Jasmin’s DOL #1: Adjusting to a New Way of Learning
I arrived to class on day one of Philosophy 12 eager not only to experience philosophy itself, but also to experience a more progressive, less traditionally structured learning environment. Progressivism as an approach to education is something I’ve come to expect from Mr. Jackson after taking guitar 11 with him. Although a guitar class may not be the most traditionally structured environment to begin with, I could tell by his attitude and approach to teaching that he leans more toward the progressive side of things. Throughout my years as a student, and especially in my high school years, I have craved less structure, more freedom with assignments and more discussion based learning. While I have learned to adapt and succeed in more traditional environments, devoid of any variety in terms of learning/teaching style, I have always preferred a progressive environment because it’s where I feel most satisfied with my learning. That being said, I had never been immersed in progressive learning to the extent that I have been in just the first two weeks of philosophy. Despite all my time spent yearning for less structure, I am suddenly at a loss for what to do without it. I’ve become so used to concrete ideas and clear instructions that the idea of going without them is more than slightly scary. I’m trying my best to embrace the freedom given to me but it’s already been far more challenging than I had expected. As a result, it has become a major goal of mine to take this course as an opportunity to adjust to and fully appreciate the benefits of this kind of learning. Through reading and class discussions, my belief in progressive education on paper has only been further reinforced. The challenge so far has been
matching that with my ability to embrace it in practice.
One thing that I’ve found more easy to embrace, is the amount of learning that has been centered around discussion. I find conversation to be infinitely more engaging than reading or note taking, especially in a subject like philosophy. Although we are capable of developing valuable ideas on our own, I think it’s important to share our thoughts and expose them to possible criticism, as discussed in the “Talk to Me” essay:
“Philosophy is an inherently social activity that thrives on the collision of viewpoints.”
Although it was a concept that I hadn’t previously considered, I’ve come to appreciate the value of criticism and exposure to conflicting viewpoints. Differing viewpoints in some situations have only strengthened my existing beliefs while in others they have left me with many potentially unanswerable questions. In the discussion on love and wisdom for example, I began with what I thought were solid(ish) definitions of each word but upon hearing the vast collection of ideas brought forward by the rest of the class, I wondered whether it was possible to define the words at all. How can we define intangible things? Can experiences truly be defined if they are different for each one of us? Why are we trying to define such concepts in the first place? Perhaps there is some value in attempting to define these concepts even if no consensus can be reached. It helps us explore and become comfortable with the idea that some things just cannot be defined.
It is unusual, especially in a classroom, to be asked questions to which we may never find an answer. It can actually be quite frustrating because we are so used to the idea that all questions should have an answer and there is a certain satisfaction in arriving at that answer that is absent in philosophical discussion. I am making it another major goal of mine is to resist the need to answer every question and instead find the value in the discussion that it provokes. I want to leave this course more thoughtful and articulate (and less confused) than when I started. If I can do that, I will consider this semester a success.