Students engage in open but orderly discussion of questions that stretch the human mind- something that high school students are especially ready to engage in. Particular questions include “Is knowledge possible?” “Does it come from reason or experience?” “Are human actions free or determined?” “Are moral norms relative or absolute?” While individual opinions are able to be shared, the primary objective of the course is for the student to have the clear understanding of the various perspectives of the ancient writers and philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes.’
The group discussions evolve around topics such as ways of knowing (senses, reasoning, emotions), areas of knowledge (math, science, history), and nature of knowing (the differences between data, belief, faith and opinion). Students welcome these challenges and do not look at them as frustrating or senseless, but rather an important exercise in order for them to grow in their adult ways of reasoning and understanding.
In addition, the course invites students to look into what is taken for granted in a community, otherwise stated as “knowledge communities.” How can one decide which beliefs ought to be checked out further? How do age, education, culture and experience affect one’s formation of “knowledge?” And, does one have a responsibility to use their knowledge? And what are the justifications of knowledge claims?
Keck has built a website for this course (and all his other courses). Speaking of technology, he says “students have emerged within our generation who speak a new language.” All of the material for this course, including philosophical texts, are digital. He is currently working on a digital textbook.
“We as educators and teachers are in competition with a level of stimulation that previous generations have not had,” says Keck. “A new way of engagement and teaching is needed.”
Keck has paired all assignments, reading, note taking and any other basic skills and activities in class to be used and completed on the iPad through various apps.