Farzaneh Shahrtash: " Any question can become philosophical as long as our mind is not certain about the answer or even the meaning of the words in the question itself."
I met Farzaneh Shahrtash on YouTube, by watching this video. I left a comment on the video and got a response and the contact of Farzaneh. She is working on Iran and I was curious to know a little more about P4C in this country.
Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?
It was exactly 1995 we (my colleagues and I) saw this combination (Philosophy+ Children) in the internet. We started collecting the information by following the linking as far as it was possible, but we couldn’t find any instructional method. We printed every page (almost 2000 pages) and we went through each, one by one. This was our only chance in that time, because we couldn’t order any book from Iran in that time.
How did you started working with p4c?
I asked everyone in the team to look for methodology in the internet. One day, one of my colleagues found an e-learning teacher training course in Australia which was conducted by a group of educators and teachers in Buranda state school. We wrote an email and asked to join the group. They accepted us and send us a story book and a video. This was our first contact. It was our greatest turning point, because we were able to see the methodology (Community of Inquiry) that we have imagined by reading the different internet materials (more than three years) in the video.
After that course we used Thinking stories 1 by Philip Cam (which was already translated and published in Iran) to run 6 classes in a private elementary school (grade 3, 4 and 5- each of two)
Then we announced the result of our practical work in the P4C panel in a world congress of philosophy in Iran in May 2002.
Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?
Yes. P4C is claimed (if it is done properly) to support a system of beliefs in every mankind which is justified by critical, creative and caring thinking in order to make good judgment in his/her personal life and the society which s/he lives in.
Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?
It depends on what kind of activities or approaches you have in your school or after that.
In 1969 when P4C was introduced to American society, no communal inquiry nor critical and creative thinking skills was part of their national curriculum. However, these skills are now integrated in national curriculum in both United stated and Canada and many other countries. Maybe that is why P4C was not very popular in United States schools in the past few decades.
Even now the methodology of “community of inquiry” (COI) which was once used and defined in a particular way in P4C is modified and practiced in other subject matters as well.
So I think the only reason that P4C should still go to schools is its ethical inquiry and inquiry about other philosophical concepts, which are rarely found in other subject matters.
In my country P4C should go to our school system because our educational approach is not community of inquiry and not even inquiry itself. Critical and creative thinking skills are not integrated in our national curriculum yet (it is only on paper) so our students can gain a lot by P4C in our schools.
What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?
Any question can become philosophical as long as our mind is not certain about the answer or even the meaning of the words in the question itself.
What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?
The teacher training is the biggest challenge. Teacher trainers are very few. However, to become a successful P4C teacher is a very hardworking practice and is different from becoming a mathematic or science teacher. There should be a seed of “philosophy” in both your mind and in your heart in order to become a good P4C teacher.
Can you give the teachers and the parents some kind of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?
If you can make the child’s question your own question, you can help the child to deal with his/her question, otherwise you are not part of a communal inquiry and you are not helping the child in a P4C way.
Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?
Last week when I was trying to teach them to make a question with why, a three years old boy asked, why the ladies have to wear scarf and men don’t (in Iran)?
How is P4C developing in your country?
P4C was mainly introduced by Iranian reports and publishers, when the educational system and the university faculties had not even heard about it. Eventually the graduate students translate the related papers of this field for writing their thesis in education departments.
It was approximately in 2012 that the “Thinking series” was inserted as separated contexts in the national curriculum for grades 6-9. The suggested methodology in these classes was very close to “community of inquiry”. However, there are still no formal and widely accepted training courses for these classes. Each teacher is using different materials and different instruction in his/ her class.
Now after 20 years, we have some written and translated books, papers, interested graduate students and faculties, and many parents who are looking for P4C classes in city centres and schools all over the country.
Please follow Farzaneh's work on facebook.