Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The best way to increase students' interest in a subject is to teach them the significance of the subject outside of school.
Our interest in a subject is influenced by many things. For subjects with direct, practical applications outside of school, this extracurricular significance may be a huge factor in determining a student's interest in it. In these cases, it would be suitable to teach them about the subject's significance outside of school. For subjects that don't have many practical applications, however, this may not be the case.
For a subject like art, for example, teaching students about its significance outside of school may actually have the opposite effect. Art has very little practical utility, and I say this as someone who absolutely loves art. It is a fairly noncontroversial viewpoint, reinforced by the fact that art funding is universally one of the first things sent to the chopping block during government budget crunches. It's true significance is even debated by those in the art world--this is something I can personally attest to, having been party to many of these debates while studying art during my M.A. program. For those not already inspired by art classes, learning about art's extracurricular significance is probably not going to be the best way to get them excited about it.
The same could be said of philosophy. Philosophy, at least in the Western tradition, used to have practical applications. That was several hundred years ago, back when science still comprised a branch of philosophy. Nowadays, people will reflexively cringe when they hear you have a philosophy degree. And who could blame them? Philosophy is almost by definition an airy pursuit--its name comes from the term "philosophia", Greek for "the love of wisdom". Loving wisdom is not an employable skill-set, and I have a feeling that teaching students about this lack of practical utility will do little to sway the unconverted. Why should they get excited about a subject with no obvious use?
These are both subjects near and dear to my heart, and I think it would be a shame if more people were not adequately exposed to them. I think the best way to get students interested in these subjects, however, is not to talk about their grander significance outside of school, but to make them more immediate and personal. Studying Buddhist philosophy helped me to detach myself from a life focused on material gain. Experiencing Mark Rothko's massive color-field paintings gave me personal insight during a difficult period of depression. These are two ways in which more personal encounters can deepen a person's interest in them, and it's far more impactful and longer-lasting than.
Teaching students about a subject's extracurricular significance is important, but for some subjects, there are better ways of stoking their interest.