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filocriatiVIDAde | filosofia e criatividade

oficinas de perguntas, para crianças / para pais e filhos | formação para professores e educadores (CCPFC) | #filocri | #filopenpal

filocriatiVIDAde | filosofia e criatividade

oficinas de perguntas, para crianças / para pais e filhos | formação para professores e educadores (CCPFC) | #filocri | #filopenpal

the thinking game

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two weeks ago, we had a meeting with the little boys and girls from the kindergarten, and it was all about what we call "the thinking game".

we're trying to figure out which things require thinking about, and which don't.

while visiting the stories on the book "Em que pensas tu?" (What are you thinking about?), I learned that, if I want to play Hide&Seek, I have to think very hard.

I asked "why?" and the answer was:

"Joana, you are bigger then us, you have to think about a better place to hide, you have more body to cover up. we're smaller and can find an easier place to hide."

 

(publicação anteriormente partilhada em português

David Whitney: "(...) I don’t think philosophy is an ‘optional extra’ for a school’s curriculum.  How can learning how to think be optional?" 

David Whitney is a full-time primary school teacher and SMSC leader from Warwickshire in England. He has led bespoke philosophy for children programmes across a federation of schools and is the creator and writer of Delphi Philosophy, an interactive storytelling approach to philosophy for children.

I met David on Twitter and decided to contact him so he can answer my questions.

Thank you, Dave!

 

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Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

I first came across philosophy for children when I was researching at university.  I was researching the idea of childhood innocence and trying to find examples of children showing abstract thinking at a young age.  I immediately loved the sound of it – and it debunked the myth that children aren’t capable of complex or abstract reasoning.  I didn’t see it in practise until I tried it for myself many years later.

 

How did you start working with p4c?

It was in my first year of teaching when I started to look into it – the children at my school have extraordinary passion and curiosity for their learning and I just thought they’d love it.  Then I read a book which made it all possible – The If Machine by Peter Worley.  I put the enquiries in that book into a scheme of work and built in some skill development, and away we went.  The impact of that first scheme was amazing.  I taught an enquiry called The Chair in the first lesson and the children were astonished.  They had just never had a lesson like it.  They were literally still talking about that lesson two years later!

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

Absolutely.  The reason is simply because children try to do it anyway.  On the one hand, much of the school curriculum includes skills which are developed by doing philosophy, but are never explicitly taught.  Children need the ability to give reasons, think of examples or change their mind, to give a few examples, in all their lessons – but our maths or English curriculum rarely gives them time to develop these skills. On the other hand, children are also natural philosophers.  I love the line in Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World, where Alberto tells Sophie that philosophers have to “regain the faculty of wonder” that they had when they were children.  When you teach children philosophy, it feels like you’re unleashing some natural inner power in them!  Philosophy has the power to really bring out potential.

 

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

It’s much the same in England – one of the toughest parts of my job has not been persuading teachers that philosophy for children is a good idea – the hard part is finding time for it.  

But I don’t think philosophy is an ‘optional extra’ for a school’s curriculum.  How can learning how to think be optional? Once school leaders and teachers realise that philosophy teaches skills which the children go on to use in all their lessons, then they see the value of it. 

We developed Delphi Philosophy with this in mind – philosophy for children can be so much more than an interesting discussion – it can really develop children’s thinking and reasoning skills in a very clear and measurable way.

 

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

One of the funniest things about teaching children philosophical questions is that they have no problems asking them – but saying the word ‘philosophical’ can be a bit of a challenge!  In Delphi Philosophy, we’ve taken to calling them ‘big questions’.  In the story of Delphi the Philosopher, Delphi gets told that a philosophical question is one that doesn’t have a right answer, but you can get better answers by thinking about it. That definition seems to work well in class. 

The best philosophical questions for class discussions are usually simple enough for anyone to access but deep enough to challenge everybody.  A four year old can tell you what “being good” means, while a professional philosopher might know a lot of possible answers, none of them ‘right’. That makes it a philosophical question.

 

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

The challenge comes from all the other competing influences on schools.  I’m a full-time teacher and the vast majority of my time is spent teaching English and maths, planning, marking and assessing.  There are so many pressures on schools in England at the moment, and anxiety about inspection or data scrutiny is deeply ingrained in the system.  The sad reality is that schools end up feeling forced to teach a narrow curriculum based on passing the tests – which of course, isn’t real learning at all. 

In my experience, philosophy sessions are a highlight for the children because they are so refreshingly different from much of the rest of the curriculum.

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kind of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?

Don’t be scared of them!  And don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know, and then ask them what they think. Sometimes a scary sounding question isn’t half as scary as it first sounds!  The most important thing is the conversation, not the answer.

 

Did the children ever surprise you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

The children constantly surprise me – every single day.  Writing the Delphi stories for the children in my school has been such a delight because it’s a reciprocal process – the children’s responses to the stories help me re-write them so that Delphi shows their responses.  One early example in my career was the first time I taught the enquiry about the invisibility ring – and what they would do with it. The first class who did this enquiry with me surprised me by all agreeing they should throw the ring in the river and be rid of the responsibility of using it.  So, I had Delphi do exactly the same thing.  Having a class of children to help me develop these stories is the most extraordinary privilege.

