Since our seminar session at UW last Thursday, I’ve been thinking about meaning in education. We spent the first part of the session talking about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and enlightenment, the relationship between appearance and reality, knowledge, and human development, and then moved into examining the nature of thinking and thoughts. It was a rich couple of discussions and made me think about my own undergraduate (and secondary) education, and the rare opportunities I experienced for this kind of classroom dialogue.
It is so clear to me that there is a hunger for meaningful, deep conversations about these kinds of questions. Creating a community of philosophical inquiry in a classroom, a space within which fundamental philosophical questions are explored, makes a space for students to gain experience questioning and analyzing their own experiences and perceptions. I believe that the deepest and most authentic kind of learning occurs when students participate in thinking about a subject (and are not just passive recipients of what is being taught), and a new clarity emerges for them personally. Helping them to engage in collaborative inquiry that is aimed at acquiring meaning and deeper understanding enables these kinds of experiences.