A Shout in the Dark: A Call to Reanimate Metaphysical Discussions in Grade Schools

By Brad Ovenell-Carter.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

We have four ways of knowing, four types of knowledge claims: conceptual--all unmarried men are bachelors; empirical--water boils at 100 degrees Celsius; evaluative--Ghandi is a good man; and metaphysical--God exists. Generally speaking, one type of knowing cannot answer for another. But, as Cardinal Newman pointed out over a century ago, when metaphysics (he said theology) is dumped out of the curriculum, the other ways of knowing attempt to fill the vacuum left behind. Thus, for some time science has tried to answer questions over which it formally has no jurisdiction; indeed, it has tried to answer questions it has no capacity to answer. Moreover, our post-modern age, so far as it is a scientific age, dismisses metaphysical claims and, to a lesser but still significant extent, evaluative claims, as outdated thinking and mere opinion; or, at best, as claims that reside within particular frameworks shaped by the individual's history, culture and critical perspectives. We appear to have lost all contact with transcendental philosophy, with absolute truth, good and bad, right and wrong. This paper suggests that grade schools--public and private, alike--need to reinvigorate the discussion of epistemology in general and of metaphysics in particular in the classroom. The aim is not to promote a particular philosophy, indeed that would be inadmissible in a pluralistic society, but to begin to develop in young people the capacity to make meaningful philosophical conversation. As they are currently woefully ill-equipped to do so, they are cut off from a rich tradition of inquiry into the human experience. A more immediate, practical need also calls our attention. As it comes ever closer to cultures where metaphysical claims still have status as knowledge, the West seems ever more befuddled--quite literally unable to come to terms with the world.

Keywords: Metaphysics, Public Education, Curriculum Development

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.187-192. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 494.323KB).

Brad Ovenell-Carter

Student, Graduate Liberal Studies program, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

Brad Ovenell-Carter, holds a B. Ed. with a major in special education from the University of British Columbia and is now pursuing graduate studies in philosophy and curriculum development through the Graduate Liberal Studies program at Simon Fraser University. He currently works as assistant school director at Island Pacific School (IPS) on Bowen Island, where he teaches English and mathematics. IPS provides a classical liberal education for grade six through nine students.


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