The Northern Arizona University Mentor Program allows advanced philosophy students to introduce local high school students to philosophy. In the United States, unlike in Europe and Latin America, students usually are not exposed to philosophy before college. The Mentor Program addresses this gap, and provides an introduction to philosophical inquiry at an earlier age than is typical. This enables high school students to gain a deeper understanding of the material they are studying in their classes. The mentors facilitate discussions that are related to subjects in the high school classroom. For example, in a literature class they might discuss Jean Paul Sartre and existentialism. In a science class, they might explore concepts in the philosophy of science, such as Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions. The high school students enjoy interacting with NAU students, and it often motivates many of them to think more seriously about attending college. High school students who have had mentors visit their class have ended up studying philosophy at NAU and have become mentors themselves.
The Mentor Program has a student director, who leads discussions where mentors share their experiences and talk about what they have learned. The Mentor Program is overseen by Dr. Jeff Downard and Dr. Julie Piering in the Department of Philosophy.
Our mission is to work philosophy into the high school curriculum and offer students the opportunity to ask us about college. We want to show students that even if they haven’t found their coursework in high school particularly enthralling, there are more areas of inquiry awaiting them at the university level. We hope to inspire students to think about what their education means to them, whether it is a means to an end or an end in itself.
The Mentor Program is currently in place at the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy and Flagstaff High School.