Jacobsen Scheme for Visiting Philosophy Teachers in Schools

The Royal Institute of Philosophy is, among other things, committed to advancing philosophical studies in the world at large. It seems to us that a very important part of the world at large is school and post-16 education: students aged 16-19 seem to us at an excellent stage for an introduction to philosophy.
The Jacobsen Trust has made available to the Royal Institute funds to promote philosophical work in schools. Since 1997, the Institute has offered up to 15 schools per academic year a 10 week course of philosophy, at no cost to the schools. Feedback from teachers, heads, and students has been more than encouraging, and it seems clear to all involved that the scheme is a resounding success. Thanks to the generosity of the Trust, the Institute expanded the scheme in 2003, offering philosophy courses to as many as 20 schools across the UK each academic year.

The courses usually consist of one double period session each week, composed of no more than 20 students aged 16 – 19, who have little or no experience in philosophy. The courses are taught by a teacher approved and paid for by the Institute. He or she is usually a postgraduate or recent PhD in philosophy with some teaching experience. Our teachers tackle basic philosophical topics concerning the nature of knowledge, ethics, the mind, free will, aesthetics and so on. The content is usually organized around the teacher's own area of expertise -- always situated in mainstream, academic philosophy. The Institute normally conducts interviews, takes up the references of its tutors, receives reports from schools taking part in the scheme, and undertakes formal enquiries into the backgrounds of tutors. The Institute has no objection to schools carrying out such checks as well should they wish to do so.

The goals of the scheme are many: engaging the interest of students in basic philosophical issues, free and rigorous enquiry, clarifying and discussing certain questions and the various reasons offered in support of one position or another. Throughout all of this, no ideological lines are pursued or favoured.
The Institute pays teaching fees, tutors' travel expenses and provides readings or other resources which might be necessary, as well as up to £200 for philosophy books purchased at the tutor's discretion. So the whole exercise involves schools in no costs -- although some schools like to have a member of staff keeping a general eye on what is going on.

All that we ask from host schools is a class of students numbering probably no more than 20, aged 16 – 19, with little or no experience of philosophy. We have no preconceptions about their ability range, and we will expect the teacher to lead the studies in a way appropriate to the students.

We ought also to emphasize that we are not primarily looking for students who are already doing philosophy at A-Level or in some other course, nor do we aim for our classes to be offered only to so-called ‘gifted and talented' groups. Of course, we have no objection to such students being involved, but we hope to interest and enthuse non-philosophers at all levels of ability. We are keen to hear from schools who would benefit most from this scheme, from any part of the UK.

If your school might be interested, you can find an application form HERE.  Please fill it in and send it to Dr. James Garvey, 14 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0AR. If you have any questions about the scheme, please do not hesitate to contact the Institute.

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