Take a Stand!: Author Q&A
Take a Stand!: Author Q&A
PUBLISHED: Monday, September 28, 2020 by Andilynn Feddeler

Take a Stand! (grades 9–12) helps teens develop critical thinking skills by examining debates on issues directly relevant to their lives (that you won’t find in most classroom materials). Learn more about the book and how it encourages high school students to develop their own positions while learning to appreciate other perspectives in this interview with the author, Sharon M. Kaye, Ph.D.

Q: How was the book written? What is the P4K program?

A: This book grew out of the Philosophy for Kids (P4K) program I direct at John Carroll University. Through P4K, undergraduate students go to local schools to run weekly philosophy discussions. Last year, we had 11 undergraduates in six different classes across three different schools. The kids are invited to our campus for a Kickoff, in which we play argument games, chalk inspiring quotes on the sidewalk, and eat lunch together. Then, at the end of the year, they come back for a Symposium, in which they make philosophical presentations or performances. It is a lot of fun. The synergy between the undergrads and the kids never ceases to amaze me. 
Although we do use textbooks (mostly Prufrock’s Philosophy for Teens), I realized that the undergrads were beginning to write lesson plans of their own on new issues. That’s when the idea for this book was born. The idea was for the undergrads to write chapters on their favorite topics. 

Q: How is the book structured, and why? What is included in each chapter?

A: We start the book with an introduction to logic to help contain the argumentation to come. Students (in both college and high school!) can become very passionate about philosophical topics. Logic helps to keep the discussion orderly. In each chapter, we begin by posing a controversial question and then exploring the most compelling answers, pro and con. We make a logical summary of each argument so that the reader can grasp the outlines of the debate at a glance. Then, at the end of the chapter, each author gives their own true view and their reasons for it. This functions as role modeling for the reader, because ultimately, the whole point is for each reader to develop their own positions.  

Q: Why is it beneficial for students to develop their own positions on philosophical topics?

A: Developing your own position on a controversial issue is the very definition of critical thinking. Incorporating critical thinking into high school curriculum is crucial for two main reasons. First, it is empowering for the students. Kids gain self-confidence and direction in life by thinking things through for themselves. Second, the future of humanity depends on producing a new generation of problem solvers. Problem solving requires listening to opposing points of view, articulating deep convictions, and respectfully disagreeing. These are the skills gained in philosophy discussion. The topics are especially interesting because they go beyond what is normally discussed at school.   

Q: How do philosophical debates prepare students for higher education and the real world?

A: Employers don’t want to hire robots; they want to hire employees with “people skills.” Philosophical debate is the ultimate people skill, because it gets into the enduring questions of human existence—Why am I here? How should I live? What is the meaning of life? Recognizing that employers want personable employees, higher ed has begun emphasizing “people skills” as well. Gone are the days when you could succeed in college by passively absorbing bullet points from lectures and spitting them back on tests. Higher ed now recognizes that the real world needs active thinkers who have views and get feisty. 

Q: What do you hope teachers and students take away from the discussions in this book?

A: We hope teachers and students will take away the courage to ask philosophical questions of their own and explore different possible answers together. Education is one long search for the truth. We have to take time to wonder about our society, ourselves, and the world in order to continue to improve.

Sharon M. Kaye, Ph.D.
, is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH. She also directs a Philosophy for Kids program that enables undergraduates to lead philosophy discussions for gifted middle school students.