Uproar in Italy over cut-down philosophy

May 7, 1999

Rome

Italy's philosophers are up in arms over plans to close faculties of lettere e filosofia and include scaled-down teaching of philosophy, with other subjects, on shorter humanities courses.

Many philosophy lecturers see this as a blow to both the prestige and the high standards of training in their subject. Students take four-year philosophy courses, and popular lecturers become sought-after talk-show guests and writers, with potential for careers in politics.

But under a planned reform of degree courses, part of a wider reform aimed at making university education more efficient and more geared to the demands of the job market, elements of philosophy would be taught as part of a three-year humanities degree. Students could then take a two-year philosophy course.

The redesign of degree courses is being discussed by a variety of commissions and still has to be voted in parliament. But Italy's philosophers are extremely alarmed by guidelines released by the university ministry.

"It is not just a matter of loss of prestige, but of an entire tradition of teaching," said Fiorella Bassan, philosophy lecturer at Rome's La Sapienza University. "If this goes ahead, during the degree course students will be taught little more philosophy than they are taught in secondary school."

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