Dalia Toonsi: "(...) we have several challenges [like] the dual hierarchal relationship between the teacher and the learner"

I met Dalia Toonsi through Roger Sutcliffe (Dialogue Works) and I later found Dalia and the project Baseera on twitter. I asked Dalia if she could collaborate with my blog and she accepted to anwer my questions.

This is Dalia's point of view on Philosophy for Children, at Saudi Arabia. 

 

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Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

It was in 2008 when I was doing my masters in Cardiff university UK. I was interested academically in developing moral reasoning with children and this took me in a journey where I reached philosophy for children as a mean to achieve my academic goal.

 

How did you started working with p4c?

I came back to Saudi Arabia 2010 with my level 1 certification from SAPERE, I started to gather a small group of children to do the sessions. It wasn’t easy, philosophy is not a popular topic in my country and its banned in schools so I could not call my sessions : P4C, I choose different names to call my sessions anything  from wisdom to critical thinking as long as I don’t say “philosophy”. I started by gaining trust in the community, experience and competence came consequently and now, in 2019 the country is ready to accept new ideas and philosophy is on the table again after centuries of banning

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

Yes I do, first of all, I saw it work with  my children, having adopted the p4c approach at home, it contributed hugely in there holistic wellbeing, I am biased but yes I think P4c is a right to every child.

 

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

I think its essential for the education systems to adopt the idea of P4c . it doesn’t just make children think, but it also adds to teaching and to the school environment in general a sense of community and meaningful growth

P4C prompts the orientation towards education revolving around the needs of the student more than the academic goals of the teacher. It improves the quality of social communication skills and teamwork and most of all, it prompts values, moral reasoning and individual responsibility.

 

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

A good philosophical question is the one that creates tension, a collision between concepts or maybe a sense of contradictory

This power of contestability within the question makes it irresistible to think about and to engage in.

 

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

 I can speak of my country and we have several challenges:

  • The bad reputation of philosophy
  • The challenge of traditional content driven pedagogies
  • And the dual hierarchal relationship between the teacher and the learner

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kid of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?

Just say with all your attention and respect : hmm that’s a great question, I never thought about it before, what do you think?

 

Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

I have a bank of over 700 questions and I cherish them all. I like so many of them but take this one for example:

Why do good thing happen to evil people?

 

 

Oscar Brenifier: "Do not answer the questions of children, unless they first propose themselves an initial hypothesis, or different ones. Teach them to be autonomous, instead of mere consumers."

Oscar Brenifier, holds a Bachelor of biology degree (University of Ottawa) and a PhD in Philosophy (Paris IV – Sorbonne). For many years, in France as well as in the rest of the world, he has been working on the concept of ‘philosophical practice’, both from a theoretical and practical viewpoint. He is one of the main promoters of the project of philosophy in the city, organizing philosophy workshops for children and adults and philosophy cafés, working as a philosophy consultant, etc. He has published about fifty books in this domain, including the ‘Philozenfants’ series (Editions Nathan), which has been translated into over thirty-five languages. He founded the Institut de Pratiques Philosophiques (Institute of philosophical practice), to train practical philosophers and organize philosophy workshops in various places: schools, old people’s homes, prisons, social centers,organizations, etc. He is one of the authors of the UNESCO report: “Philosophy, a school of freedom”. 

 

At the Institut de Pratiques Philosophiques' website there are free books that you can download.

 

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Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

I vaguely remember: I was still young at the  time. It  was when I proposed to an  elementary school to hold a philosophy workshop with the children . Until then I was primarily doing workshop with adults. But when later on I heard the coined expression “P4C”, I noticed it often had little to do with philosophy.

  

How did you started working with p4c?

In a regular way, it was when my eldest daughter entered kindergarten. I proposed to the director of the school to hold regular workshops with different classes of children, aged between 3 and 5. I then made different experiments, invented diverse exercises, to make the children think. 

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

No, it is not necessary. No more than art or gymnastics is necessary. Most people live without exercising their body or their mind, and manage quite well to survive. But of course, one might criticize the fact that they are missing on something important.

  

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

I don’t think we should. There is no foundation for such an obligation. But the good thing about philosophy is precisely that it is a non-activity, in the middle of all these activities.

  

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

Strange presupposition. It implies that there is a specific “p4c point of view”. I did not know. In a more general way, I don’t think there is such a thing as “philosophical questions”, but there are philosophical ways to deal with a question. For example, multiplicity of answers, guidance of reason, argumentation, problematization, etc. In this sense, all questions can be  philosophical.

  

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

To do philosophy, instead of holding cute discussions, going beyond a mere exchange of feelings and opinions. Learning to listen attentively, to analyse, to question rigorously, etc.

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kid of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?

