Online Philosophy Series
PLATO is offering an online philosophy series for middle school students (ages 12-14) in the 2023-24 school year. Each class will meet weekly for six weeks on Zoom. We welcome students from any part of the world.
Fall 2023: Animal and Environmental Ethics
Tuesdays – Class begins October 10 and the last class is November 14
4:30-5:45 pm Pacific Time
Questions about human relations with other animals and the natural world are numerous and pressing. Widespread environmental degradation, global climate change, and the use of other-than-human animals for human consumption, experimentation, companionship, and sport all raise important questions about human relations with other animals and the broader natural world. In this class, students will explore the ethical questions and complications raised by our entanglements with and impact on other animals and the Earth.
Instructor: Karen S. Emmerman, Ph.D., will be teaching the fall series. Karen is PLATO’s Education Director, the Philosopher-in-Residence at John Muir Elementary School in Seattle, and part-time
faculty in philosophy at the University of Washington. She has been facilitating philosophy sessions for young people for 13 years.
Winter 2024: Truth, Opinion, and Misinformation
Tuesdays – Class begins January 9 and the last class is February 13
4:30-5:45 pm Pacific Time
How true is the news? How should we use and represent ourselves on social media? What obligations should media outlets have to their audiences? Do beliefs and opinions overlap? At a time when misinformation is easily spread, it is crucial to discern which sources are reliable as well as define and explore the nuances of beliefs, opinions, facts, and truth. In this class, students will explore such topics with the help of thought experiments, ethical dilemmas, and other activities.
Instructor: Erica Bigelow will be teaching the winter series. Erica is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Washington, where she studies injustice, disability, the emotions, ethics, and technology. She is committed to expanding access to philosophy and to helping students see the value of philosophical thinking in their everyday lives.
Spring 2024: Ethics of Important Relationships: Friends, Parents, and Teachers
Tuesdays – Class begins April 16 and the last class is May 21
4:30-5:45 pm Pacific Time
Humans are social beings who live in relationship with others. Some of these relationships are among the most influential in our lives – connections to friends, parents, and teachers. In this session, students will explore and discuss the ethical dimensions of these important relationships, including: What do teachers owe to their students? What do parents owe to their children? What makes someone a good friend? What, if anything, do children owe to their parents and teachers? Is it ever appropriate to lie to someone you care about and value?
Instructor: Debi Talukdar will be teaching the spring series. Debi is PLATO’s Program Director and has been facilitating philosophical discussions with young people since 2014.
These classes will be interactive and collaborative, requiring attention and participation of all students. Students should have their cameras on during class, as visual presence both enhances a sense of community and increases accessibility for all participants.
Barring unforeseen circumstances and illness, we expect students to attend all six sessions in a series. Consistent attendance is important for building community and deepening our discussions over the weeks we meet.
Philosophical conversations involve topics about which reasonable people can disagree. All participants are expected to arrive prepared to listen carefully, thoughtfully engage with others’ ideas, and bravely share their own thoughts.
Session facilitators will ensure we maintain a respectful and intellectually safe community of inquiry. Students will experience the joys of thinking together about the ethical and other philosophical questions on our minds.
Registration and Payment
The cost for a six-week class is $250 for non-members, or $220 for PLATO members (become a member here).
Please use the form to the right (or below on mobile) to register for the fall, winter, and/or spring class, and then pay by clicking here or clicking the “Make Payment Here” button at the bottom of the form.
Please register and make payment by the following deadlines:
Fall Class: Deadline Sunday, October 8, 2023
Winter Class: Deadline Thursday, January 4, 2024
Spring Class: Deadline Thursday, April 11, 2024
PLEASE NOTE: Registration is not complete until payment is made. No refunds will be given after the registration deadline.
PLATO values the experience and expertise of its instructors and is committed to compensating them for their work. Scholarship funds are available for families who require financial assistance. If you require financial assistance, please send an email indicating your reason(s) for the request and the extent of financial assistance you need to email@example.com.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ethics Case Writing
PLATO has launched a national student ethics case writing project. Any middle school student in the United States can participate.
Accepted cases will be published on PLATO’s website, with credit to the writers, and students will receive $100 for each published case.
For more information, see the case writing project page.
The 2023 deadline has passed. Check back in spring 2024!