How a plan to teach children philosophy has caused controversy around Chile

SANTIAGO – The relevance of Philosophy as an academic subject in Chile’s high school curriculum has been the subject of controversy, led by the National Council for Education (CNED in Spanish).

The sixth point of CNED’s #47 Exempt Resolution, published on February 12, indicated that the National Council recognized the value of the subjects of Philosophy and Natural Sciences but raised doubts whether to keep them as part of the Common General Formation’s programs. In mid-April, the CNED approved to maintain Philosophy as part of the program but rejected Natural Sciences. However, that might not be the only solution, as academics feel the concept of Philosophy should be inserted earlier in the program.

A 2016 study of Civic Education and Citizen Formation by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement revealed that 57% of Chilean eighth grade students would approve a dictatorship in the country if it meant more security and order for society. These results prompted Dr. Mario Sobarzo, a Philosopher at the University of Santiago de Chile, to propose a  solution: incorporate the subject into the educational curriculum earlier in a student’s academic career to help young students understand the importance of a democratic system.

“Philosophy for kids is centered around the skills of democratic interaction, such as dialogue, argument, and respect for other people’s opinions”, Sobarzo explains in an article shared on the University’s website. Private schools, Sobarzo argues, have incorporated such classes in high percentages, because they improve citizen practices and critical understanding.

“If we compare ourselves with Scandinavian countries, we will find that over there, kids become citizens from the time they’re very little and they influence the processes inside their own schools. Here, democracy works as an ideological construct, a speech that in practical life is not evidenced,” Sobarzo said.

Sobarzo considers the lack of Civic Education at an early age is one of the main causes for Chilean children failing to appreciate democracy in comparison to a dictatorship. “The youngest students don’t value democracy because they’re not aware of the benefits that are implied when you live in one,” Sobarzo said.


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