A Summary Listing of Faculty Activities at Colleges Around the Nation
Aunique trend appears to be sweeping the globe, and it’s making deep thinkers so happy they could jump for joy. In a day and age where liberal arts programs are often among the first to be targeted by budget cuts, the study of philosophical thought is experiencing a resurgence. Not only is the “philosophy boom,” as it’s being called in educational circles, filling seats at colleges and universities around the world, it’s also encouraging discussions outside of academic settings. As a result, books, magazines, TV programs, festivals and informal radio show roundtables known as “philosophy cafés” have popped up seemingly overnight. The rise in popularity has spread to U.S. soil as well, attributed in part to TED Talks, influential videos from expert speakers, which have found tremendous success on YouTube and various social media networks. “I’ve seen articles indicating that philosophy courses are increasing enrollments at colleges, predominantly on the East Coast,” said Glynn Wolar, history and philosophy instructor at North Platte Community College (Nebraska). It’s apparently happening on the West Coast, too.
The University of California, Berkeley has reported a 74 percent increase in philosophy majors over the last decade. The school claims graduates are landing jobs in law, business, medicine, technology and education. While Wolar has yet to see the same growth locally, he is excited about the possibilities. “It’s a good sign,” said Wolar. “It means people are seeking out more indepth, stimulating conversations, and students collectively are saying, ‘Let’s not be too hasty’ when it comes to the budgetary cutting of philosophy courses.” A recent project evaluated by Durham University showed there are significant advantages to studying philosophy, even for those who don’t major in it. Elementary students in 48 schools across England participated in a year-long trial, during which they joined in philosophical dialogues based around concepts such as truth, fairness and bullying. The result was that those students ended up approximately two months ahead of their peers in math and reading. Their speaking, listening and self-esteem skills were also enhanced. Wolar believes similar benefits can be gained at the collegiate level. His philosophy classes prepare students to ask and think through the tough questions in life.
“College is supposed to be a gateway to the rest of your life – a place where you delve deeper and prepare yourself intellectually for the future,” said Wolar. “If philosophical discussions don’t take place at the college level, then where and when will they take place?”