the summer of Plato

bloom republic of plato - picForgive my writing, for I have just completed anecdotal report cards.

Hi – it’s been a while. I’m back teaching AP Psych, Spanish, and Social Studies, with a side of Debate, so things have been jumping around here.

One of the biggest highlights of this semester was travelling to Montreal for the British Parliamentary high school debate tournament at McGill University. It was truly inspiring to see so many passionate and rigorous thinkers do battle. The McGill trophy has been dubbed “the Stanley Cup of debating” since they continue to add names of winners to the trophy. Six rounds of British Parliamentary style debate is a gruelling exercise of practical and theoretical intelligence. The winners were (believe it or not!) under 15 years old, were champions in Cambridge as well, and are coached by a lawyer.

While in Montreal, a couple of my friends presented at this year’s PD day for Social Studies in Manitoba on the topic of Philosophy in the schools. My contribution (aside from organizing the session) was my experimenting with Gr 9s this year where I linked moral dilemmas to debate topics in order to introduce the fundamental challenges of Modern Liberalism. Sounds like a tall order, and well, it’s a work in progress.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing this year was reading Plato’s Republic seminar style with four other students throughout the summer. We had the advantage of knowing what we were in for – the highschoolers did not. Still, we  took the plunge and read the entire book, meeting almost every week. Mark Ingham a graduate of St. John’s great books program in the US, did a fantastic job of bringing the text alive in today’s day and age, with ample knowledge of ancient greece and the history of ideas up until modernity. I came back from every meeting reinvigorated and also bewildered at the dedication and earnestness of the students. On Book 10 we were left with the Myth of Er, Plato’s sneaky way of reminding you that poetry has not been banished in the practical world … only in the ideal “city in speech”.

Perhaps soon there will be a Summer Institute of Great Books in Winnipeg…

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