In 2008 a law was passed making the study of philosophy mandatory. As a result, about 9 million students take philosophy for 3 hours a week. The students learn something about engagement.
“There are also other ways of political participation,” Ribeiro tells her students. She gives them the town hall’s phone number for complaints about infrastructure and asks them to find something in their street they want repaired. When one student calls, nothing happens. But when fifteen call, the city reacts. “You see that pothole?” she asks me. “It’s been closed. And that street lantern? It’s been fixed. Thanks to our philosophy class. . . . Politicians can’t afford disgruntled citizens who will vote them out of office.”
You can read the whole piece at http://www.bostonreview.net/BR37.1/carlos_fraenkel_brazil_teaching_philosophy.php.
I definitely agree with the requirement to learn philosophy as a mandatory course in public schools. As it happened for me, I was somewhat ahead of the curve, but only because it wasn't taught, and so I had to seek it out and read. I began with Will and Ariel Durant's "The Story of Philosophy" when I was about 12. I was captivated by Diogenes, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato and later, by Hume, and much later, by Russell and Whitehead, and then Einstein and Heisenberg and Dyson. Whitehead had maybe the biggest impact upon me; "Process and Reality" most of all, but "Science and the Modern World" was pretty good, too.
I also took a couple of course in "Religious Studies" and learned a smattering about Buddhism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism. the I Ching and various other ancient beliefs and books. Lately I have been reading about Sikhism, and even visiting the local temple occasionally, not as a believer but as a disinterested investigator Consequently, if I have any argument against this piece, it's the EuroCentrism.
Philosophy neither begins nor ends with the Western (nee Greek) tradition. Not to say that this is a dead-end. Truly exciting things are happening in the philosophy of science, cosmology, astrophysics and a few other sub-disciplines.
All that said, this remains a provocative piece.