A Philosopher In Every School

by | Apr 5, 2018

Socrates, painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1787.

By Bob Houghtaling

In the midst of arguments about the roles guns play in our society I offer this simple solution. We need more philosophers in schools. Sure, metal detectors are important. Sure, resource officers are fabulous. And, sure, new laws must make it more difficult to obtain firearms. With all of this said, don’t overlook the value of having a philosopher on school grounds. No, seriously, I am not kidding.

Whatever happened to looking for meaning in one’s life? Whatever happened to Socratic dialogue and thought? Once upon a time, in the ancient world, people would argue points of view in the public square. Those days are long gone. Perhaps, as time went by, we felt that such things were passé and philosophy with all that talking and meaning stuff was pure B.S.

If one looks at the profiles of many of our “shooters,” terms like mentally ill, alienated, troubled, and loner abound. While resource officers and psychologists might prove to be helpful in ameliorating some of the damage caused by mostly enraged men – taking a look at our nation’s societal norms might be something to consider as well. Why are we so angry? Why are young men lashing out? Why are so many feeling unattached? Could our values be a part of this? Questions are the parents of answers. Before scoffing at philosophers as a solution – it might be time to consider the impetus behind the proliferation of our mass shootings.

Sometimes we ignore the simplest of truths. In my opinion looking at ourselves is a key part of the entire gun issue. We place so much emphasis on test scores, and other accoutrements of school success, but far less on social and emotional learning. Maybe equipping teachers with the skills and opportunity for philosophy would be a better solution than giving them guns. Let’s take a look at the human side of the issue. Without addressing life’s whys, all ensuing answers will be incomplete. Aristotle once referred to man as being a “social animal.” We can’t ignore this. Just a thought. See you soon.

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program. 

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