Steven Swartzer in a first grade classroom at Durham Academy, where the philosophy outreach program uses Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" to talk about gratitude. (photo by Rosemary Nye)
Steven Swartzer in a first grade classroom at Durham Academy, where the philosophy outreach program uses Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” to talk about gratitude. (photo by Rosemary Nye)

The outreach program of the department of philosophy in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences has been honored with a prize for excellence and innovation by the American Philosophical Association (APA) and the Philosophy Documentation Center (PDC).

The prize recognizes philosophy departments, research centers, institutes, societies, publishers or other organizations that risk undertaking new initiatives in philosophy, and that do so with excellence and success. It honors these programs so they may inspire and influence others to follow their lead.

The UNC philosophy department and the Parr Center for Ethics offer a number of outreach programs, including a National High School Ethics Bowl, where students analyze and discuss real-life, timely ethical issues.

In 2014, UNC philosophers (including faculty, graduate students and undergraduates) have participated in more than 170 philosophy discussions in the community through their involvement with nine local High School Ethics Bowl teams and the department’s other major outreach initiatives:

  • A Youth Outreach Initiative, through which volunteers offer consultations on teaching philosophy in K-12, and lead philosophy discussions for children and teenagers in local schools and afterschool programs. Partners include Durham Academy, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, C.A. Dillon Youth Development Center, the Morehead Afterschool Program, the Montessori Children’s House of Durham, Mary Scroggs Elementary and Glenwood Elementary.
  • A Senior Outreach Initiative, where weekly or bi-monthly philosophy discussion groups are held in area retirement communities: Carol Woods, Carolina Meadows and Atria Southpoint Walk.
  • A Community College Outreach Initiative, where a partnership with Central Carolina Community College has led to bi-monthly philosophy discussion groups with GED students. Students are encouraged to develop critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills.
  • An Interdisciplinary Outreach Initiative, to expand access to philosophy both at UNC and in the community. Partners include the UNC School of Education and LEARN NC, where online philosophy resources are being developed for North Carolina teachers and students.
Philosophy Ph.D. students Lindsay Brainard, John Lawless and Lauren Townsend lead a discussion about "Neitzsche on Friendship" at Carol Woods Retirement Community. (photo by Rachel McClain)
Philosophy Ph.D. students Lindsay Brainard, John Lawless and Lauren Townsend lead a discussion about “Neitzsche on Friendship” at Carol Woods Retirement Community. (photo by Rachel McClain)

“The philosophy department’s outreach program has enriched our discussion group, Socrates Café, by introducing both our senior community and the college students to an inter-generational set of viewpoints,” said Joan Welch, director of life enrichment, Atria Southpoint Walk Senior Living Community. “It’s this exchange of ideas and opinions that keeps minds sharp and opens our world to the multi-tiered perspectives of today’s youth while offering the student participants the wisdom that comes with our age. It’s a win-win!”

Amy Ferrer, executive director of the APA, wrote in a letter announcing the honor that UNC’s outreach program “is truly indicative of the innovation, excellence and inspiration that we seek in an award winner.”

“I am proud of the work that UNC philosophers — especially our highly active graduate students — have been doing to promote philosophical engagement within our community,” said Steven Swartzer, lecturer and outreach coordinator, department of philosophy and Parr Center for Ethics. “Whether they are with first-graders, high school students, or retirees, these conversations encourage participants to think more carefully and critically about their beliefs, assumptions, and values. Regular philosophical engagement with others also encourages participants to consider creative solutions to complex questions, and to approach disagreements in more thoughtful and constructive ways.”

For more information on philosophy outreach efforts, visit http://philosophy.unc.edu/outreach/.

Comments are closed.