« Citizen Philosophy Classes » [Utne Reader]
Banned during military dictatorship, philosophy classes are now required for students in Brazilian high schools, in an effort to boost political participation.
In 1971 the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 eliminated philosophy classes from high schools. Teachers, professors in departments of education, and political activists championed its return, while most academic philosophers were either indifferent or suspicious.
The 2008 law—the world’s largest-scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere—represents an experiment in democracy. Among teachers at least, many share Ribeiro’s hope that philosophy will provide a path to greater civic participation and equality. Can it do even more? Can it teach students to question and challenge the foundations of society itself?