HAMAMATSU, SHIZUOKA PREF. - If you’ve ever taught English at a Japanese school, you’ll likely be familiar with a certain kind of silence — pervasive and tinged with teenage ennui. Authors Alexander Dutson and James Hill want to recommend breaking the ice with philosophy.

Their book, “Thinking Experiments,” presents ready-made lessons that use philosophical concepts to engage students — and incorporating them into lessons is easier than it sounds. The authors suggest that allowing students to prioritize questions over answers can help them develop the ability to think more deeply about what it is they believe in.

Pedagogical movements such as active learning and critical thinking are gaining ground in schools nationwide. These methods encourage students to become more independent language learners and, according to Dutson and Hill, philosophy can help students unlearn the two main limitations that hinder them the most as members of society: the inability to openly criticize any aspect of their daily life due to social pressure, and the habit of rote memorization.

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