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.
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!
"porque é que os animais existem?" (I.) - foi o mote para um diálogo com um grupo de crianças (5/6 anos)
a partir dali verificámos diferenças e semelhanças entre animais e humanos até que surgiu outra pergunta:
"porque é que as girafas existem?" - perguntou a S. o G. levantou o dedo, rapidamente: "mas essa pergunta já foi feita!" ai sim? então...? "quando perguntamos porque é que os animais existem também estamos a perguntar pelas girafas. as girafas estão dentro dos animais!"
parece simples, mas é sempre um desafio, isto de me sentar no chão para filosofar com um grupo que não me conhece e que eu não conheço.
há regras para apresentar, há nomes para fixar, há palavras estranhas para "entranhar", como "filosofia". começamos com passos pequenos (e ao mesmo tempo de gigantes): exploramos o perguntar, a curiosidade, a resposta - e eis que, sem esperar, o diálogo acontece. o concordar, o não concordar. os "porquês".
o professor Oscar Brenifier é uma referência para mim, no que à filosofia para crianças diz respeito. há dias fui convidada a ler e a pensar sobre um texto que incluía dez pontos, em forma de conselho, para o desenvolvimento do pensamento crítico.
reproduzo aqui o texto, para que todos possam ler - e parar para pensar.
Sorpréndete con todo, también con lo que parece normal. Encuentra un nuevo sabor en las cosas conocidas, paladea aquello con lo que te encuentras, en lugar de apartarlo. Sorpréndete con la elección de tus palabras, con el modo en que los otros actúan, los argumentos que se dan. La normalidad es la manera de matar el pensamiento.
No pienses que todo es posible. El “todo es posible” hace peligrar seriamente el pensamiento crítico por el camino de la indeterminación. Separa el trigo de la paja usando el sentido común y el principio de realidad, eso te ayudará a ver qué es necesario, posible o probable.
Reconoce tus propios límites. Un ser humano no puede ser perfecto. La autoconciencia empieza por el reconocimiento de los propios límites, los de tu mente y los de tu cuerpo. La capacidad de examen crítico de los otros viene de la habilidad para examinarte críticamente a tí mismo. Aprende a identificar y a nombrar tus problemas y debilidades.
No temer la reacción de los otros. Si quieres actuar sobre las palabras y los argumentos de los otros, estate preparado para encontrar su irritación y su resistencia. Al ser humano no les gusta enfrentarse a la realidad y a la verdad de lo que él es. No prestes demasiada atención a sus miedos y no temas molestar a tu interlocutor. El arte de pensar y cuestionar significa preferir la verdad por encima de la seguridad o la complacencia.
Sé paciente y aprende a escuchar. Tener paciencia significa suspender los propios juicios y reacciones y concentrarse en lo que se da afuera. Aprende a ser un guerrero sabio: acomete un gesto sólo cuando sea necesario, cuando hayas observado suficientemente. Si te tomas el tiempo de escuchar y contemplar, muchos actos se harán innecesarios. La habilidad de responder de forma adecuada es tan importante como actuar de manera apropiada.
No permanezcas en la confusión. Clarifica las palabras y los actos, los tuyos y los de tu interlocutor. Reduce al mínimo la cantidad de tus palabras y pide a los otros que lo hagan también. Esto permitirá distinguir entre lo esencial y lo accidental. Nombra las cosas en lugar de explicarlas, incluso cuando te mueva un deseo intenso de hablar. Usa la idea de Spinoza: la claridad es la verdad, la verdad es claridad.
Evita las trampas de la paranoia y de la ingenuidad. Es importante sopesar las propias ideas y no caer en los extremos: ver problemas por todas partes nos lleva a sospechar de modo compulsivo, mientras que aceptarlo todo nos hace complacientes. Comprueba la pertinencia de tu juicio a través del descubrimiento de los supuestos y evidencias que subyacen.