Do not answer the questions of children, unless they first propose themselves an initial hypothesis, or different ones. Teach them to be autonomous, instead of mere consumers.

  

Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

Yes. “Can I go out to the toilet?”. I was surprised, because I naively forgot how much human beings connect to their body more than to their mind.

 

Amy Leask: "(...)a learning environment that encourages big questions creates a bond of trust between students and their teachers."

"Hello, my name is Amy Leask and I'm a philosopher!" - this is how Amy introduces herself at her ted talk (tedxmilton). I met Amy and her project RedTKids on Twitter. 

Amy Leask is an author, educator, and children’s interactive media producer. She’s the founder of Red T Media in Ontario, Canada, and delights in finding new ways to reach curious little minds. 

 

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Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

I heard about philosophy of childhood while I was an undergraduate, but nothing about philosophy for children until I was teaching at the college level. There were a lot of intelligent young adults in my philosophy classes who had never really put together an argument of their own, and who didn’t realize they were allowed to disagree, or think critically about the ideas presented to them. Like most P4C advocates, I thought philosophy needed to be introduced at a younger age, and when I looked into it further, I found I wasn’t alone. There was a growing community of philosophers who wanted to bring a new kind of thinking to a younger audience.

 

How did you started working with p4c?

While I was teaching philosophy to big kids, I started writing material that presented philosophical ideas to children. I wanted to create something fun and entertaining that they could read to themselves, but that also encouraged them to ask questions, and to embrace logic and reason. Over the years, my original manuscript has turned into a number of books, as well as cartoons, games, apps, and teacher materials. Presently, I run an independent multimedia company that focuses almost exclusively on P4C, in interactive formats.  

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

21st century learning is founded on thinking practices that, ironically, have been around for millennia in philosophy. Children today may be digital natives, but they still need low-tech skills like critical thinking, problem solving, communication and creativity in order to successfully navigate school, the working world, and their personal life.

I see P4C as an effort to teach children survival skills, but also to empower them, and to engage them in a practice that’s shared by all humans. Beyond the necessary parts, children really enjoy asking big questions, and it’s actually fun for them to engage in discussion. Why not make the most of what comes naturally to them?

 

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

It’s expected that teachers cover things like critical thinking and problem solving in their curriculum, but both are fairly difficult things to teach, especially in a crowded classroom, with limited time and resources. P4C enables teachers to reach so many learning objectives. What’s more, I think a learning environment that encourages big questions creates a bond of trust between students and their teachers. If a child knows his or her teacher isn’t afraid to dive into inquiry, he or she will feel more supported and comfortable going beneath the surface of ideas.

P4C has cross-curricular applications, and is helpful in supporting children’s mental health, anti-bullying programs, and an appreciation of diversity. It works wonders, both inside and outside the classroom, and it helps children become well-rounded thinkers.

 

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

I think most philosophical questions have a “why” component to them. We have to use different lines of thinking to answer them, different than we would use to answer a scientific question. I’d say a philosophical question is one that has more than one answer, although some answers are still better than others. Philosophical questions are about our place in the universe, our relationships with other beings, and about ourselves.

The beautiful thing about P4C is that children seem especially adept at asking these kinds of questions (and taking their parents by surprise in doing so). It’s a privilege and a pleasure to help them reason their way through them.

 

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

Philosophy itself is in need of rebranding. It has a reputation of being for adults, and for belonging only in the academy. Most grown-ups, let alone children, don’t know much about it, and those who do know about it are often intimidated by it. The challenge lies in extending the reach of philosophy and making it part of people’s everyday lives. It needs to be mainstream, and people need to know how helpful, how interesting, and how much fun it is. We need to find ways to demonstrate that it really is for everyone.

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kid of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?

First and foremost, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know. As adults, we fear that in admitting this, we’ll be letting our children down, that they’ll no longer have confidence in us. However, it’s actually quite liberating, and being vulnerable in front of a child like this can encourage trust. What could be more enriching than exploring a problem together, and learning together? 

Besides that, it’s important to recognize that children do philosophy differently. They might only want to ponder big questions for short periods of time, and they often do so through art projects, science experiments, or dramatic role-play. Philosophy is still philosophy, even when it’s done with toys, books, and games.

 

Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

I’m always surprised by questions children ask. They seem to get right at the heart of the matter, wondering why we exist, how they’re supposed to behave, and who decides what’s fair. Their answers surprise me even more. I once did a workshop in which an older child brought his preschool-aged sister. She spent most of the time running in circles, doodling with crayons, and giggling, and we assumed she wasn’t listening. But when we posed the question “What makes a human?” she blurted out “Love makes us human, silly!” and then went back to running and playing, like it was nothing. It took the discussion in a totally different direction, and it reminded me that even very young children can surprise us with their insights.

Zoran Kojcic: "Just as well as you train your body, you should train your mind – by reading, thinking, discussing, questioning, philosophizing."

