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Why People Don’t Ask Me for Advice

Sometimes I’m accused of evading questions. I thought I’d show you how valid the accusation is, but I hope you’ll also see that it’s not because I’m trying to be unhelpful but because I really don’t know very much. I received an E-mail asking when to begin teaching worldview/philosophy to children and what book to use. Here’s my feeble reply:

I’m very torn over this issue and can’t give good advice. I know that high school students are not capable of doing philosophy, so you run the risk of turning them into relativists. It’s kind of like when they put kindergartners on the evening news complaining about war. It’s over their heads.

So what I really want them to master is what they can master, which is the seven liberal arts, especially the ability to reason using listening, speaking, reading, and writing. But you need something to think about, so you give them literature, history, theology, philosophy, etc.

In none of these areas are they capable of functioning independently or even learning how to function independently. So you have to teach them the language skills using the higher level “subjects.” But focus on teaching them how to think and let them come to the rather obvious conclusion that they are not able to draw final conclusions on these matters.

That doesn’t help, does it? You can see, perhaps, how difficult this issue is for me. I don’t mind kids thinking about philosophy. I just don’t want them to think they can understand it.

Which raises the question of why you would want to teach it. Well, as for that, I don’t mind students learning things they don’t understand. But they have to know they are being taught about philosophy, not doing it, which is extremely difficult and should be required of very few poor souls, who first mastered the arts of learning.

All right, I’ve reasoned myself into obscurity. If you want your child to study philosophy I would have him learn (not read) Aristotle for Everybody by Mortimer Adler and master logic and Latin as much as possible.

Then I followed with this contradictory follow-up:

You start introducing philosophy/worldview issues to your children the first time you hold them. You’ve been embodying your beliefs since before they were born, and they have been absorbing them. Now all they have to do is come to understand the reasons behind the philosophy.

Blessings on your teaching

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