Philosophy for Teens

Title: Philosophy for Teens: Ideas and Ideals

Editors: Grispino, Joseph A.

Publisher: Third Millennium Publishing

Date: 2005

ISBN: 1-932657-38-X

NOTES: Philosophy for Teens was written for American high school students. It can be used either directly by students or as a guide for teachers. Although some of the references are uniquely American (e.g. republican/democrat, civics education) it could be easily adapted to other Western education systems and has probably been formulated with this in mind. It is written mainly in a dialogue, character-based style. It covers the main topics in philosophy including ethical issues that most people have an opinion on, including teenagers. The author has made a conscious effort to avoid jargon which makes it readable and interesting. Each chapter ends with a series of exercise or discussion questions.

Chapters 1-3 introduce different ways of claiming knowledge (e.g. senses, reason and appeal to authority) and how these relate to the practice of philosophy.

Chapters 4-6 introduce critical thinking skills, constructing a logical argument and how to recognise logical fallacies. It includes plenty of examples.

Chapters 7-12 give the student a chance to apply their critical thinking skills to a range of issues: (a) media ethics and how to avoid being swayed by media bias; (b) the question ‘who am I?’ and the matter/spirit distinction; (c) origins of the universe and the ‘first cause’ argument; (d) a discussion of Liebnitz’s claim that we live in the best of all possible worlds with reference to Voltaire’s novel Candide; (e) the existence of God; and (f) political philosophy.

In Chapters 13-17, students are prompted to form and assess arguments about the following ethical issues: (a) civil disobedience; (b) patriotism versus cosmopolitanism; (c) religion and the state; (d) death penalty and (e) the ethics of punishing criminals.

Chapters 18-20 cover a selection of philosophical topics such as how to lead a happy life, what makes a good friend and why human beings laugh.

Chapters 21-23 introduces a range of ethical theories (without jargon) and talks about the different stages of moral development.

Chapters 24-30 then applies these ethical skills to a range of controversial issues: (a) gambling; (b) pornography and aesthetics; (c) adolescent sex; (d) homosexuality; (e) abortion; (f) animal rights and (g)euthanasia.

Appendix C includes suggestions for how each chapter might fit into different school subjects.

The author notes that “Chapter 21 on ethics and chapters 5 and 6 on logic-fallacies form the backbone of the book.”

This book would be useful for teachers who want an engaging way to get philosophy into the classroom. It is also student-friendly enough to be used directly without a teacher’s help. It is a useful tool for developing classroom exercises and discussions. Although the topics covered are universal, teachers may want to adapt the exercises and/or examples to make them more locally-relevant.

One slightly confusing issue is the author’s suggestion that for each of the issues discussed, a philosopher, a scientist and a theologian will tend to come up with differing answers. He illustrates this by making each of these roles into a separate character throughout his dialogues. This helps to make the point that each approach uses different methods, even while aiming for the one truth. However, students could be left with the mistaken impression that a philosopher cannot also be a theologian or a scientist, and vice versa.

Philosophy for Teens was written for American high school students. It can be used either directly by students or as a guide for teachers. Although some of the references are uniquely American (e.g. republican/democrat, civics education) it could be easily adapted to other Western education systems and has probably been formulated with this in mind. It is written mainly in a dialogue, character-based style. It covers the main topics in philosophy including ethical issues that most people have an opinion on, including teenagers. The author has made a conscious effort to avoid jargon which makes it readable and interesting. Each chapter ends with a series of exercise or discussion questions. The book can be purchased from the author online at http://3mpub.com/grispino/order1.htm

Comment on this article