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Philosophy as required high school subject in Brazil

A great piece in the Boston Review on Citizen Philosophers in Brazil, where since 2008, philosophy instruction has been compulsory in all high schools. A philosophy teacher in Salvador, a virtually African city in the country’s Northeast, explains its value:


The contrast between the new luxury hotels along the beach and Itapuã’s overcrowded streets gives rise to questions about equality and justice. Children kicking around a can introduce a discussion about democracy: football is one of the few truly democratic practices here; success depends on merit, not class privilege. Moving between philosophy and practice, the students can revise their views in light of what Plato, Hobbes, or Locke had to say about equality, justice, and democracy and discuss their own roles as political agents.

As one can imagine, not everyone thinks this is a great idea in practice. But what a bold idea for building a thoughtful and critical-thinking citizenry. Would be great if someone designed a rigorous study to test the impact of studying philosophy on citizen attitudes and participation.

About Evan Lieberman

I am a Professor of Political Science at MIT, and I conduct research, write, and teach about development, ethnic politics, and research methods.


2 thoughts on “Philosophy as required high school subject in Brazil

  1. Following the completion of my studies in Philosophy, I have been forging an attempt to create my own job teaching Philosophy in a High School, as it is not robustly offered where I have been. Shame that. A philosopher without a home.

    The philosophy class environment can feel different then other academic subjects. In it there is an open and safe atmosphere for a discussion about a HUGE variety of intellectual material to work with. There can be instances of philosophical gymnastics within the classroom where the divide between teacher & taught recedes, a bond which kindles a fire of unified creative learning. The deepness of discussing socially relevant philosophical belief-systems regarding a wide variety of intellectual material, both ancient and contemporary, is mentally stimulating to students of all sorts, and certainly builds up a capacity for rational thought and respect in the classroom. Throughout my studies, I was wondering why the schools weren’t sponsoring philosophical inquiry in the context of the academic subject curriculum. Wondering with tremendous awe.

    A highly worthy innovation in education curricula. Most definitely an experiment worth providing the space, time, and resources for.

    I would absolutely love to be a part of the emerging practice in Brasil, *if anyone knows where to go and/or who to go to…

    Posted by K | January 28, 2012, 10:58 pm


  1. Pingback: Development Highlights – 27th Jan | pizzandevelopment - January 27, 2012

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