Philosophy for Children

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Philosophy for Children, sometimes abbreviated to P4C, is a movement that aims to teach reasoning and argumentative skills to children. There are also related methods sometimes called "Philosophy for Young People" or "Philosophy for Kids". Often the hope is that this will be a key influential move towards a more democratic form of democracy.[1] However, there is also a long tradition within higher education of developing alternative methods for teaching philosophy both in schools and colleges (see "philosophy education").[2]

Although the noted developmental psychologist Jean Piaget was of the impression that children were not capable of critical thinking until age 11 or 12, the experience of many philosophers and teachers with young children gives reason to believe that children benefit from philosophical inquiry even in early primary school. Furthermore, there is empirical evidence that teaching children reasoning skills early in life greatly improves other cognitive and academic skills and greatly assists learning in general.[3]

Method[edit]

The pedagogy of philosophy for children is diverse. However, many practitioners including those working in the tradition of Matthew Lipman and the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children emphasize the use of a community of enquiry method which has roots in the work of philosopher John Dewey.[4] The term "enquiry" is preferred to "lesson" because the emphasis is on the group enquiring together into questions with the teacher as a facilitator rather than the authoritative source of information.

In a typical enquiry, a group would be presented with a thought-provoking stimulus such as a text, image, picture book, or video clip. Some time may be spent identifying the concepts raised by the stimulus, and then participants frame their own philosophical questions in response to the stimulus and vote for the one they wish to explore. The ensuing discussion usually takes place in a circle, with the teacher/facilitator intervening to push the thinking to a deeper level but aspiring to allow the discussion to follow the emerging interests of the group.

Notable proponents and their styles[edit]

One of the salient differences between proponents of philosophy for children is in their choice of stimuli - starting points for discussions. Matthew Lipman, called, "the most influential figure" in helping young students develop philosophical thinking by Gareth Matthews, is credited with starting the Philosophy for Children movement in the 1970s.[5] After witnessing political upheaval taking place on University campuses nationwide in the 1960s, Lipman realized that philosophical and critical thinking should be encouraged much earlier in the academic setting. He founded the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children[6] at Montclair State University (then Montclair State College) in 1974. Lipman's method involves reading philosophically stimulating narrative to children and encouraging them to come up with philosophical questions in response. The questions set the agenda for a collaborative inquiry where the teacher acts as both facilitator and co-inquirer. The lessons are dialogue based with students usually sitting in a circle and taking turns at suggesting solutions, expressing opinions, putting forth arguments and counter arguments, providing examples, constructing criteria and building on each other's ideas with the aim of coming to a settlement regarding the initial philosophical questions that stimulated the dialogue. Lipman's ideas about learning, pedagogy and curriculum are heavily influenced by the educational and philosophical ideas of the American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey.[7] Many of the materials used by the IAPC are philosophical children's novels that were published by Lipman, including Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery, which he published in 1969.[8] Others have built on Lipman's ideas and developed further teaching resources and learning activities that compliment his original Philosophy for Children novels and pedagogical approach, such as Phil Cam's popular teaching resources [9][10] Lipman wrote the world's first systematic pre-college philosophy curriculum and created both masters and doctoral programs in the field of Philosophy for Children. He also founded Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children.[11]

Gareth Matthews worked with a variety of students, but primarily with students in late primary school (5th grade and thereabouts). Matthews' method was to get the students to actively create philosophical settings, to “make the philosophical problem their own”. One of his best-known techniques was to provide the beginning of a philosophically provocative story. He then recorded/transcribes student comments, put them in the mouths of characters in the story, and brought the story continuation to the next class session for further discussion. Such interactions are compiled in his book Dialogues With Children.

Karin Murris of Witwatersrand University, South Africa and Joanna Haynes of Plymouth University, England, have popularised the use of children's picture books as an alternative to purpose-written materials. Tom Wartenberg of Mount Holyoke, Massachusetts has also written a large number of discussion plans for philosophising with picture books.

There is particular diversity in the UK, owing to the large number of competing and collaborating freelance trainers each emphasising different strands of the pedagogy. Roger Sutcliffe's practice includes the use of news stories; Steve Williams has emphasised the importance of dialogues that model argument as well as raising philosophical issues; Will Ord emphasises the use of striking photos, often containing contrasts that suggest opposing concepts.;[12] Jason Buckley advocates a more physical, game-based approach and "Philosophy in Role", in which children philosophise within a story as characters confronted with a variety of problems.

