Adolescents have a definite need for mental tools, ideas and skills, to achieve both happiness and wisdom, which can enable them to solve important problems, both personal and societal, which most adults (yet to recover from their own deficient schooling experience) tend to take for granted. Many adults even deem such problems irresolvable, as they forward the kinds of costly systems that keep them so.
In virtually all junior and senior high schools, for example, little help is offered by teachers in regard to achieving the following: genuine self-esteem, enabling a sense of efficacy and well-being, as well as resilience; healthy and functional relationships, enabling enriching, win/win interactions; and, coherent philosophical knowledge, enabling an active-minded ability to discern principles and discover contradictions, in order to sort through the myriad of conflicting ideas, beliefs, theories, etc., that are prevalent in our culture. As a result of these circumstances, many learners depart school with the sense that something vitally important was missing from their education.
In order for a philosophical and psychological course to assist in achieving the above-mentioned values, it needs to have a sound purpose and method. Such a course is explained in the course overview and plan below.
Being encouraged to ask questions and scrutinize answers with still more questions is key to learning optimally. This course is basically the one that I would have loved to participate in when I was an adolescent, and now in mid-life I’m still stoked about it! I believe every young person at one time or another searches for answers to the big life questions—for example: Who am I, really? What is reality and by what means can I determine it? How can I (and others) make clear and understandable sense of things, as well as effectively cope, stay curious, and keep a sense of humor in situations when we can’t? What is “the good life,” and how can we cultivate it? How does a person become confident and maintain happiness, especially in the face of adversity and tragic loss? How can we make sense of each other and, further, make life more wonderful (to borrow from the late psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of nonviolent communication, or NVC)? How can we steer clear of repetitive and damaging conflicts and instead learn and engage in restorative empathy and restorative justice? …and so on.
As noted, especially on the level of society and the adult world, we see so many seemingly intractable problems, yet much of traditional schooling tends to divert attention away from fostering viable and non-sacrificial solutions. Why is this?
When I encountered the writings of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden after my first college degree (BBA in management; minor in philosophy), vital answers to these profound questions became more visible. During a few decades since then, I have used the various principles of Objectivism (the name of Rand’s philosophy), to refine their applications and realize more of their profound implications. My books, The Psychology of Liberty, Complete Liberty, and Complete Liberty Inside Out, have been big parts of these endeavors, as has Complete Liberty Podcast, and my happiness counseling site resources.
This course is designed to offer both a content and method of instruction that aren’t readily available in present day high schools (and, for that matter, anywhere else). It seeks to provide a novel forum with a highly (intrinsically) motivated peer group and an informed and helpful guide on the side (instead of sage on the stage). Participants will learn to use their minds excellently in the realms of philosophy and psychology—surpassing most university students (and even professors, who often succumb to status-quo bias) in these fields. In doing so, they will gain more understanding of the invaluableness of themselves and of life, using sound methods to pursue any specific career of interest into adulthood.
Dealing with the core, theoretical and practical issues of philosophy and psychology provides distinct opportunities for personal and interpersonal growth. Exploring and seeking clarity in these matters enables us to transcend our costly age of pre-logic and pre-integration. Self-improvement and self-enhancement in the realm of personal issues and relationships can enable wider understanding of broader abstractions, that is, of philosophical ideas. Considering the full context of ideas and actions naturally entails grasping their meanings and implications. A comprehensible philosophical framework gives one the tools to accurately assess the benefits and drawbacks of various theories, ideas, beliefs, behaviors, plans, objectives, and so on.
Just as vitally, because of our self-awareness and conceptual capability, psychology needs to prioritize a core aspect for humans: self-concept and its evaluative outcome, the value or need of self-esteem. Each of us needs to consider oneself effective in life, capable of dealing with life’s challenges, and worthy of countless enriching experiences. Systems of values and virtues need to be assessed for possible difficulties or inconsistencies in light of this.
So, both oneself and reality need to be reflected on, so that one does not lose touch with (and lose gratitude for) the meaningful essentials of existence, such as one’s own happiness. In turn, personal feelings and emotions can be accepted, understood, and integrated in various contexts, which means connected to universal needs. This program provides the unique chance to accomplish these things, as well as enjoy the whole process.
Originally, the course’s timetable was modeled closest to a university’s quarter system. It was a six-week course, meeting once each week for 2.5 hours. Yet, the duration and number of meetings each week, as well as the total number of weeks can be adjusted according to the learning environment. As an example, an hour for philosophy and an hour for psychology, with a half hour for a break/discussion and individualized check-in, enable these vital topics to be covered concurrently.
Optimal class size can range from 6 to 10. Ten or fewer in a meeting (ideally in a group circle) facilitates important dynamics—time to reflect on what others have said, time to temporarily rest from participating, and time to actively participate. Such a group size also generates a range of viewpoints and experiences, providing multiple frames of reference. In addition, it maintains a high level of group cohesiveness, in which persons feel comfortable expressing thoughts and feelings. The point is to listen, to empathize, to question, to express, and to understand—and to feel heard and understood—which enables valuable and meaningful connections.
Ages can range between 14 and 18, with the upper age limit being equivalent to a high school senior. Many aspects of this course may challenge a person in ways that typical college courses don’t, because of the nontypical (non status-quo based) subject matter. Nonetheless, it can be a preparatory program for university study. More importantly, it’s perfect for venturing into the world as a discerning and joyful adult—with meta-awareness.
Because of its interactive nature, discussion involving personal sharing (according to what one feels comfortable with) and curious exploration of ideas and perspectives serve as primary methods of learning. While active participation by everyone remains important, the amount will always be left to each person’s discretion.
The point of having a class is not to teach to the class, but rather to facilitate an enriching educational experience for the individuals within the class. Student input—personal stories, questions, comments, concerns, criticisms, etc.—is indispensable and vital to a beneficial learning process. Further, regardless of how popular and normalized grades and tests are in traditional schools, they are not just irrelevant in this regard; they are actually damaging to the learning process, as explained in my academic essay as well as in The Psychology of Liberty‘s education section and, most recently, Complete Liberty Inside Out‘s chapter on education. Thus, neither grading nor testing will occur in the formal sense; learners are welcome to assess their own knowledge and understanding and/or each other’s (if requested), as well as to request an assessment from the guide.
All learners need to feel empowered and develop resourcefulness, which involves organizing and conveying thoughts and feelings in both speech and writing. Successful guidance, like successful tutoring, helps each person make his or her own assessments, which typically leads to further questions, while keeping the overall class context in mind. Intrinsic motivation remains key; participation is contingent on being very interested in these subjects. This course encourages not only optimal knowledge acquisition, but also self-knowledge acquisition in a social context that facilitates growth amidst nourishing and nurturing interaction.
Also, please check out the brief notes on all sorts of topics in the philosophy and psychology pages:
If you have any additional questions or comments about any aspect of the course, the please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy meeting people excited about the learning process—and about life in general.