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.
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.
em roda, sentados no chão, colocámos mãos à obra nesta coisa do "filosofar".
muita curiosidade para saber o que ia acontecer nesta oficina (humm o que será que se arranja ou conserta por lá?) e depois de algumas perguntas e respostas sobre a oficina e a filosofia, o jogo foi lançado.
o que é uma pergunta? - e um desafio: vamos encontrar critérios para dizer que uma pergunta é uma pergunta.
partilho convosco algumas ideias que registámos e que nos deram algum trabalho aos músculos do pensamento:
1 - ter ? (ponto de interrogação)
2 - ser uma interrogação sobre um tema
3 - deve ler-se com entoação (no decorrer da conversa percebemos que havia uma ligação entre esta e a 1 - precisamos do ? para ler ou não com entoação)
4 - tem sempre uma resposta (aqui ficámos em dúvida se seria uma ÚNICA resposta ou UMA resposta possível; não resolvemos esta questão)
5 - quando temos uma curiosidade
6 - precisamos de saber alguma coisa
ficaram perguntas e problemas para resolver (por exemplo, se a curiosidade e o precisar de saber algo aparecem em conjunto ou separados) e a vontade de dialogar foi imensa.
obrigada, andreia, por teres feito a ponte com o espelho do saber! espero voltar a sentar-me no chão para filosofar com esta malta gira, bem disposta e super curiosa!
Conheci o trabalho do Walter Kohan através da Rita Pedro - que conheci no II Encontro Sentir Pensamentos | Pensar Sentidos, que eu e a Celeste Machado organizámos em 2013. Tive a oportunidade de estar com o Walter num encontro promovido pela Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Lisboa). Não houve muito tempo para conversarmos mas, mais uma vez, a tecnologia superou a distância e bastou uma mensagem no facebook para o Walter se disponibilizar a participar neste desafio de perguntas & respostas à volta da filosofia para crianças. Tal como o Tomás Magalhães Carneiro, o Walter utiliza a expressão filosofia com crianças. E explica-nos sumariamente o porquê.
Walter Kohan conheceu a filosofia para crianças em 1992, na Universidade de Buenos Aires, onde trabalhava, em 1992. Foi um cartaz que convocava uma reunião aos interessados em “filosofia para crianças”que chamou a sua atenção. "Depois dessa reunião fizemos um curso de formação em Buenos Aires e logo organizamos um grupo… já em 1993 Lipman e Sharp visitaram Buenos Aires, estavamos traduzindo o programa, encontrando-nos para fazer experiências, iniciamos um projeto de pesquisa… eramos um grupo entusiasta!", confessa Walter.
Sobre a necessidade da filosofia para crianças nas escolas, Walter alerta para a força da palavra "necessidade", dizendo que “Necessário é uma palavra um pouco forte… se a filosofia funciona bem, acho que pode ser um espaço muito importante na educação das crianças… mas necessário talvez seja exagerado… eu preferiria que esteja a que não esteja, claro…"
Por que havemos de levar a filosofia para as escolas? "Por que ela quando praticada com sentido é um espaço que ajuda na experiência de um tempo propriamente infantil, não sujeito tanto ao relógio mas a uma experiência de pensamento que pode ajudar a ter uma relação mais interessante com o que se faz na escola, com os outros colegas e consigo mesmo…"
Walter, o que faz com que uma pergunta seja uma questão filosófica – do ponto de vista da fpc? "Eu não sei se há um “ponto de vista de fpc”… até preferia que não houvesse… a filosofia é algo plural e há sempre pontos de vista nela… a partir do meu, penso que a filosofia não está nas perguntas mas na relação que estabelecemos com elas… uma pergunta aparentemente muito filosófica como “o que é o tempo?” pode ser tratada de maneira pouco filosófica e outras aparentemente menos filosóficas podem desencadear um torrente de pensamentos… de modo que a filosofia é algo vivo que se desperta numa relação com as perguntas, com as palavras…"
Filosofia para ou com crianças?
