Philosophy in Public Schools at UMass


The purpose of the Philosophy in Public Schools program is to have UMass philosophy students, under the supervision of UMass faculty, bring philosophy into public schools in Western Massachusetts. The guiding idea behind the program is that everyone can do philosophy, including high school, middle school, and even elementary school students. (Indeed, we are convinced that younger people are especially suited for thinking philosophically, and are among those who can benefit the most from thinking about philosophical questions and learning philosophical methods.)

What We Offer

We offer a variety of different modules, each of which would be suitable for 1-3 meetings of about 45-60 minutes each.

Sample topics include:

  • What Makes Right Actions Right?
  • Time Travel
  • Art and Aesthetic Value
  • Philosophy and Food
  • What Are Friends For?
  • Do You Know That You Are Not a Brain in a Vat?
  • Is it Okay to Kill a Bug?
  • What Is Happiness?
  • Philosophical Questions About Fiction
  • Am I Dreaming?
  • Logic Puzzles
  • What Is the Meaning of Life?
  • The Problem of Freedom and Determinism

Most of our modules can be adapted for any age group from 1st to 12th graders.

Why Do Philosophy?

Philosophy is distinguished by (a) its content and (b) its methodology. The content involves such perennial questions as What am I?, What can I know?, Am I free?, and How should I live my life?. And the methodology of philosophy includes the imaginative formulation of questions, open-minded brainstorming to find potential answers, and careful consideration of reasons in support of the different views.

Meanwhile, anyone can do philosophy, and everyone benefits from participating in this ancient and central part of all human cultures. The questions we ask in philosophy are intrinsically interesting, and practicing philosophy makes one a better critical thinker, and so better equipped to handle all of life’s challenges.

How to Get Involved

For more information, contact Ned Markosian: markosian@umass.edu.