No Idea Whether Americans Want Philosophy, According to New Survey

A survey based on 115 forums held around the United States brought some seemingly good news about what the public thinks of philosophical education in college:

Nearly 9 in 10 of those returning questionnaires strongly or somewhat agreed that college should be “where students learn to develop the ability to think critically by studying a rich curriculum that includes history, art and literature, government, economics, and philosophy.”

Yay! Oh wait, the respondents didn’t volunteer philosophy as an answer? Instead it was right there at the end of the pre-written statement, and we don’t even know if they read to the end of it before answering? OK. Well, at least they strongly agreed with the statement! Oh wait, they might have just “somewhat” agreed? Oh. How do we know that the inclusion of philosophy on the list isn’t what made them check “somewhat” rather than “strongly”? We don’t? Oh. Maybe 9 out of 10 would have still at least “somewhat agreed” with the statement if it had also included “picnicking” alongside the other subjects. Maybe 10 out of 10 would have; who doesn’t like a picnic?

Well, at least the American people have spoken. What? Not quite?

The surveys are based on 90-minute forums conducted across the country but mostly on or near four-year college campuses, which are by no means representative of the American population. More than two-thirds of the respondents were college students or instructors, for instance. Nationally, less than a third of Americans have a college degree.

I see. So we shouldn’t get too excited; it is possible that philosophy still has some more PR work to do.

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10 years ago

Just curious. Did anyone cite this as a selling point for philosophy? All that would do would make people wonder about our claims we can teach critical thinking (mostly for reasons you note).