Open Letter to Public and Private Institutions of Learning in Somalia

How Can We Succeed in Nurturing Our Children While Denying the Importance of the Key Subjects for Education: Philosophy and Psychology?

These two subjects deal with what to teach respective how to teach. There is no permanent curriculum neither is there one, two or three kinds of eternal social challenges. The social problems that exist any given period determine what we should teach our children and sometimes the adults. For that reason, we constantly choose what we would teach our children and of course the method–how we would teach them.

Although, this time we humans generally face uncertainty when it concerns what we should teach our children so that they would with more assurance deicide their future occupations. According to some thinkers of our time like Yuval Noah Harari, they believe that we are in the most difficult period regarding what we would teach our children so that they could cope with future challenges. Yuval Noah Harari adopts universal tone and looks the matter globally by raising different questions: 

“Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions; all our old stories are crumbling, and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties? A baby born today will be thirty-something in 2050.

If all goes well, that baby will still be around in 2100, and might even be an active citizen of the Twenty-second century. What should we teach that baby that will help him or her survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or of the twenty-second century? What kind of skills will he or she need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them, and navigate the maze of life (Harari, 2018, p. 259)?”

However, we are part of the world that Yuval Noah Harari is reflecting now so that we should also start to contemplate what we should fill the minds of our people and of course how. To bind these two terms (what to teach and how to teach) together and use one simple term. We can literally call them pedagogy. On the other hand, Herbert (1806) stated long time ago that there would never be a sole pedagogy. 

He said that it is always accompanied by two other disciplines namely Philosophy and Psychology: The pedagogy rests on two legs; philosophy and psychology. Where philosophy should form the basis for what the content – knowledge and moral – that the school should have. Psychology should help the teacher find the best tools or ways to reach the set goal (Olsson, 1997).

These twin subjects, which are used for those proposes, have unfortunately been completely neglected in our present-day institutions of learning in Somalia. In addition, Somalis too have little or no interests in pursuing them as special educational programs rather than scattered subjects in different art programs. In Sweden where I live now is a home for more than 100,000 Somalis yet there is only one Somali psychologist, Yasin Ekdal. An interview he gave Somali National TV in Sweden five years ago, Yasin mentioned that he was the only Somali psychologist in all Scandinavian countries (Xusuusonline, 2014). However, my intention here is not to investigate why these two subjects– which are so important in the field of nurturing are not given interests they worth– rather I would like to present what they are and the questions they focus on?

What is Philosophy?  

In order to satisfy the readers’ curiosity on the question, I think it would not be enough to give a literal description that only confines the meaning of the term itself. For that may not grant to provide information that would lead us a comprehensive understanding on philosophy as a subject. On the other hand, according to Simon Blackburn, the subject is inherently complex both as a subject and as profession and he says:

“The word ‘philosophy’ carries unfortunate connotations; impractical, unworldly, weird. I suspect that all philosophers and philosophy students share that moment of silent embarrassment when someone innocently asks us what we do. I would prefer to introduce myself as doing conceptual engineering. For just as the engineer studies the structure of the material things, so the philosopher studies the structure of thought. Understanding the structure involves seeing how parts function and how they interconnect. It means knowing what would happen for better or worse if “changes” were made. This is what we aim at when we investigate the structures that shape our view of the world.Our concepts or ideas form the mental housing in which we live.  We may end up proud of the structures we have built. Or we may believe that they need “dismantling” and “starting afresh”. But, first we have to know what they are (Warburton, 2005, p. 11)”.

I myself have taken the authority to choose– some terms like changes, dismantling and starting afresh in the original quotation– italics while I rewrote it. As I have stated, there will never be a permanent curriculum, it should change with the challenges that any society would face at the moment. So, as changes may occur anytime and seem to be inevitable, what would follow should be dismantling the old curriculum so that we can start a fresh suitable to time and the challenges that the society face.

Here is where we need philosophers who with their experience of studying the structure of thought come up with what (a new curriculum) we would teach our children. Their main task should first be discovering the changes as they are happening. I just have with the help of Simon’s quotation discussed what the philosophers do. I imagine that the reader is eagerly expecting response to the questions I have raised at the beginning; what is philosophy? Which kind of questions should we call philosophical? In short, philosophy is thinking and of course, we all think.

But , the questions one thinks about or investigates would determine that he/she is dealing with philosophy. For example, if you investigate what happened at some time in the past, you are really dealing with history. But if you ask what is time? This fundamental question belongs to philosophy. Likewise, mathematic deals with the relations among the numbers, but philosophy asks what is number (Warburton, 2005, p. 4)?  To sum up, philosophy’s task is to question very common ideas that we all use daily without contemplating. One main field of philosophy deals with what is knowledge.

This field of philosophy is called epistemology. And I think epistemology is the proper subject in philosophy in which use for choosing what we would teach our children with the passing of the time. 

What is Psychology?      

Psychology is said to have been extracted from philosophy. Unlike other subjects such as physics and astronomy, many believe that psychology became a scientific subject that developed its principles and methods in 1860 (Geldard, 1963).

The most common question one may encounter the first page of a psychology book is; why we do what we do? It mainly studies what make us do what we do and the investigation of such question demands the investigator to have an access to the inner part of the doer of the action in order to know for example how the person thinks when he is doing an action. It focuses on the behaviour of the person and what factors may positively and negatively contribute to his actions .

While a philosopher askes what makes a word mean anything? Psychologist with the help of some branches of psychology contemplates how children learn a language.Among other psychological fields such as behaviourism, developmental and cognitive pysychology which are so important for nurturing our children, there is a branch of psychology that also specially involves problems of education. Educational psychology is the branch applied to problems of education.

The two mean questions it focuses are; what are the basic human capacities and how are individual differences in them distributed? How are skills and knowledge acquired in the practical setting (Geldard, 1963, p. 413)? However, the connection between these two subjects can be illustrated simply; philosophy produces the knowledge that matches and meets the present moral and material needs of the society while psychology develops the method that that knowledge can be transported to the right destinations—the minds of our children and eventually the adults. Now, the closing terms of my essay are as follow: Can we continue denying them these two key subjects— philosophy and psychology? In other words, can we ignore their importance?    

Work Cited



Geldard, F. A., 1963. Fundamentals of Psychology. United States of America: s.n.

Harari, Y. N., 2018. 21 Lessons for the 21 Century. Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A ed. Great Britain: Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A.

Olsson, Å. M. &. L.-E., 1997. Vuxenpedagogik i teori och praktik kunskapslyftet i fokus. Stockholm: s.n.

Warburton, N., 2005. Philosophy Basic Readings. USA and Canada: s.n.

Xusuusonline, 2014. Wareysi Yaasiin Ekdal [Interview] (11 Jun 2014).


Cali Amiin