Searchinf for #p4c, on Twitter, has helped me find so many people that dedicate their time doing, studying philsophy for children. The Lipman's program well knowed as P4C has been adapted and used with teenagers and even grown ups. Zoran Kojcic has been applying P4C with teenagers - and that's why I invited him to share some toughts with us.

 

First of all, a short bio so you can get to know Zoran: 

Zoran Kojcic (1986), philosopher and author, holds MA degrees in Philosophy and Croatian Philology from University of Osijek, Croatia. He is certified Philosophical Counsellor, board member of Petit Philosophy Association and member of Croatian Philosophical Association. Since 2011 Zoran teaches Literature and Ethics in high schools and also works as coordinator on several international projects. Zoran presented papers on more than 15 international conferences and published popular and scientific papers on Philosophy of Education and Philosophical Practice worldwide. Zoran is also the author of philosophical novel 'Walk through…' (Presing Publishing, 2014). He is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Sofia University in Bulgaria, doing a research on philosophical counselling practice.

 

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And now, time for Q & A!

 

 

Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

 

I was introduced to P4C when I was studying for my Masters degree in Philosophy, in 2010, by my professor Bruno Curko from Croatia. He and some others have already formed Petit Philosophy, first association for P4C in Croatia and have already started implementing workshops in schools in 2009. In Croatia, students have Philosophy as a subject in high schools, but not in elementary schools, so this concept was really interesting to me at that time.

 

How did you started working with p4c?

 

Right after I graduated, in 2011, I started working in high school and also joined Petit Philosophy, which is also where I work until this day. We applied for many different projects and grants, mainly covering ethics and civil education, and we tried to combine philosophy with other subjects in schools. First bigger project I worked on combined philosophy with literature, art, music and film and it offered our students opportunity to explore all those approaches.

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

 

We still don't know whether it is necessary, but we have seen in practice that it offers them tools which later help them think for themselves and think more clearly. I can speak from experience that many students which are engaged in some form of P4C show broader understanding of issues in hand and more abilities in recognizing the problem, analyzing the situation and orienting themselves toward solutions, which often tend to be sustainable, empathic and rational. Tools which philosophy uses provide students with interesting skill set for the future and for variety of different professions as well as for more humane interactions with others within society.

 

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

 

An individual should develop itself as a whole person. This means development of both body and mind. We can take our kids to play tennis or football, but we should also make sure that they equally develop their minds. Lately, I am working on Foucault's and Ancient Greek concept of taking care of the self – firstly, Socrates spoke of this, Plato also, later Stoics and in contemporary philosophy Foucault reminds us that taking care of the self, of our own self means precisely this – one should work on oneself for his/her entire life and on both ends. Just as well as you train your body, you should train your mind – by reading, thinking, discussing, questioning, philosophizing.

 

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

 

Plato famously emphasized those questions which make us wonder as the beginning of philosophy. From children's point of view, majority of the world is still a big mystery, and adults often forget that, we forget how magical some routines are.

How do trains or mobile phones work, why the sky doesn't fall down or what drives the image in our cameras. Usually those questions which are yet to reveal something to us, something unknown or unclear, no matter that they might be obvious to others, those questions could instigate some crucial sparks in us, in what we are yet becoming, especially as children who are yet to grow up.

 

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

 

More locally speaking, in Croatia, we face two big issues. First, religious education and influence of the Church aren't that keen on introducing P4C to schools, just as well as the Government. We tried to offer it as an alternative to religious education in primary schools, but that probably won't ever happen. Second, influence of so called STEM subjects in high schools is big and it threatens to decrease number of humanities subjects, including philosophy.

On a more global level, we need to find better discourse which would introduce philosophy to schools, so that the children could engage in philosophical discussions and dialogue from early age. With right-wing on the rise in US and Europe, this seems really challenging.

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kid of advice to help them deal with the children's questions?

 

Never hide your own ignorance. Don't be that person who thinks they know everything. If children ask you a question and you don't know the answer, invite them to figure it out themselves, inspire them to investigate, motivate them to explore. In fact, let's make it as an advice also to politicians – instead of avoiding the answer when they don't know something, they should admit their ignorance. That's not a hard thing to do and people usually appreciate your honesty, just as the children do. Oh, and always motivate children to ask more and more questions!

 

Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

Sure, they do that often. Few years ago I worked in a school, with children with special needs, but not in a really considerate school toward their class and their needs. It was first time for me, and some colleagues told me not to expect anything from them. As it turned out, they were quite interested in ethics. As we talked more and more, one student asked me how does a person become a philosopher. Surely, she asked the question for herself, for some reason she wanted to be a philosopher and to deal with all those questions we examined. It was a hard question for me to answer, knowing that in Croatia from special education class, she most probably couldn't become a philosopher in most regular academic way, not to mention that I was also shocked she even would consider of being one. Later we discussed that not all philosophers went to school, let alone obtained a degree.

When it comes to philosophy, you really don't need any school to tell you you're a philosopher, you can be lover of wisdom no matter what.

 

 

 

 

Kelly Cowling: "The best way to demystify philosophy is to get people doing philosophy together."

