the semester to lead discussions on philosophy. 

The discussions cover a variety of subjects and aim to apply philosophy to everyday scenarios. 鈥淲e always try to pick issues that are accessible for high school students,鈥 Franklin said.

Recent topics have included player safety in the NFL, the ethics of privatized adoption agencies, and ghosting鈥攕uddenly cutting off communication with another person, with no explanation.

鈥淭hat鈥檚 something that surely they鈥檝e experienced, maybe they鈥檝e done it. But there really is an ethical question there,鈥 Franklin said. 鈥淲hen is it okay to ghost someone? Under what circumstances do you have an obligation to communicate with people?鈥

Taking philosophy into high school classes gives F&M students a new way of engaging with the material they鈥檙e studying. 

鈥淢ost of their experience with philosophy is in the classroom, in the presence of a professor who is speaking authoritatively to them,鈥 Franklin said. 

Philosophy at McCaskey shifts that dynamic and puts F&M students in charge of planning lessons. To do so effectively, they need to deeply engage with the material and understand how to make it accessible to others. 

It also reminds students of the practical applications of what they鈥檙e studying. 

鈥淚 wanted to give our students the opportunity to see how philosophy could be applied meaningfully in the community and outside of an academic context,鈥 Franklin said.

For McCaskey students, the program offers a chance to explore philosophy, a subject not typically taught in high schools. Franklin also hopes it encourages them to take a more active role in their education, whatever subject they鈥檙e studying.

鈥淲e give students a chance to formulate their own ideas, articulate them, listen to each other, and reconsider their ideas once they hear another person鈥檚 perspective,鈥 Franklin said. 

F&M students visit the same McCaskey classrooms throughout the year, and Franklin said one of the most rewarding parts of the program is seeing students grow more confident. 

鈥淎t the beginning of the year, the students are quite skeptical and closed,鈥 Franklin said. 鈥淭hey don鈥檛 know who we are or why we鈥檙e there. We encounter many students who are quite reluctant to speak because they鈥檙e afraid of saying the wrong thing.鈥

Gradually, students become more willing to take that risk and explore complicated questions that don鈥檛 have obvious answers. The discussion-based format of the class encourages students to contribute original ideas, rather than waiting for someone to tell them the right answer.

鈥淭hat sort of thing is really important for people鈥攖o develop the sense that they have ideas that matter,鈥 Franklin said. 鈥淲hatever your perspective is, it鈥檚 worth hearing. It鈥檚 worth thinking through.鈥

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