Distingue lo subjetivo de lo objetivo. Mira a ver si tus ideas y acciones se apoyan en tus sentimientos y percepciones o tienen algún fundamento objetivo. Para ello usa el sentido común y ten en cuenta el punto de vista de los otros. Esto te ayudará a distinguir si hay discrepancia entre tu opinión y lo que la realidad te dice.
Examina las palabras con criterios lógicos, de pertinencia y de coherencia. Distingue el “no lo entiendo” del “no estoy de acuerdo” o incluso del “no me gusta”. Aprende a crear distancia entre tú y lo que es objeto de tu examen.
Cuestiónate a ti mismo y a otros. Sustituye afirmaciones por preguntas para descubrir lo que la gente piensa. Cambia la percepción de lo que significa preguntar: no es tan sólo un medio de obtención de información, es una herramienta para hacer pensar.
International English Summer Seminar 2014 "Practicing Philosophy" (English language only) La Chapelle St André (Burgundy) - France August 4th – 10th, 2014
Every summer, in the little village of La Chapelle St André (Burgundy - France), gather about 30-40 persons involved in philosophical practice (students, teachers, professors, counselors, trainers) in order to reflect on their work and improve professionally. For seven days, in English, these philosophy practitioners coming from the five continents will participate to different workshops, lead workshops, analyze and evaluate them, theorize about the different issues involved.
In this context, philosophy is not any more an academic activity centered on the history of ideas, and one does not come simply to narrate what he does in his home country, but get acquainted with the many ways of philosophizing, as an activity constitutive of the mind and the self. Philosophy with children, philosophical consultation, philosophy workshops, Socratic dialogue, etc., one is introduced to the many forms and variants of such an endeavor. It is not so much knowledge that is at stake here, but acquiring and developing skills. How to conceptualize, how to problematize, how to deepen understanding of given ideas, and especially how to create a situation where this activity can be induced, is the main focus of the work.
Of course, Socratic maieutic is a key methodological point, but as well dialectics, analytics, community of enquiry, constitute as many entries and matrices to define the work. If they wish so, participants can facilitate a workshop, a situation which provides an occasion for a practitioner to show how he works and get some critical feed-back on his work and his methodology, so one becomes more conscious of his own options and activity. Since the atmosphere of this seminar is open, inclined to both rigor and diversity, it creates a context where one can really express his view instead of hiding behind the usual pseudo-consensus where "everything is fine and we are all great".
In this sense, the idea is to recreate the context of antique philosophical schools, or the gymnasium as described by Plato, where one could challenge other's ideas and oneself be challenged. In the peaceful atmosphere of a small French village, accompanied with good food and good wine, walks in the beautiful surrounding woods and visit to the medieval site of Vezelay, one can truly devote oneself to philosophical encounters and reflection.
All practitioners interested in presenting their work and holding a workshop during this event are invited to send their proposal. The purpose of this seminar is to exchange, discover, experiment and develop practices.
This seminar does not require previous philosophical training. It can be an initiation to philosophical practice, or a deepening of the activity. Participants come from different parts of the world, and join for professional or personal reasons, in order to work on a practice that is applicable to many contexts: teaching children or adults, management, individual consultation, N. G. O. activities…
The duration will be one whole week, from August 4h – 10th, and the cost will be 600 Euros, including the workshops, food and accommodation in a private room. For people who are on a tight budget, this can be reduced to 350 Euros if you accept "camping style" accommodation. Our Institute can accept some people free of charge who have financial difficulties, but are highly motivated.
You can read theoretical texts and watch videos of the practice on the following websites - English section:
já perdi a conta ao número de seminários do Oscar que frequento, desde 2007 ou 2008. são sempre diferentes, ainda que nos cruzemos com rostos já conhecidos e que se repetem. há sempre exercícios novos, coisas que (re)descobrimos. é como estar na Academia de Platão, a viver com o Mestre. recordamos o que já sabemos e teimamos em esquecer - afinal, a verdade é insuportável. encontrá-la, é um DESAFIO!
