Summer workshop exposes area high school students to “Everyday Philosophy & Ethics”

Summer workshop exposes area high school students to “Everyday Philosophy & Ethics”

Summer workshop exposes area high school students to “Everyday Philosophy & Ethics”

Philosophy Professor Ellen Miller, chair of the Department of Philosophy & World Religions has been passionate about philosophy for children and pre-college philosophy since her days as a graduate student at York University, in Toronto, Canada. In fact, her current research focuses on integrating philosophy into pre-college education, in addition to her other scholarly and research interests in Philosophy of Art, Ethics, Phenomenology, and Philosophy of Education.

This summer, Miller shared her passion with 18 high school students from throughout South Jersey during the first-ever Ethics and College Skills Workshop on Rowan’s campus with assistance from Kathleen Miller, an adjunct philosophy professor, recent graduates Mahaa Ahmed and Alec Nathan and senior philosophy major Gina Magliocco.

Hosted by the Philosophy & world Religion Department and sponsored in part by a grant from the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) the free workshop was designed to give high school students an understanding of the main ethical theories and how they can be applied to issues that impact their lives.

 “We wanted students to know that their voices and ideas are important and necessary in order to solve the ethical dilemmas we face today,” said Miller. We hoped students gained an understanding of how ethics is an established discipline of study that can help them develop their views and better understand the views of those who disagree with them.”

During the workshop held in late June, students in ninth through 12th grades tackled issues in business ethics, environmental ethics, free speech, and ethics and science. Students then worked in small groups to research and present their findings and beliefs on topics such as; should plastic bags and straws be banned? Do children have rights? Should social media be censored in any way? Do we have obligations to those suffering in other countries? Is it ethical to eat meat?

“I didn’t know much about ethics and philosophy,” said Amaya Robinson, a rising senior at Lenape High School in Medford. “I knew it was about decision making and right and wrong. I attended the workshop because I wanted to see what it was about.”

According to Miller, Robinson and the other workshop participants aren’t the only students who might not know much about philosophy, “Most high schools do not offer philosophy courses so many students do not realize how much they might enjoy and love philosophy until they take a college-level philosophy course. Some of my research and publications focus on what I call everyday philosophy; philosophy for general audiences. So this workshop related to my teaching and research interest.”

“It was interesting! I learned how to reason, different theories and methods, and team work,” said Sophia Lund, a freshman at Gateway Regional High School in Woodbury Heights. “I learned how to argue about many different issues.”

In addition to learning the many benefits of philosophy, such as written and verbal communications, reasoning and argumentation, active listening, cooperation and responsibility, and ethical leadership, students also focused on core-college skills they will need to succeed like public speaking, multicultural awareness and research skills.

“Many people do not realize the practical benefits of philosophical training. The study of ethics is a way of thinking and problem-solving that is highly valued in many professions,” Miller noted.

“I am an allied health major and we learned about ethics in class, but I didn’t know how to apply it. This was a good opportunity to learn,” said Haley Hentschke, a sophomore at Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Sewell. “I hope to have a better understanding of how philosophy applies to health. I’d use it to understand patient’s reasoning behind their thoughts and values.”

Miller, who recently published an article about the challenges of using case studies in ethics was extremely pleased with the interest and response to the first Ethics and College Skills Workshop, hopes to make it an annual event.

“We are so excited about future workshops for high school students that we have already submitted a grant proposal for next year.” Read more about the Ethics and College Skills Workshop in Rowan Today.