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The American Philosophical Association (APA) and the Philosophy Documentation Center (PDC) has selected our Philosophy Outreach as the winner of the 2014 Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs!


The aim of our Philosophy Outreach Program is to use the Philosophy Department’s & Parr Center’s intellectual resources both (i) to help people in the community think carefully and clearly about a broad range of ideas, commitments, and practices that regularly shape their lives, and (ii) to get them excited about philosophy.

The Outreach Program is motivated by the conviction that philosophical activity contributes to a flourishing life by helping us to develop a sense of ourselves and the world around us through reflection on our beliefs and values.  Through our existing community partnerships, outreach participants (including UNC undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty) facilitate philosophical discussions, and guide community members as they explore interesting and important questions together.

Social science research has also reflected the positive benefits of participating in philosophical discussions for children. Children who engage with philosophy on a weekly basis significantly increase their math and reading test scores. Teachers report a beneficial impact on students’ confidence and ability to listen to others in the classroom.

In 2014, Outreach participants have held more than 150 community discussions about ethics and philosophy in Chapel Hill and surrounding areas.

[iconheading type=”h5″ style=”fa fa-leaf”]Our Current Initiatives include: [/iconheading]

Outreach participants use picture books (such as Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories, Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, and Leo Lionni’s FrederickTillie and the Wall, and Fish is Fish) and fun activities to generate conversations with children about values and BIG philosophical questions.

Elementary schools include: Durham Academy (1st grade), The Montessori Children’s House of Durham (1st-3rd grade), The Morehead Afterschool Program (4th grade), Mary Scroggs Elementary (K-5th grade), and Glenwood Elementary (K-5th grade).

[iconheading type=”h4″ style=”glyphicon glyphicon-film”]Watch Philosophy Outreach at Durham Academy [/iconheading]

Outreach participants are currently working with students at eight high schools in Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas (Carolina Friends School, Carrboro High, Chapel Hill High, East Chapel Hill High, Eastern Alamance High, Hillside High, Raleigh Charter School, and Woods Charter School) to help these students prepare for the upcoming North Carolina Regional High School Ethics Bowl competition.  Outreach participants lead discussions about the main moral issues involved in each of the HSEB cases, teach their teams about relevant moral theories, run mock competitions, and offer critical feedback on their students’ arguments

PhOCUS seeks to promote philosophical and ethical engagement with underserved and low-income high school student populations. PhOCUS has two programs: (i) a national initiative to expand opportunities for high school students from low-income schools to participate in the National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB) and (ii) a local initiative to encourage low-income student communities within North Carolina’s Research Triangle to engage with each other in guided conversations about significant ethical and philosophical questions. 

PhOCUS is funded by the American Philosophical Association Small Grant Program 2014-2015.

Our sessions focus on helping students to develop philosophical skill sets that will be useful to them in their preparation for the GED (critical thinking, logical argumentation, providing supporting reasons for positions, etc.).  Moreover, as the GED program at CCCC has a largely vocational orientation, we hope that our hour-long philosophy discussions help to nurture a broader interest in education.

Youth Development Centers, operated by North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety (, “provide mentoring, education and therapeutic treatment to prepare youth for a fresh start when they re-enter their communities.  YDCs promote learning and development through a wide range of educational and vocational courses.”

The teachers and staff at C.A. Dillon are especially excited to have programs—like our philosophy and ethics discussion group—that can promote an interest in education, and can help students broaden their view of the possible futures that are available to them.

Outreach volunteers work with community members to choose topics, select short readings, and facilitate the weekly or bi-monthly conversations.  Topics have included (among others): Loss, death, and grief; The evolution of morality; Why do we punish people?; Do we have obligations to aid developing countries?; Moral luck; Is there a right to privacy?; Freedom as a political ideal; The philosophy of education; Mercy and justice; and Do we have obligations to future generations?

Retirement communities include: Carolina Meadows, Carol Woods, and Atria Southpoint Walk

morehead-4The Philosophy Outreach Program is supported by the Parr Center for Ethics, Department of Philosophy, and Squire Family Foundation, and the American Philosophical Association.

[iconheading type=”h4″ style=”fa fa-file-text”]Resources[/iconheading]

A complied archive of books and online resources to assist in teaching and learning philosophy.

[iconheading type=”h4″ style=”fa fa-thumbs-o-up”]Testimonials[/iconheading]

Participants, program coordinators, and educators share their experiences with the Philosophy Outreach Program.

[iconheading type=”h4″ style=”fa fa-envelope-o”]Contact Us[/iconheading]

If you have suggestions, philosophical questions, or if you are a school administrator, teacher, program coordinator, or program administrator with an interest in philosophy, please contact Steven Swartzer, outreach coordinator.