Steve Neumann: "(...) what we want for our children is the cultivation of judgment—for their own sake and for the sake of civil society."
Once again, twitter is doing it's magic and making easy to know a little about #P4C work all over the world. Today I'm sharing Steve Neumann's view about philosophy for children. Steve is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and other publications. He is the 2016 Graduate Education Fellow at Moravian College studying Philosophy for Children. You can visit Steve at his website.
Steve, thank you so much for your time. I start asking if you can tell us abou the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)? "The first time I had heard of p4c was when I was doing research for an article I wrote for The New York Times’ philosophy blog, The Stone, titled “Free the Philosophical Beast.” At the time, I was interested in what kind of work philosophers were doing outside of the academy, and I had the good fortune to interview Grace Robinson of Thinking Space. She told me of her philosophical work with schoolchildren and connected me to numerous resources about p4c. I was hooked from then on! Here's a link to my article “The Case for Philosophy in K-12 Classrooms” that was published in the magazine STIR, to the heads of the education department at numerous colleges and universities with the desire to be invited to give a talk to their students about p4c. The head of the education department at my alma mater loved the concept, and subsequently offered me a fellowship to get my Master of Arts in Teaching in order to study p4c. I will be finished in May of 2018, and I currently have several ideas for p4c-related projects in the works."
Steve doesn's think that p4c is necessary, he thinks it's essential: "As the American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey wrote in Democracy and Education, “There is not adequate theoretical recognition that all which the school can or need do for pupils, so far as their minds are concerned...is to develop their ability to think.” What are the effects of p4c on our students?
"In my research so far, I can see how p4c can prepare students for life, work, and citizenship by utilizing a democratic community of teacher-guided inquiry to create a culture of thinking in the classroom. A properly executed p4c pedagogy creates an apprenticeship in both critical thinking and democracy that's based on a strong foundation of subject matter knowledge, while at the same time being able to balance the national need for a skilled and educated workforce with the individual desire for self-realization. I believe it can be a vital component in one’s ability to pursue Aristotle’s conception of eudaimonia. Philosophy, as the love of wisdom, is ideal for education because, in addition to the accumulation of knowledge, what we want for our children is the cultivation of judgment—for their own sake and for the sake of civil society."
In Portugal, children have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools? "We have the same state of affairs here in America. Not only are children overwhelmed with activities during and after school, but our teachers feel over-burdened with the persistent rollout of new standards and curricula every year. But give my answer to your previous question, I feel that creating a culture of thinking through a p4c-inspired pedagogy is essential, and therefore we should do what we can to encourage teachers and school administrators to reflect on their values and re-structure their time and programs accordingly."
What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view? "To me, what makes a question a philosophical one is the quality of reflection, of thinking, that it stimulates. I think the essence of philosophy is about gaining clarity about our ideas, defining terms, drawing distinctions—generally being able to fully understand a concept or idea, that we can recognize it in any context, and how one idea or concept connects to another, etc. What makes a question philosophical is what you do with the question, not so much the question in and of itself."
What’s the biggest challenge for p4c? "Here in America, I think the biggest challenge that p4c faces is that it will be seen as just one more program that an already overburdened teacher will have to try and fit into her already overfull schedule. That’s why I think it’s important to persuade teachers to reflect on their values, persuade them to see a p4c pedagogy as valuable, and then to restructure their time and efforts accordingly. A secondary but important challenge, at least here in America, is the word “philosophy” itself, which many people see as something abstract or arcane, or even irrelevant to schooling. That’s why I’ve been toying with the idea of re-branding p4c pedagogy as a creating a “culture of thinking.”
Thank you again, Steve. See you on twitter!