The Use of Audio-Visual Media in the Teaching of Philosophy in Secondary Schools

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Abstract

The purpose of this essay is to discuss how audio-visual media, in particular, films and podcasts, can be used in the teaching and learning of philosophy in secondary education. At its most fundamental level, philosophy involves careful, reflective and self-aware thinking about a range of topics that are central to the question of what it means to be a human being. Through philosophical discussions, students learn to analyse problems and issues, and to provide adequate answers and solutions to these problems and issues. They acquire the ability to examine and evaluate their own reasoning as well as that of others, and in this way become more confident of their own views and actions. However, teaching philosophy in a secondary school context can be very challenging, because the students' thinking skills are still at a developmental stage, whereas philosophy discourse seems to require rather advanced thinking abilities. This essay suggests how films and podcasts can be used to overcome this challenge.

Key words: ICT, multimedia, secondary education, philosophy

Introduction

Traditionally, philosophy is a subject offered only in universities. In recent years, however, philosophy is increasingly found among the list of subjects offered in primary and secondary schools, in Singapore and in various parts of the world, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe, South America and Africa (see UNESCO, 2007). Unfortunately, many teachers involved in primary and secondary education are unsure how best to teach this subject to students whose ability to deal with abstract concepts and arguments is still developing. The purpose of this essay is to discuss how audiovisual media, in particular, films and podcasts, can be used to teach philosophy in secondary schools. (By "secondary school", we mean a school for students who are intermediate in level between primary school and university or college.) But before we begin that discussion, it is useful to first understand what philosophy is and appreciate some of the difficulties teachers face when teaching philosophy to secondary school students.

What is philosophy?

A good place to start when trying to answer the question "What is philosophy?" is to think of philosophy as a subject taught in universities and schools. This subject studies the fundamental issues about what it means to be a human being, for instance: Does God exist? How should we live? Are there universal moral truths? Do we have direct epistemic access to the world around us or is our knowledge of the external world inadvertently coloured by whatever conceptual framework our minds are operating within? What is the mind? Do we have genuine freedom of choice and action? And so on. The range of issues is extremely wide, covering almost every aspect of human existence-just see the range of topics listed in the table of contents of the online encyclopedia of philosophy The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Philosophical discussions can become very abstract very quickly, which explains why it is traditionally taught only in universities. People sometimes complain that these discussions have little or no relevance to the practical concerns of life, that philosophy is a game academics play with one another purely for intellectual gratification. This is a serious misunderstanding of the nature of this subject. Much of everyday life is rooted in some philosophical view or other. Two of the most hotly debated issues in Singapore this year are whether people should be allowed to sell their organs to patients who need them to live, and whether terminally ill patients should be allowed to end their own lives if they wanted to. Until we address the basic philosophical assumptions and convictions we have about morality, these two debates cannot never be fully resolved.

There is therefore a sense in which almost all of us have been engaged in philosophical discussions or deliberation at some point in our lives. …