The Philosophy Foundation's specialist philosophy teachers (all philosophy graduates) specifically use philosophical material, including thought-experiments and stories or activities that lead to questions from the philosophical canon. They make use of carefully structured questioning strategies and also the introduction of thinking skills in order to develop good thinking habits from a young age. The questioning strategies are used to introduce dialectic along Platonic lines and in order to maintain philosophical focus. Uniquely they have a methodology that introduces writing and meta-analysis with older primary and secondary students.[13]

UK based Thinking Space is Grace Robinson, a philosopher and a network of associated philosophers and educators whose work is characterised by playful and experimental collaborations. This work with a range of practitioners, among them artists, scientists, and academics, aims to bring philosophical issues alive for children and young people. Thinking Space's most notable collaboration is with The University of Leeds on 'Leeds Philosophy Exchange'; an accredited undergraduate course in which philosophy students facilitate philosophical enquiry in local primary schools, alongside teachers trained by Thinking Space in P4C.

A particular way of doing philosophy with children is illustrated by the work of Chris Phillips with the Philosophers Club at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in the Mission District, San Francisco, California.[14]

Professor William Barry of Notre Dame de Namur University is pioneering a new approach to p4c called Philosophy for Children and Community (P4c²) in the San Francisco Bay Area. His contribution to evolving the idea of p4c involves young people becoming novice critical theory action researchers and meaningful members of commnunities of inquiry focused on human flourishing for every person. Another key compoenent of Barry's P4c² is the importance of children gaining ontological weight from particpation in their commnuities of inquiry by understanding the meaning of quality in praxis in a transformational way through TQ Theory. The Institute of P4c² has recently been developed by Living Leadership Today, LLC Founder Maria Rachelle in Silicon Valley California and resulted in the creation of the online international scholarly journal, the International Journal of Transformative Research [2].

Programs, competitions, and publications[edit]

There are a number of college-level academic philosophy programs in the United States that do outreach to public schools, most notably at the University of Massachusetts - Boston, University of Chicago, California State University Long Beach, Mount Holyoke College, Montclair State University, Michigan State University, University of Hawai`i at Manoa, Notre Dame de Namur University, and Plattsburgh State University Of New York.[15]

At the University of Chicago, students in the college teach in schools on Chicago South Side through the University's Civic Knowledge Project. The class, known as Winning Words, is an after school program that works with elementary, middle and high school students in Chicago. The program aims to engage and inspire local youth through an education in philosophy, reasoning and the verbal arts of dialogue and rhetoric; building self-confidence and exposing its students to a wide range of philosophical material. Recognized by the American Philosophical Association,[16] the program provides an introduction to philosophy and Socratic dialogue and includes writing, public speaking, debate, drama, poetry and art. The material uses the Socratic method to engage students and to encourage the use of critical thinking, reasoning and expression. Such modes of thought and communication foster the sense of wonder that is at the root of serious introspection, intellectual growth, and ethical reflection. February 2012, the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Pre-Collegiate Philosophy featured Winning Words and the Civic Knowledge Project in its Central Division meeting.

In addition, several independent centers have arisen including the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children in Seattle, Washington.[17] The Northwest Center has expanded from work in the Seattle area to running workshops throughout Washington state on how to integrate philosophy education into K-12 education.

Before the Department of Education cut funding for such programs in the early 1990s, there were over 5,000 programs in K-12 schools nationwide which engaged young people in philosophical reflection or critical thinking, more generally. This number has dropped substantially.

The Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children, which has been recognized by the APA for excellence and innovation,[18] utilizes Lipman's method, exposing children to philosophically stimulating narrative to encourage them to create and ask their own philosophical questions, actively in the K-12 classroom through a longstanding partnership with the Montclair public school system.[19] Students are encouraged to ask their questions and the philosophical facilitator (a member of the IAPC) helps the children to develop philosophical skills and dispositions of critical, caring, and creative thinking in order to get the young students to come to reasonable judgment about what is "best to do or believe," in response to the initial question. IAPC has a large teacher preparation component and provides teacher manuals that include discussion plans specifically designed to assist in the facilitation of philosophical discussions that are general enough to answer most student questions. In addition to working directly with schoolchildren, members of the IAPC work with several constituencies, including professional and pre-professional educators, educational administrators and policy-makers, and faculty and students of education, philosophy and related disciplines.[20] IAPC has trained educators worldwide to successfully implement their curriculum in their home states and countries. Philosophy and Children organization offers introductory workshops and Certificate courses in schools and graduate teachers in Australia.