Um encontro de muitas vozes e outras tantas ideias para Portugal. Vozes diferentes, de áreas diferentes - e com ideias diferentes para o nosso país: para onde vai, para onde deve ir, o que fazer por ele e por nós, portugueses? Tudo acontecerá no próximo dia 11 no Pavilhão do Conhecimento: a partir das 10 da manhã começa a maratona de ideias, distribuída ...em três sessões.
10h00 |13h00 14h30 | 20h00 21h30 | 24h00
Estão todos convidados a aparecer. A entrada é livre mas sujeita a marcação através do mail email@example.com. Caso queiram ter uma participação mais activa podem usar este mesmo endereço para nos enviar um vídeo com a vossa própria ideia para Portugal (não somos esquisitos: pode ser com a câmara do telemóvel, com a webcam, etc.). De todos os vídeos recebidos, os melhores serão exibidos durante a sessão. Entretanto fiquem com alguns dos nomes já confirmados:
José Luís Peixoto (escritor) Samuel Úria (músico) Miguel Real (escritor) Pedro Bidarra (publicitário) José Couto Nogueira (escritor) Patrícia Reis (escritora) Ana Sousa Dias (jornalista) Afonso Cruz (escritor) Tiago Salazar (escritor) Pedro Silva Martins (músico) Paulo Matos Mateiro (economista) Carlos Martins (guimarães 2012) Paulo Cunha e Silva (vereador cultura do porto) Reginaldo Rodrigues de Almeida (jornalista) Rita Marrafa de Carvalho (jornalista) Rita Barata Silverio (bancária) Joel Neto (escritor) Miguel Azguime (actor) Alexandra Caetano (empresária) Tiago Cação (empresário) Miguel Muñoz Duarte (gestor) Ana Santiago (gestora) Rui Portulez (radialista) Rute Sousa Vasco (jornalista) Rui Oliveira Marques (meios e publicidade) Paulo Ferreira (gestor) João Paulo Cotrim (autor de bd) Alex Cortez (músico) Paulo Morgado (gestor) Álvaro Domingues (geógrafo) Manuel João Vieira (músico) Filipe Homem Fonseca (guionista) Vítor Rua (músico) Miguel Szymanski (jornalista) Paula Cordeiro (investigadora) José Cabral (bloguer: Alfaiate Lisboeta) Valter Hugo Mãe - Pag Oficial (escritor) João Quadros (guionista) Salvador Martinha (humorista) Rui Paiva (gestor) Tiago Pereira (músico, investigador) Vasco Paulo Monteiro (técnico de turismo) JP Simões (músico) Filipe Teles (cientista político) Gonçalo Fortes (empresário) Rui Zink (escritor) Daniel Belo (jornalista)
Tó Romano ( empresário, central models) Leonel Moura, artista ( arte robótica) Catarina Carvalho (jornalista) Rui Costa (cientista, investigador) Catarina Barosa (jornalista) Pedro Abrantes (professor) João Nascimento (í consultor de empresas) Nuno Rogeiro (analista político e investigador) Luis verissimo (publicitário) Rita Nabeiro (empresária) Vitor gonçalves (Consultor de Porra Nenhuma) Manuel coelho (urologista) Alvaro costa (comunicador) António Romano (empresário) Luis Jacob (empresário) Inês Santos Silva (empreendedora) Sérgio Domingues (economista) João Geada (publicitário) Cátia Domingues (copyrighter) Diogo Teles (Empreendedor) João Romão (Empreendedor) Rui Pedro Alves (empresário) Frederico Fezas Vital (sonhador) João Nogueira Santos (Gestor e ativista político) Manuel Forjaz (empreendedor) Zé Pedro Cobra (humorista) Miguel Muñoz Duarte (inútil) Frederico Lucas (novo povoador) Joana sousa ( filosofia) Zezo carvalho (energizer) Fernando Mendes (chief error officer) Nuno Miguel guedes (jornalista) Rui ventura (APPM) Teresa Paiva (médica) Dario Oliveira (cinema) Nuno Camarneiro (escritor)