Through Twitter, I found Grey Havens Philosophy and reached out for contact, so that this collaborative work published in this blog could grow with their perspective about P4C. 

 

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Kelly Cowling is the founder and Executive Director of Grey Havens Philosophy, a community philosophy nonprofit based in Longmont, Colorado. Grey Havens Philosophy's free programs include five ongoing philosophy discussion groups for ages 8-18. Our Philosophy in Public Spaces (PiPS) initiative is making intergenerational philosophy discussions part of the life of our community. 

 

Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

I first heard about Philosophy for Children when I took my first class with Ron Reed at Texas Wesleyan University in the early 90s. Up to that point, my experience with education had not been good. I wasn’t particularly interested in becoming an educator back then, but I waspreoccupied with figuring out how education could be better than it had been for me.

 

How did you started working with p4c?

Through a non-traditional route. In 2010, I started a chapter-by-chapter book discussion group for adults in the back room of a locally-owned bookstore. Over time, it became quite popular and expanded into a network of book groups, a small symposium, and other events. People seemed to get a lot of meaning and fulfilment out of the gatherings. I suspected that it was because I had been facilitating discussions using what I knew of P4C.

In 2013, I and a few others partnered with our local library to establish a weekly philosophy group for 6th-12thgraders. Now, Grey Havens Philosophy is a non-profit organization that partners with our city, libraries throughout the region, other nonprofits, and businesses to bring philosophy to as many public spaces as possible.

I would call what we do P4C-inspired, rather than strictly P4C. We are always learning at the same time as we are teaching volunteers to do what we do.  Our facilitators get together every month to practice their skills with each other and reflect on what goes on in discussions. We involve our young people in this process as well. We don’t know how this will impact how we do things in five, ten, twenty years.

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

I think regular access to a healthy community of inquiry is important if we want our children to thrive. We now have teens who are beginning their fifth year of weekly philosophy discussions, and we have graduates of our programs who always seem to find their way back to our discussions when they are home from school during breaks. Being members of a thinking community has become an important part of their identities. While we are still working to evaluate the long-term impact of our programs using both objective and subjective measures, I can tell you what we see happening.

Our participants bring all of their experiences into discussions, including what they learn at school, at home, from friends, from popular culture, and on the internet. They learn how alike yet different their experiences are from those of their peers. They become proficient in asking questions about their experiences then finding the questions that underlie those questions. They tell us that they do this on their own, with friends and family, and that (with varying degrees of success) they raise philosophical questions in class, but they recognize that they do some of their best thinking when they come together in a community that exists for that purpose.

 Our young people have also become comfortable exploring the same big questions again and again and again. Two weeks after declaring that he would not discuss the nature of human consciousness yet again, a thirteen-year-old participant asked, “What is consciousness, anyway?” That participant is now sixteen and still happily diving into the question of consciousness.

There are several things happening here that we expect to serve our participants as they grow up:

  • An understanding that quality thinking requires the ability to synthesize information from multiple sources and the ability to evaluate sources
  • An understanding that thinking can be most productive and fulfilling when it is done in community
  • An understanding that asking questions can both accomplish what we need it to at any given time and that there are always questions beyond those questions
  • The experience of, as one eleven-year-old participant put it, “watching our minds grow.” Thinking about thinking helps young people to recognize that they are in control of how they learn. It helps them to develop a habit of self-reflection that improves emotional regulation and decision-making. It helps them to better evaluate the thinking of others and affords them the joy of marvelling at their own growth.

Our hope is that kids who grow up in thinking communities like ours will become workers who are good at collaborating to solve problems and who find satisfaction in their work because they are able to reflect on why they are doing it. We want them to grow up to be citizens who are able to recognize injustice, who are better at deciphering the statements and intentions of those with power, and who enjoy being engaged and engaging others in democracy. We want them to be individuals and family members who derive more satisfaction from their relationships because they think about the value and meaning of human interactions. There are lots of ways to cultivate these qualities, but philosophy is a comprehensive approach that can be practiced as a way of life.  We advocate introducing children to the philosophical way of life as early as possible.

  

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

 All of the benefits I have described above are excellent reasons to integrate philosophical thinking in school curricula, but we don’t think we skipped a step by establishing our programs outside of schools. Just as a young person might identify as an athlete, musician, or dancer, because they belong to an organization where they improve their skills through practice, our participants identify as deep thinkers because they are part of an organization where they practice thinking. They get to participate in thinking with people of all generations in many different settings. Our young people are as comfortable thinking with the adults from our local Senior Center as they are thinking with each other. They get to see that adults take their ideas seriously and regard them as co-inquirers.

 

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

 We train our facilitators to listen closely to what participants are saying so that they can identify the potential for questions related to the branches of philosophy—questions about knowing, being, ethics, power, beauty, and ultimate reality. It’s a skill that they can only develop with guidance and practice.

We encourage our participants to look at external reference points to answer questions then, as the discussion progresses, we typically move to questions that are less and less answerable through external reference points. In one way or another, we often end up asking ourselves if we can really know anything.

