“No longer can the teacher be one who lives apart from the noise and strife of busy men and cities to instil into his pupils the wisdom of past ages. A knowledge of world affairs is as important to him as to the statesman. His job, among others, is to develop critical thinkers, for the children of today are the citizens and statesmen of tomorrow.”

—Greta Lyttle c1940

Preshil has always concerned itself with developing awareness and understanding of the key issues of the times and responding to them in concerned, imaginative and critical ways.

The Philosophy For Children (P4C), ‘Community of Inquiry’ approach that we have adopted aims to support children to develop their thinking skills and contribute to the shared understandings of their classmates.

Philosophical inquiry requires:
• Generating new ideas;
• Seeing existing situations in new ways;
• Identifying alternative explanations;
• Seeing connections;
• Finding new ways to apply existing ideas.

Intellectual flexibility, open-mindedness, adaptability, and readiness to try new ways of thinking about things are hallmarks of well-conducted philosophical inquiry and are the aim of the philosophy program in the primary school.

It’s our philosophy

Philosophy has always held a special place at Preshil. It is our goal to build continually on this outstanding program across the whole school, Kindergarten to Year 12. From a child’s earliest plaintive howl of “That’s not fair!” to the most intricate ethical examination of social behaviour, we are presented with daily evidence that children are not only aware of philosophical concepts but are vitally interested in discussing them and finding their own identity through life’s big questions.

Having had to put the annual Preshil Philosophy Conference on hold last year we are very keen to let everyone know that it will return this year, bigger and better, on Sunday 21 July. Save the date!

The location will be, once again, the State Library Victoria; Called Future Thinking, the conference will essentially ‘consider issues of self, identity and the good life in the 21st century and, in particular, the ways in which developments in technology will shape our thinking around these things’.

Many of our families attended the conference in the past so I want to encourage everyone to consider participation this year. Every student in the School is practising philosophy and having the opportunity to engage in philosophical debate at home is a brilliant form of ‘homework’.  Even our 3 and 4 year old children are currently exploring the meaning of self, of individual difference and how to treat others.

This year so far in Philosophy…

The Year 11 philosophers have made a great start to their journey into the world of Philosophy through embarking on their inquiry into what it means to be human. As a class we have been intrigued by the developments in Artificial Intelligence and the questions this raises on the definition of personhood. The students are working on developing the foundations of philosophical thinking by learning about argument and logic, so that they can better interrogate the philosophical texts and ideas that we will study.

The Year 12s have hit the ground running with their significant study of Ethics. They have continued their deep discussion of the foundations of morality which is complemented by their ongoing study of Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morals” – no easy task for even the most experienced philosopher! They are beginning to work on their internal assessment and have selected rich stimuli for discussion. Together we’ve been honing our questioning skills so that they can ask better philosophical questions when looking at texts, artworks and films.

In Year 9 Individuals and Societies Chris Dite and Anthony Cavagna’s classes are delving into the ‘Mind/Body Problem’. What is my mind? Where is it? Is it simply my brain, or something more? Their unit culminates in a meeting with scientists on the cutting edge of AI technology, who will help us understand the philosophical implications of the rise of the algorithms.

In Year 10 Individuals and Societies, Caterina, together with John Collins, have also been engaging in philosophical inquiry relating to the values and ideas at the basis of our charter of human rights. They have explored enlightenment ideas about human nature and the ideal society and have considered the question of whether or not humanity has become more civilised over the course of history. This discussion of their moral progress was inspired by a reading they did from philosopher Peter Singer on the same question.

As Peter Singer is a Preshil alumnus and possibly the most widely known philosopher in the world today, our students have a strong sense of the relevance and the significance of philosophical inquiry in contemporary life.

How to think, how to apply logic, how to live, how to see through nonsense – and have the courage to recognise that the emperor really does not have any clothes; these are the fundamentals of philosophy and essential life skills for all our students.

Annual Philosophy Conference

This conference aims to bring together students, teachers, academics and interested members of the public, to examine a particular topic. This one day conference is a wonderful opportunity to hear from internationally recognised thinkers and to engage in debate and discussion regarding issues that are not only relevant to the VCE Philosophy curriculum but to anyone seeking to understand.

“Students know their opinion won’t be trampled on. It’s a method of engagement where you examine something for its value and that’s an important skill in today’s world where we are bombarded with information.”

Dr Lenny Robinson-McCarthy

An article published on the 2015 Philosophy conference is available here.
You can read about the 2016 Philosophy conference here.