Teacher Adrian Hall has little patience for people whose response to philosophy is to question the existence of the table in front of them. For him the subject is much more important and relevant.
He loves to use philosophy with his pupils at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, as a means of thinking about the big questions – whether humans should build machines as intelligent as ourselves, the morals of rationing health care, whether animals have souls and whether states should be able to dictate whether a woman can have an abortion.
As assistant head at a school numbering 1400 pupils from 40 primary schools drawn from three counties – Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire – much of his teaching time is assigned to mathematics. However in formal philosophy courses, and informal discussions with pupils, he loves to challenge them to play with ideas, and not to be afraid of tackling important issues.
The challenge of sharing his passion for ideas continues to fire his professional life. After 20 years as a teacher he counts himself fortunate still to be in a job he loves: "I still get up feeling that I have a moral purpose and that I am doing something worthwhile – it is a job where you change people's lives."
Adrian holds Lancaster University responsible for inspiring his philosophical interests. The three-subject option in the first year was the greatest draw for him as an 18 year old, straight from a mediocre comprehensive school in the West Midlands. He was, he says "a typical mathematician" with a liking for finality, but the opportunity to study philosophy alongside mathematics and ICT, opened up his thinking in new ways.
Mathematics was enjoyable but it was the philosophy courses that really felt exciting and relevant. Of course he wrestled with the meaning of life and with courses on existentialism and Nietzsche, but he also tackled issues like artificial intelligence and the separation of mind, body and brain, that continue to be hot topics for discussion today. He dropped ICT after the first year, but continues to use it at school when teaching mathematics.
He felt instantly at home on the campus and spent most of his time socialising there outside lectures, with people he met on his course and in college. Having bars to hand made it easy to drop in and chat to people over a drink, without it turning into "a session". He and his friends also took advantage of the nearby Lake District to explore the fells.
Adrian also met his wife, Tina (née Mant) in Bowland. Tina was doing psychology. She is now a speech and language therapist and they have three children.
At the end of his course he was interviewed for maths-based jobs such as actuarial work, but found them 'lacking in heart'. He applied to do a PGCE at St Martins and immediately felt he had found his niche. Since his first teaching job at a high school in Chorley, he has moved to other maths teaching positions around Lancashire, until arriving in his current job in 2007. Today half his time as an assistant head teacher of an Ofsted-rated 'outstanding' school, focuses on staff and professional development, classroom teaching methods and developing links with the community as a Teaching School. He is also trying to develop links between the school and universities including Lancaster.
He feels Lancaster University prepared him for teaching and inspired his love for philosophy, which lives with him daily. He says: "Lancaster got me excited. I have a critical eye on the world and my time there helped me to think about and try to resolve issues."