 If epistemological questions were the only valid philosophical questions, however, we wouldn’t get very far. Instead, we try to recognize that most questions contain underlying questions that can’t be answered with an external reference point. We enjoy exploring the bigger philosophical questions, but we also appreciate the process of uncovering them. Every question along the way matters because we still have to make practical and ethical decisions even when we question the fundamental nature of reality.

The most important thing is for the group to be able to retrace their steps in a discussion and identify the kinds of questions they were asking and the kinds of thinking they were doing. Participants and facilitators derive satisfaction and pleasure from seeing how the group reasons from the concrete to the abstract. They get good at doing it and at seeing when and how abstract ideas should inform actions. If the goal of a philosophy discussion is to engender some kind of change in thinking and even in action, then it is as important to ask participants about how they are thinking as it is to ask them what they think.

 

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

I don’t know much about the challenges P4C faces worldwide, but I know that we struggle against perceptions that what we do is only for people with a certain aptitude. That is why outreach is an extremely important part of what we do.

The best way to demystify philosophy is to get people doing philosophy together. It is also vital that we establish our groups as safe, inclusive spaces where young people can be themselves even if they don’t feel welcome in other places. This requires continuous attention and care.

Non-profit organizations like ours also live and die by the funds we can raise. Our biggest supporters are those who have directly benefited from our work, either as individuals or families. Our challenge as we grow will be to show those who have not directly benefited that “thinking about thinking” is a marketable skill that will measurably improve the lives of our participants and the life of society.

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kid of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?  Accept influence from children. Let go of the idea that you are supposed to have answers. Let go of any preconceived ideas you have about the kinds of questions children are capable of exploring. Let kids see your own curiosity. The beauty of philosophy discussions is that a facilitator is also a participant. Make sure they know that you are all in this together.

I also suggest encouraging children to identify all of the kinds of information they would need to truly answer a question to their satisfaction then heading off in the direction that interests everyone the most. Give the kids responsibility for making sure this process is a democratic one.

 Thinking about a question such as, “Why do I need to study math?” might begin with easy answers such as “to manage your money,” or “to qualify for a career in a STEM field,” but it can lead to lots of fascinating questions about things like economic models, the value and meaning of technology, why society values some jobs more than others, what math and poetry might have in common in describing the universe, knowledge for the sake of knowledge, the relationship between models and reality, and whether or not numbers are real. Often the question you start with will lead back to other questions that were raised in the beginning.

Help the group pay attention to how the discussion progresses, and retrace your steps when necessary. Don’t worry if the discussion doesn’t address every potential question that comes up. If you have these discussions regularly, you will find that questions will come up again and again, giving the group opportunities to think about them in new ways.

 

Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

We went into this believing that children are deep thinkers so, while I can say that their questions have delighted me, I can’t say that they have surprised me. In our early days, I did experience more anxiety than I do now about participants who speak up less frequently or rarely at all. Not only have we noticed that most participants speak up more as time goes on, we have found that their fiction, poetry, drawings, and notes indicate that they had been thinking with us all along. We check in with participants and their family members at individual conferences so we often get to see how families become their own communities of inquiry. We are very privileged to remain connected to these families over the years. I suppose we never stop being surprised by how our kids grow into their roles as philosophers. You would think we would have learned by now!

 

 

 

Steven Hoggins: "The reason to introduce philosophy into schools is to give children, who would not otherwise have the opportunity to, the chance to practice thinking well, about ideas involving life, knowledge, meaning, existence, ethics and language."

I met Steve @ Sophia Networking Meeting, last July, @ Aveiro. In this meeting we talked a lot about questions, because the theme was "questioning questioning". Steve shared some of his time answering my questions (than you Steve!!).

 

steve listening.jpeg

 

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Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

 I was in the final month of my university teacher training course. I was in a small, rural school in Devon one lunchtime, leafing through a magazine and I came across an article written by Peter Worley of The Philosophy Foundation. He was describing the reasoning, critical thinking and evaluation of ideas that he thought philosophy could add to a child’s education. I had studied dialogic teaching methods and had combined it with some of my own experimental ‘critical thinking’ exercises but Peter’s stuff seemed like it was way ahead. 6 Months later I was in London, attending his training.

 

How did you started working with p4c?

After training, there weren’t any opportunities to teach p4c as a full-time job. I instead took a job as a regular classroom teacher. It was 3 years before enough of an opportunity arose for me to leap into the world of p4c. One spring The Philosophy Foundation offered me a contract for a few hours work. I gave up my teaching job in July and moved over to facilitating philosophy sessions as my main job. They were lean years at the beginning but I slowly got better and was offered more work. Now it is my full-time job and I couldn’t think of any better.

