F&M Stories

F&M Students Take Philosophy to High School Classrooms

For Franklin & Marshall professor Lee Franklin, philosophy offers students a chance to get comfortable voicing their opinions and discussing complicated topics, giving them a sense that their ideas matter. That’s vital for students—and not just at F&M. 

Franklin, who is also the interim director of the faculty center, teaches the internship-for-credit course Philosophy at McCaskey. F&M students enrolled in the class visit nearby McCaskey High School throughout the semester to lead discussions on philosophy. 

The discussions cover a variety of subjects and aim to apply philosophy to everyday scenarios. “We always try to pick issues that are accessible for high school students,” Franklin said.

Recent topics have included player safety in the NFL, the ethics of privatized adoption agencies, and ghosting—suddenly cutting off communication with another person, with no explanation.

“That’s something that surely they’ve experienced, maybe they’ve done it. But there really is an ethical question there,” Franklin said. “When is it okay to ghost someone? Under what circumstances do you have an obligation to communicate with people?”

Taking philosophy into high school classes gives F&M students a new way of engaging with the material they’re studying. 

“Most of their experience with philosophy is in the classroom, in the presence of a professor who is speaking authoritatively to them,” Franklin said. 

Philosophy at McCaskey shifts that dynamic and puts F&M students in charge of planning lessons. To do so effectively, they need to deeply engage with the material and understand how to make it accessible to others. 

It also reminds students of the practical applications of what they’re studying. 

“I wanted to give our students the opportunity to see how philosophy could be applied meaningfully in the community and outside of an academic context,” Franklin said.

For McCaskey students, the program offers a chance to explore philosophy, a subject not typically taught in high schools. Franklin also hopes it encourages them to take a more active role in their education, whatever subject they’re studying.

“We give students a chance to formulate their own ideas, articulate them, listen to each other, and reconsider their ideas once they hear another person’s perspective,” Franklin said. 

F&M students visit the same McCaskey classrooms throughout the year, and Franklin said one of the most rewarding parts of the program is seeing students grow more confident. 

“At the beginning of the year, the students are quite skeptical and closed,” Franklin said. “They don’t know who we are or why we’re there. We encounter many students who are quite reluctant to speak because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

Gradually, students become more willing to take that risk and explore complicated questions that don’t have obvious answers. The discussion-based format of the class encourages students to contribute original ideas, rather than waiting for someone to tell them the right answer.

“That sort of thing is really important for people—to develop the sense that they have ideas that matter,” Franklin said. “Whatever your perspective is, it’s worth hearing. It’s worth thinking through.”

Related Articles

July 9, 2024

Lily Finds a Rose

Lily Vining ’24 had no way of knowing a global pandemic would rock the world during her college search. But through it all, she found the perfect home in the Red Rose City.

June 3, 2024

Diplomat Leadership Program: Latest Steinman Foundation Initiative to Benefit F&M Students

Over many decades, The Steinman Foundation has supported programs that provide opportunities for F&M students. In 2022, those opportunities expanded with the Diplomat Leadership program.

April 15, 2024

Class of 2028 Explores F&M at Admitted Student Weekend

934 visitors attended Franklin & Marshall's annual Admitted Student Weekend, held April 12-13.