"Eu prefiro pensar em filosofar com crianças do que em filosofia para crianças… há muito escrito sobre isto, mas para dize-lo rapidamente: prefiro o verbo e o infinitivo ao substantivo e uma preposição que indica horizontalidade e interioridade ao contrário… um dos principais desafios do filosofar é de fato ser um espaço problematizador dos modos de vidas contemporaneous e abrir possibilidades para novos modos de vida, alternativos… oferecer um tempo para poder problematizar o que estamos sendo…"
Podes dar alguns conselhos aos professores e aos pais para os ajudar a lidar com as perguntas das crianças? "Não sei se são conselhos mas eu diria que a coisa mais interessante que se pode fazer com uma pergunta de uma criança poucas vezes é responde-la… e que nunca subestimemos ou pensemos que compreendemos absolutamente uma pergunta de uma criança… e que nos demos sempre tempo de pensar essa pergunta, a nós e a elas… e que vejamos nelas oportunidades de nos pensar a nos mesmos… e a nossa relação com a infância…"
Walter confessa que já se surpreendeu muitas vezes com as perguntas dos mais novos: "Tenho escrito sobre várias delas… quando não esperas alguma perguntas em particular toda pergunta te surpreende… acho isso bonito: ser surpreendido… gosto disso e trabalho para isso: a surpresa, como a filosofia, não está nas perguntas mas no que fazemos com elas… então depende muito de nós esperar as perguntas e nos surpreender com elas… acho bonito deixar-se surpreender, eis algo mais que eu diria para “lidar” com as perguntas das crianças…"
as expressões a bold são da minha responsabilidade
Nesta viagem à volta do mundo - e da filosofia para crianças - chegou o momento de ir até ao Brasil, para conhecermos a Liliane Sanchez. A Liliane é formada em filosofia pela Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, com mestrado em Educação pela Universidade Federal Fluminense e doutoramento em educação pela Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro.
É professora de Filosofia da Educação da Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro e investigadora do Laboratório de Práxis Filosófica, no qual coordena um projecto de extensão de Filosofia no Ensino Fundamental numa escola da rede pública do munícipio de Seropédica/RJ.
Lembras-te da primeira vez que ouviste falar de filosofia para crianças (FPC}?" Sim! Eu estava cursando o mestrado em educação, na Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), no estado do Rio de Janeiro, pesquisando sobre o ensino de filosofia no 2º. Grau no Brasil (atual Ensino Médio) e sua importância para a formação crítica de cidadãos, quando meu orientador à época (Prof. Dr. Ralph Ings Bannel) me mostrou um livro de Matthew Lipman (A Filosofia na sala de aula) que ele havia encontrado em uma livraria. Isso foi no ano de 1996. Ele não conhecia o assunto, mas achou interessante eu ler e investigar e me deu o livro de presente. Eu fiquei apaixonada pelo tema!"
O primeiro encontro com a FPC, para mim, também foi apaixonante. Liliane, como é que começaste a trabalhar nesta área? "Na época do mestrado, eu já estava quase concluindo a escrita da dissertação quando descobri o tal livro e não havia tempo hábil para investigar a fundo a temática de FPC. No entanto, o tema me interessou tanto, que mencionei a proposta de Lipman e sua relação com a formação ética ainda nesse trabalho, que defendi em 1997. Naquela época, já sabia que queria investigar mais sobre esse assunto e planejei realizar um curso de doutorado investigando essa temática. O que, devido a diversas questões pessoais, só pude fazer alguns anos depois. Em 2000, voltei a pesquisar sobre o tema, lendo a respeito e contatando pessoas que trabalhavam com FPC, como o prof. Dr. Walter Kohan, à época trabalhando na Universidade de Brasília (UNB). Passei a frequentar eventos, trocar ideias com pesquisadores a respeito, com a intenção de construir um projeto bem elaborado para o curso de doutorado. Em 2001, surgiram algumas oportunidades de fazer um curso de formação através do Centro Brasileiro de Filosofia para Crianças (CBFC), em parceria com a escola Veiga de Almeida, da rede privada, na qual comecei a atuar como professora dessa disciplina, que estava sendo implantada no currículo da escola naquele ano. Trabalhei com o segundo segmento do Ensino Fundamental e com o Ensino Médio. Também no mesmo ano, trabalhei