Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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LINK: Social Studies in Action Home Image of a high school student in the classroom.
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About the Class

Classroom Profile | Lesson Background

Image of Brian Poon in the classroom.

"Philosophy is an excellent medium for getting kids to move beyond just the dates and timeline of history to the content. It forces them to think, to bring their own lives into a theory, critique it, and really think about how we should live -- both as individuals and groups."
-- Brian Poon

 Year at a Glance

Brian Poon teaches a twelfth-grade honors philosophy elective at Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts, an urban-suburban community that borders Boston. While the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks don't require a fourth year of social studies in high school, Brookline High School offers 11 social studies electives, including two Advanced Placement courses. Most seniors take at least one social studies elective, and many take two.

Mr. Poon's honors philosophy elective focused on four fundamental questions in their most logical sequence: What is morality? What is justice? What is the role of the individual in society? and What is the good life?

The Individual in Society addressed the third question of the semester. By the time the unit began, Mr. Poon expected students to be able to understand primary sources from the writings of different philosophers, participate in small-group and class discussions, and write a four- to five-page paper describing how different philosophers would answer a given question.

Mr. Poon engaged his students by introducing a dilemma about a fictional nation named Fenway, mired in racial and ethnic turmoil. Students worked in groups to come up with a solution to Fenway's problems, with each group representing one of five thinkers the class had recently studied. Students approached the dilemma from both a philosophical and a political point of view. And in solving Fenway's problems, each group answered the question: What is the role of the individual in society?

As the lesson concluded, each group presented their philosopher's approach to the class. Groups challenged or questioned one another's solutions, but in the end, the groups integrated the philosophies of all the different thinkers to offer the best possible solution to Fenway's troubles. Mr. Poon used this exercise to lead into the next question the class studied: What is the good life?

Lesson Background >>

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