【Philosopher Café】Life Education Center Hosts Philosophy Caf?, Career Counseling and the Search for Meaning

【Reported by Shih-ting Huang】The Life Education Center of the Ministry of Education together with Dharma Drum University's School of Life and Values held an “Advanced Studies in Life Education — Philosophy Cafe” in the afternoon of August 26, 2011 at Degui Academy and invited about 30 life education teachers to once again embark on a voyage of self reflection.

Prof. Aries Ku, the discussion leader who has been serving as consultant to the Life Education Center since 2010, is deeply involved in promoting life education courses in high schools and vocational high schools. She has led three "Advanced Studies in Life Education — Philosophy Cafe" sessions in northern, central, and southern Taiwan to exchange teaching experiences with life education teachers on topics on various perspectives.

Before this session of the Philosophy Cafe began, Prof. Ku gave a thorough presentation to illustrate the origin, concepts and operation model of western philosophy cafes, and pointed out that the wisdom of the philosophers comes from exploring life and living, modern people should have the same attitude when facing troubles or problems. Everyone lives in a world confined by walls and ceiling, philosophical vision is to take you out of that world. We just need a little touch of madness, release the spiritual dimension through “creative imagination,” examine ourselves with “scientific spirit,” and accept a world of plenty and diversity with an open mind. Even without a professional background in philosophy, everyone has the ability to reflect on himself (or herself), to think independently, and his own life and living expert. Everyone is a born philosopher.

Prof. Ku then asked everyone to come down, and think about what they care in their daily lives, and in a relaxed atmosphere with coffee and dialogue, listen to their partner's topics concerning their daily thoughts and concerns, and learn to challenge others’ perspectives and accept challenges to his or her own perspectives in a courteous, patient, focused, and tolerant environment, and thereby experience a multitude of possibilities. 

Thereafter, the dialogue started by the question, “What is a decent profession?” More than 30 participants listened in closely, shared ideas, and responded, and concluded that a decent profession should embraces “morality and law”; “humanity”; “dignity of life”; “soul and spirit”; "the right to exist — I want to live”; “the right to choose and autonomy”; “inner happiness”; “value judgments”; “market supply and demand”; “emphasis on appearance.”

At the end of the activity, everyone came to a consensus: Maybe test questions have standard answers, but there is none for life. Each student has his or her own life story, and at this stage, life education teachers can only “accompany” students through the age of innocence, "listen" to the students’ inner voice, create space for dialogue between teachers and students, and let the students know that the road to maturity is not lonely. Most importantly, teachers should use their own life experience to gently draw close to students’ heart, guide them to reflect on themselves, discover their potential, stimulate them to think broadly, and from multiple perspectives, find the meaning and values of their own lives.