Damon Young: "(...) be honest. Don’t manufacture ideas or feelings. Give kids the benefit of your experiences and education. Oh, and don’t be afraid to laugh at the world and yourself."
Damon Young is an Australian philosopher and author. His eleven books of nonfiction and children’s fiction are published internationally in English and translation. His latest for adults is The Art of Reading. His latest for children is My Mum is a Magician.
I met Damon on Twitter and I invited him to be a part of these interviews around P4C.
If you want to take a look at all the investigators and facilitators, all around the world, that have been sharing toughts about P4C, just take a look at this blog post.
You can check out Damon's work at his website: www.damonyoung.com.
Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?
Perhaps in around 2005?
How did you started working with p4c?
I was a research fellow in aesthetics at the University of Melbourne, and part of my brief was working with art museums and galleries. Through this, I was often invited to work with high school students on art education. While the emphasis was on art appreciation, this led quite spontaneously to philosophical discussion: on what art is, for example, and what questions it prompts (e.g. ontological, ethical, political).
Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?
Yes, philosophy—as a practice, not as an academic specialisation—is vital for a good life. If we can’t ask basic questions about our existence, how can we live well and ethically? By introducing children to philosophy early, we give them two important things: the ability to ask these questions without being intimidated or muddled, and the ability to enjoy doing this. Philosophy is a means to the end of a better life, but it’s also an end in itself.
Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?
Schools ought to teach philosophy for the reasons given above. But why schools? Two suggestions. First, because schools can provide a systematic syllabus, taught by professional educators. It might be that good teachers are better at introducing students to philosophy than academic professors. (Not the “might”. I’d like to see some evidence either way.)Teachers are also more likely to be sensitive to the various needs and contexts of students. Second, schools are one way to overcome poverty and marginalisation. Philosophy is often the province of the rich and educated, but schools can help to broaden access.
What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?
My basic guide is this: will it help a child to question what’s taken-for-granted, with reason, goodwill, and an eye for evidence?
What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?
For me, the greatest frustration is adults’ need to manage and control kids. Everything, including philosophy, becomes a kind of widget for producing obedient labourers.
Can you give the teachers and the parents some kind of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?
My only suggestion is to be honest. Don’t manufacture ideas or feelings. Give kids the benefit of your experiences and education. Oh, and don’t be afraid to laugh at the world and yourself.
Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?
A little boy once asked me if Batman even wanted to be happy, and this struck me as psychologically very observant.