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.citation needed 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").1
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.citation needed
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. 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.
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.2 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 3 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. 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 1969.4 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.5
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.;6 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 7 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.8
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.9
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 Chicago, California State University Long Beach, Mount Holyoke College, Montclair State University, Michigan State University, University of Hawai`i at Manoa and Plattsburgh State University Of New York.10
At the University of Chicago, students in the college teach in schools on Chicago South Side through the University's Civic Knowledge Project.11 The class, known as Winning Words,12 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,13 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.14 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,15 which has been recognized by the APA for excellence and innovation,16 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.17 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.18 IAPC has trained educators worldwide to successfully implement their curriculum in their home states and countries. Philosophy and Children organization 19 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 the Big Think.
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.
UK organisations such as Thinking Space 20 offer consultation and project design and delivery for schools interested in philosophy for children. Organisations such as Cap-a-Pie 21 take a creative approach, fusing P4C (Philosophy for Children) and Drama-in-Learning to create learning experiences that make philosophical thought visible. SAPERE 22 is a UK charity that trains teachers in P4C nationwide.
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 23 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.
There are two refereed journals devoted to publishing work regarding philosophy for/with children.
- Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children contains some work by young philosophers but consists primarily of work by adults about their work doing philosophy for children including lesson plans, developmental psychology, and work from the emerging field called "Hermeneutics of childhood" which is a multi-disciplinary approach to considering the intellectual and emotional life of children.
- By contrast, Questions: Philosophy for Young People has as its mission the publication of work that features the philosophical reflections of children, themselves. Thus, it contains essays authored by children, transcripts of classroom dialogues with some commentary by moderators, artwork by children, and so forth. It also publishes the winners of the Philosophy Slam competition.
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:
- Thinking in Education by Matthew Lipman
- Big Ideas for Little Kids by Thomas Wartenberg
- Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun Questions That Help You Wonder About Everything and The Examined Life: Advanced Philosophy for Kids, both by David A. White
- Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts, an anthology edited by David Baggett and Shawn Klein
- Sophie's World a novel by Jostein Gaarder.
- Young Person's Guide to Philosophy from the DK series of educational books
- Wise Guy: The Life and Adventures of Socrates, a picture book version of the engaging life of Socrates by M.D. Usher and illustrator William Bramhall.
- The Philosophers' Club by Christopher Phillips and Kim Doner
- The Pig that Wants to be Eaten by Julian Baggini.
- Games for Thinking by Robert Fisher
- Stories for Thinking by Robert Fisher
- Poems for Thinking by Robert Fisher
- Philosophy for Young Children: A Practical Guide by Berys Gaut and Morag Gaut
- Philosophy in Schools edited by Michael Hand and Carrie Winstanley
- The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom by Peter Worley (co-founder and CEO of The Philosophy Foundation), guided philosophy sessions for use in the classroom complete with teaching thinking strategies.
- The If Odyssey: A Philosophical Journey Through Greek Myth and Legend for 8-16 Year Olds by Peter Worley, due for publication September 2012
- The Philosophy Shop a book of philosophical stimuli from Academics around the world in aid of The Philosophy Foundation, due for publication November 2012
- The Machine Who Was Also a Boy24 a fiction fantasy adventure book (with accompanying teaching guide) addressing philosophical paradoxes, aimed at Middle Grade students (age 10-14)
- Philosophy of Education
- 'http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/p4cgallions.htm for an article about teaching philosophy with children in London schools
- See, for example, Philosophy 4 Skool, by Michael Brett, http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/philinschool.htm accessed July 19, 2008
- Martin, Douglas (2011-01-14). "Matthew Lipman, Philosopher and Educator, Dies at 87". The New York Times.
- Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children
- Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children
- Philosophy Foundation website
- For more on The Philosophy Foundation's methodology see 'The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom'  by Peter Worley.
- Moore, Teresa (1999-01-22). "Socrates' Children: A volunteer teaches kids philosophy -- and how to listen to one another". SFGate.
- Plattsburgh State University Of New York
- Civic Knowledge Project
- Winning Words
- American Philosophical Association
- "Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children". Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children
- Montclair public school system
- The Machine Who Was Also a Boy
- Studies in Philosophy for Children, ed. Ann Margaret Sharp, Ronald F. Reed. ISBN 0-87722-872-8
- Philosophy Toolbox, a project of the APA's Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy
- http://www.p4c.com/ Resource cooperative
- Teaching Children Philosophy
- http://www.philosophyandchildren.com Training for teachers in Australia
- Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children
- Thinking Education http://www.thinkingeducation.co.uk/p4c.htm
- SAPERE, the UK charity for P4C
- The Philosophy Foundation 
- A film of Thinking Space working with Year Five children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzYwLBfiChA&list=PL6F527D64AD0C4F47&index=1&feature=plpp_video
- Philosophy for younger people article
- Philosophy for Children entry by Michael Pritchard in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Questions: Philosophy for Young People
- Thinking Journal
- Philosophy Slam
- P4C Videos
- Philosophy for Children Association of New Zealand
- Lectures at LSE: Policy and Philosophy for Children (Audio)
- Lectures at LSE: Philosophers and Philosophy for Children (Audio)
- Lectures at LSE: Practitioners and Philosophy for Children (Audio)