This is probably the must-read philosophy link of the day, perhaps of the week: Carlos Fraenkel’s article in the Boston Review on the compulsory teaching of philosophy in Brazilian high schools (linked for example by Leiter, among others). Since 2008, it became a federal law, but before that it had already been implemented in several states (education is mostly a state affair in Brazil).
The article is balanced and fair to the different sides of the story, but Fraenkel does not hide his enthusiasm for the general idea of ‘citizen philosophers’, as the title of the article has it. Some critics (in particular the influential conservative weekly magazine Veja – see here in particular) claim that this is just a sneaky way to inflict even more leftish dogmatism and political activism into schools, in the spirit of the leftish populism of the former president Lula. Other critics, in particular academic philosophers, are also skeptical towards the decision, but for different reasons. As the highly influential philosopher José Arthur Giannotti says (according to the article), “Teaching philosophy to students who can hardly read and write is sad foolishness.” Brazil has a dismal record in education indicators, and one may argue that rather than allocating teaching hours to philosophy (and sociology, which became compulsory at the same time), it may make more sense to improve the teaching of basic disciplines, in particular math and Portuguese.
I suppose I can include myself among the skeptic ones; that teaching philosophy to every single high school student in a country lagging behind abysmally in education is going to achieve the goal of producing more conscious citizens is far from being a safe bet. But as Fraenkel suggests, this is a wide-ranging and innovative experiment, and it might just as well end up having significant positive effects – or so it is to be hoped, for the sake of Brazilians and for the sake of philosophy.