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

Hahaha! What a question to ask a philosopher. In the broadest sense, no, philosophy is not essential to life. However, if we think within the sphere of education, where we deem maths and science as necessary subjects of study, then yes, philosophy is as essential as mathematics. The philosophy we do in classes practices good reasoning, argumentation, critical engagement, creative thinking and effective dialogue. These areas do not stand alone either, they underpin how we think in all other subject areas. Also, as the

 

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

We should take philosophy to children, that is the real aim, but educational institutions can help that (they are full of children!). The reason to introduce philosophy into schools is to give children, who would not otherwise have the opportunity to, the chance to practice thinking well, about ideas involving life, knowledge, meaning, existence, ethics and language. As state education is mandatory here, targeting schools gives us the best chances of getting to all children.

 

How is P4C developing in your country?

This is the kind of question I am terrible at. I don’t know the general condition of the movement. I am mostly in class teaching philosophy or helping run the charity I work for, The Philosophy Foundation. My colleagues are more involved in the wider picture. I can say that I started this job 5 years ago and at that time we only worked in a few schools. Now we work in over forty schools a week and I have got to know Sapere and Thinking Space, two other p4c charities in the UK

 

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

This is not something I really considered until a recent SOPHIA meeting in Portugal. The theme was ‘Questioning questioning’ so we thought about questions a great deal. I realised quite quickly that I am not primarily interested in questions. I am, however, interested in the philosophy the children are doing and I will ask whatever question serves to help them think more clearly about the ideas being discussed.

It seems to me that the philosophising doesn’t lie in the question, the philosophising is in how children go about trying to answer questions. So, a question’s ‘philosophicalness’ should be judged by how philosophical it makes the discussion. This is situational too. You can ask ‘in this a chair’ and have lengthy metaphysical discussion with some of my classes but if you ask that question in another context you will get some funny looks and absolutely no philosophy.

 

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

The biggest challenge is probably something we don’t realise yet. Most challenges or problems that we are aware of and understand, can usually be addressed. It’s the baffling things we didn’t anticipate that posed the greatest challenge (Trumps presidency comes to mind here!).

I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the problems we don’t yet realise or understand is how other people view p4c. I come across many head teachers, professionals and other people who have a different conception of what p4c is and what it is trying to achieve. Some conflate philosophy with psychology, some view p4c as a ‘hippy’ subject, others see any mention of philosophy as elitist or pretentious. There also are many that do understand it, but they are not the people that we should be trying to reach. Challenges to the future of p4c will come from those who misperceive it and I don’t think we know enough about who they are and how they view p4c.

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kind of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?

If the questions are philosophical then engage with the ideas and be prepared to fumble through a lot of confusion. Most of the time conversation with children is led by adults, which is fine in most cases, we generally know how best to answer everyday questions in a clear direct manner. The adult informs or instructs the child and we move on. We are used to doing this because most questions require that kind of interaction.

Occasionally the question will be something philosophical (‘if I guess the answer, is that lying?’) and then you must shift into an enquiring interaction, where you ask the child what they mean, what they think lying is and what they think is the right thing to do. Their answers will be unclear and probably different from an adult’s but that’s ok, they are working through this complicated issue and should continue to try and makes sense of it for themselves, with your support.

 

Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

As I may have let slip earlier, it’s not their questions that I think are important, it’s children’s responses to them but I did have a session with thirty 8-year-olds on making questions of a different kind. We had looked at a story, based on the Turing test. In brief it suggests that if a human was having a conversation with a computer in ordinary language and the human couldn’t tell if the responses were computer generated or human generated, then the computer could be considered ‘intelligent’ in the same way that humans are. I asked the children what questions they would ask if they were the human performing the test. Several said things along the lines of ‘Ask if it’s a human/when it was born/what it is made of!’. Then, one child said that we should ask “[increasingly] difficult maths sums, then if it got one wrong, they it’s a human”. I was surprised and delighted.

 

 

*

Who is Steve? Steve studied at the University of Wales, Lampeter gaining a BA in philosophy in 2003. Shortly after he began teaching English in both Italy and Portugal, returning to the UK to begin a career as a primary school teacher. Since he first started working within the British education system he has seen a philosophy shaped hole in the core of the curriculum and is striving to find ways for it to be filled, Joining the Philosophy Foundation
His work includes project management, development work in schools, and mentoring and doing philosophy with very small children.

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.

 

 

19748557_821422224684201_2181516835665102749_n.jpg

 

Please follow Farzaneh's work on facebook

 

 

 

Ilse Daems: "(...) if they can think for themselves, they are able to deal with the ‘certainty of uncertainty."

I met Ilse at Sophia Network Meeting, last july @ Aveiro. Ilse had a hard time answering my questions, but I think we can all understand Ilse's words and thoughts about P4C. 

Who is Ilse? Ilse is 60 years old and lives in Antwerp | Belgium.  Left home when she was 12, did not study, has no diploma. Has worked in an advertising agency, the zoo, the trade union, politics. She is copywriter & gamedevil, a lifetime Legofanatic, extreme allergic to fish, seafood and schoolish methods and an expert in colouring way outside the lines.

 

*

 

Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)?

