Original Research

Philosophers’ debt to their students: The South African case

Bernard Matolino
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 5 | a87 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v5i0.87 | © 2020 Bernard Matolino | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 May 2020 | Published: 31 August 2020

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Bernard Matolino, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, College of Humanities, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Philosophy teachers owe their students a little more than mere formal instruction of topics popular in philosophy. What they owe their students is largely influenced by philosophy’s claims to be a discipline that is principally dedicated to the study and fostering of wisdom. Therefore, there is an obligation to be wise on the part of philosophy teachers so that they can deliver that wisdom. A big part of this would involve a sort of transformation in knowledge and character that the teachers themselves must go through as a result of engaging in philosophy. Such transformation will not only show in ways that philosophers live their private lives, as wise people, but will certainly show in the topics they teach their students and how they help their students to wisely respond to their environment through an enlightened, relevant and empowering curriculum. If philosophers fail at this task, they will only dispatch fragmented pieces of information about philosophical topics and method that are of no use to their students. If philosophers are unable to see the shortcomings of this approach, then they can just as well count themselves unfit to be called (wise) teachers but technical philosophers. The fees must fall and Rhodes must fall movement coupled with demands for decolonisation, caught philosophers underprepared for such demands from students. Hence, in this article, I seek to examine the legitimate demands for transformation of the curriculum and how philosophical instruction in the country contributed to this protest, which eventually was caricatured in some sections as unreasonable. I argue that beyond what appears as unreasonable demands by students, there is an obligation by philosophy teachers to be responsible and responsive to the students’ context in what they teach.

Keywords

philosophy; South Africa; fees must fall; philosophers’ obligation; decoloniality

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