Staying alert

A few years ago, I started studying philosophy again. It was a personal choice based on the fact that, in my professional life and in my role as a citizen, I had gradually become aware that several decisions were being made on my behalf without my having much of a say in them. I couldn’t make sense of the explanations I was receiving, and they started to amount to nothing more than background noise. I wasn’t curious enough to delve deeper and I found myself letting others do the thinking for me. For a long time, at school, at university and at work, I experienced a lack of meaning.

Nowadays – asides from wanting to impose the study of philosophy on everybody! – it is very important for me to help our students realise that school is not just a thing to be consumed – it should be a source of pleasure and of discovery, the place where students learn not to simply accept things as they are, but the place where they take an active part, the place where they realise that simple ideas often lie behind so-called ‘truths’. Starting with the idea of the adolescent student and what is expected of him or her, the image that he or she has of themselves compared to the one school constantly projects of them.

Franck Lefèvre and I benefit from the expertise of 20 French Section secondary teachers at our ESC campus on YangMingShan, and together we are all working on a project with two main objectives: firstly, ensuring our students continue to obtain excellent academic results, and secondly, giving our students access to a wider pedagogical toolbox, which will enhance their general and cultural knowledge, and go beyond what is expected from them in terms of the regular school life.

As a result, this year, we are delighted to be offering educational workshops to our students from 3ème to Terminale (and they are enthusiastic at the prospect of spending more time with us on Wednesday afternoons, believe me!) During the year, our adolescent students will have the chance to take part in maths workshops, general knowledge workshops, philosophy workshops, health workshops and many more.

The teachers have been extremely generous in offering to lead the workshops on themes that are dear to their hearts, but not necessarily part of the curriculum of the subject they teach. The workshops will therefore not be typical classes, but special moments when there are no good or bad students, no scientific vs. literary students, no grades, no tests, no homework. During the workshops, the students will learn just for the pleasure of learning. We are not aiming for anything more than to sow the seeds of curiosity and to help make the world around us a little more understandable.

In 6 months, 5 or 20 years, we hope that these workshops will have helped our students stay alert to what is happening in the world, to keep them curious, and to make sure they have their say and do not find themselves in the position where others are doing the thinking and the deciding on their behalf.

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