 It was five years ago. I had worked 20 years behind the scenes in politics [socialist party]. In 2012 my boss, the former mayor of Antwerp, lost the elections. So I lost my job. I was then 55 years old without any diploma and thought: ‘what the hell am I going to do the rest of my life?’ Those days I had to organize in the margins of a colloquium the child care. I did not want that this was a kind of ‘babysitting’. I did not want the kids to be ‘entertained’. I wanted them to work on the same themes as the adults, but from their angle and perspective. I asked a guy from Gent, Alex Klijn, who was recommended to me, to come and to philosophize with the children. I was thunderstruck and over the moon about what he did. He told me there was a training ‘philosophizing with children and youngsters’. I read the description of that course and thought: if I could have invented a training for myself, it would have been something like this…. So my decision was made and I lent the money to do this training because it was insuperable expensive. I asked to be admitted. That was not evident because I did not have the required bachelor diploma. They hesitated but finally agreed. I am still very grateful they gave me that chance. It was a solid and sound training with awesome, competent teachers. I followed this intensive course a year long, did my teaching practice, wrote my final papers and got the certificate. This was the most important junction in my life and has changed it completely.

 

How did you started working with p4c?

After the training I ran a few workshops and then two schools asked me if I would want to philosophize with their children. In the first school the headmistress, Judith, wants to integrate p4c in all classes and in the curriculum of her nursery and primary school. In the second one a lot of parents wanted their children ‘released’ from ‘religion’ and ‘social science’. They now get p4c and yoga instead. Those schools have no budget for p4c. So I don’t get paid. I do it as a volunteer. With pleasure. And satisfaction.

 

Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why?

I think it’s very necessary. Because p4c teachs and trains them to think for themselves. And if they can think for themselves, they are able to deal with the ‘certainty of uncertainty’. To be able to cope with uncertainty, that’s the greatest gift ánd weapon we can offer them.

 

Nowadays children ( @ Portugal) have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools?

 For two good reasons:

1. At school they learn a lot of ‘knowledge’. Nothing wrong with that. Knowledge can be useful. But they don’t learn the skill of the thinking process itself. They learn thougths, but they do not learn to think. Isn’t that sheer madness? Schools are nuts. They have a screw loose and have lost their marbles. P4c can help them to find those marbles again.

2. P4c is not just another umpteenth ‘activity’. It’s a free space. And that’s why children do like it so much. Their heads and agenda’s are already full. They desperately need free space.

 

 

How is P4C developing in your country?

 Slow.

Much too slow.

A lot of practioners want to change first the whole education department before they are willing to make a single p4c move.

They just sit, wait and ‘lobby.’ They lobby year in year out. That’s not my cup of tea. Think we should do the opposite and make p4c big by ‘just doing it.’ Then the education department will have to follow.

And if they are not smart enough to see and to realize that, we will have to be and stay the rebels. Rebels wíth a cause….

 

 

What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?

A philosophical question from a p4c point of view is: short, crystal-clear and ‘triggers’.

The answer may not be obvious but has to be inquired.

And the question may not be too big, general or vague.

‘Can music become wet ?’ might be a better question for a philisophical inquiry with children than the ultimate and deadly heavy ‘what is the meaning of life?’

 

 

What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?

To beat and defeat the highly fashionable ‘p4c light’.

Some people want to do p4c because ‘kids are sooooo cute, soooooo spontaneous and sooooo creative’.

They think that it’s enough to put kids in a circle and to have a vague talk about love, friendschip, the meaning of life, bullying….that kind of stuff.

They do not know the difference between a group discussion and p4c. 

They are glad with every ‘opinion’ and haven not or seldom heard the word ‘argument’ yet.

And they feel giddy and faint when a child says something ‘cute’.

For them those cuteness is the ultimate ‘mission accomplished’ signal. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

To take p4c serious is to take children serious and to let them think for themselves.

They are able to do it.

 

 

Can you give the teachers and the parents some kid of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?

 

A very simple one: talk with children and just don’t give answers all the time.

A lot of parents and teachers only talk with their children if those kids have done something naugthy.

And if children ask questions they are convinced that they have to give the answers.

If a child shows you his latest drawing and asks ‘Do you like it? Do you think its beautiful?’ ask him what he thinks.

And start a conversation about what he has drawn.

‘What is it?’

‘A boat.’

Does it look like a boat?

Why?

Why not?....

 

Did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us?

 

They surprise me all the time. That is their core business  But the one that surprised me the most was Aki’s question. It happened at the annual school party. Out of the blue Aki dropped in on me and said:

‘I have played enough, Ilse, for now I desperately need to philosophize a while and my question is: what is the oposite of time?‘

So we talked about the fact that we talk about time ‘all the time’ although we don’t know very well what time is.We have difficulties to define it.According to Aki we cannot say that we have time.In his eyes we are time.‘Time is all there is’ he said. And then his eyes started to shine: ‘If time is everything, than I know the opposite: nothing! And after a while: ‘But is nothing not also something?’ That’s for the next time, he said. And ran away to play.

 

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