There is an annual Philosophy Slam competition for kids in grades K-12. Younger children are encouraged to submit artwork which illustrates their philosophical reflections while older children submit increasingly sophisticated written work.

In the UK the University of Leeds now offers a students into schools programme called Leeds Philosophy Exchange, led by Grace Robinson. The University of Bristol is now working on Bristol Philosophy Exchange applying a similar model in which philosophy students and primary school teachers exchange skills and knowledge in weekly philosophical enquiry with children.

Educational charity The Philosophy Foundation (formerly The Philosophy Shop) trains philosophy graduates to do philosophy with primary and secondary school children, and places them in schools nationwide. They also train teachers in the transferable skills of philosophy (questioning, thinking skills and discourse skills), and are encouraging an enquiry based approach to education at all levels, including tertiary.

[SAPERE]] is a UK charity that trains teachers in P4C nationwide.

Thinking Space works with schools to devise creative philosophy projects that combine the expertise of philosophers and teachers.

The growth of a community between European philosophy with children (PWC) practitioners culminated in the establishment of “Stichting SOPHIA —The European Foundation for the Advancement of Doing Philosophy with Children” in 1993, with Eulalia Bosch (Catalonia) as its President, and Karel van der Leeuw (the Netherlands) Secretary. Following the motto of the European Community (now the EU) – ‘ unity through diversity’, SOPHIA supported the development of doing philosophy with children within all the different European cultures and languages, and nurtured the community among practitioners as the foundation for collaborative work and mutual development. Many groundbreaking and innovative projects have resulted from SOPHIA members working together, often funded by the EU. For example pwc projects working with art, citizenship, excluded children, architecture, anti-racism, music, community development and more.

Journals[edit]

There have been several academic journals devoted to publishing work regarding philosophy for/with children.

Books[edit]

A number of books have been published on philosophy for children other than those mentioned above by Matthews and Lipman. Some are intended to be read by children, others by children with their parents, and still others by philosophers, educators, and policy-makers considering the merits of K-12 philosophy programs. A partial (by no means exhaustive or representative) list includes the books:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Laurence Splitter and Ann M. Sharp, Teaching for Better Thinking, ACER: Melbourne.
  2. ^ See, for example, Philosophy 4 Skool, by Michael Brett, http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/philinschool.htm accessed July 19, 2008
  3. ^ k.J. Topping and S. Trickey (2007) "Collaborative Philosophical Inquiry for School Children", British Journal of Educational Psychology, Dec 77(4).
  4. ^ Jennifer Bleazby (2013) Social Reconstruction Learning: Dualism, Dewey and Philosophy in Schools, Routledge: New York and London.
  5. ^ Martin, Douglas (2011-01-14). "Matthew Lipman, Philosopher and Educator, Dies at 87". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children
  7. ^ Bleazby, Jennifer (2013) Social Reconstruction Learning: Dualism, Dewey and Philosophy in Schools. Routledge: New York and London.
  8. ^ http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/children/#2
  9. ^ Cam, Phil (2012) Teaching Ethics in Schools. ACER: Melbourne
  10. ^ Cam, Phil (1993-97) Thinking Stories, Hale and Iremonger.
  11. ^ Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children
  12. ^ http://www.thinkingeducation.co.uk/p4c.htm
  13. ^ For more on The Philosophy Foundation's methodology see 'The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom' [1] by Peter Worley.
  14. ^ Moore, Teresa (1999-01-22). "Socrates' Children: A volunteer teaches kids philosophy -- and how to listen to one another". SFGate. 
  15. ^ Plattsburgh State University Of New York
  16. ^ American Philosophical Association
  17. ^ "Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children". Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  18. ^ http://cehs.montclair.edu/academic/iapc/index.shtml
  19. ^ Montclair public school system
  20. ^ http://cehs.montclair.edu/academic/iapc/about.shtml
  21. ^ The Machine Who Was Also a Boy

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]