em outra escola da rede privada, a convite do CBFC, chamada Notre Dame, ministrando aulas dessa disciplina para o segundo segmento do Ensino Fundamental. No ano seguinte, 2002, fui convidada para trabalhar em mais outra escola da rede privada, o CEC, atuando também com o segundo segmento do Ensino Fundamental e com o Ensino Médio. E como professora substituta de Filosofia da Educação na Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), para onde o prof. Dr. Walter Kohan estava se transferindo, como professor titular. Ali, tive a oportunidade de auxiliá-lo a ministrar uma disciplina sobre essa temática no curso de Pedagogia, enquanto frequentava um grupo de estudos de Filosofia da Educação, coordenado pela profa. Dra. Lílian do Valle, responsável pela área. Nessa ocasião, deixei de trabalhar nas duas primeiras escolas mencionadas, por estar sobrecarregada de trabalho e por estar insatisfeita com a forma como o ensino era conduzido nessas instituições. Foi então que decidi cursar o doutorado na UERJ, com a prof. Dra. Lílian do Valle, investigando amplamente o processo de formação ética na história da filosofia, com especial destaque para a proposta de Lipman, a qual dedico um capítulo inteiro de análises críticas. Hoje em dia, como professora de Filosofia da Educação da Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, ministro uma disciplina chamada Tópicos Especiais em Filosofia Com Crianças para o curso de pedagogia e coordeno um projeto de extensão de oficinas filosóficas no Ensino Fundamental no Centro de Atenção Integral à Infância e Adolescência (CAIC) Paulo Dacorso Filho, no município de Seropédica, no estado do Rio de janeiro."
Consideras que a fpc é necessária para as crianças? Porquê?
"Considero FPC importante para a formação crítica e reflexiva das crianças, pelo potencial problematizador e questionador da filosofia, que ajuda a ampliar o pensamento para além do senso-comum e desconstrução de dogmas e preconceitos. Mas, para tanto, depende muito de como será trabalhada. Não pode ser apenas mais uma disciplina isolada no currículo. É preciso haver uma integração dessa proposta com o projeto político-pedagógico (PPP) da escola na qual ela se insere."
Hoje em dia as crianças, em Portugal, têm muitas actividades na escolar e depois da escola. Por que havemos de levar a filosofia para as escolas? "Pelas razões mencionadas acima. Porém, talvez seja importante rever as diversas atividades que as escolas oferecem hoje em dia, entendendo as razões e necessidades dessas ofertas, analisando seus benefícios e dificuldades, para não sobrecarregar os alunos com elas. Nesse sentido, caberia também analisar a importância de FPC frente a essas múltiplas ofertas, sempre em consonância com os PPPs das escolas."
O que faz com que uma pergunta seja uma questão filosófica – do ponto de vista da fpc?
"Uma pergunta filosófica deve possibilitar uma ampla gama de reflexões, de questionamentos e investigações. Pode se construir espontaneamente, a partir de determinadas situações simples e cotidianas, porém se desdobra em abrangência e complexidade de interpretações. Tem um viés de “espanto”, de crítica e, muitas vezes, de criatividade na busca por um pensar diferenciado, desnaturalizado, possibilitando a ruptura de paradigmas, de preconceitos, de dogmas e do senso-comum, podendo instituir novos saberes, produzir novas teorias e conceitos. A pergunta filosófica é o fundamento de uma reflexão crítica e criativa sobre nós mesmos, sobre a relação do sujeito com o outro e com o mundo que nos rodeia."
Quais são os maiores desasfios que a Fpc enfrenta, nos nossos dias? "A conformidade ao estado das coisas, o desestímulo à liberdade de pensamento, críticas e questionamentos, a imposição de certa visão de mundo, de determinada ideologia, através de um sistema escolar engessado pelas exigências de formação limitadas ao mercado de trabalho. O convencimento midiático pela busca do prazer instantâneo e do esforço mínimo, que transforma as atividades filosóficas e artísticas em erudição ou banalidade."
Podes dar alguns conselhos aos professores e aos pais para os ajudar a lidar com as perguntas das crianças? "Estimulá-las sempre e mais, ampliando suas abrangências e complexidades, sem medo dos resultados, sem preconceitos em relação à capacidade infantil de refletir, de questionar, de criticar, de imaginar. Posicionem-se horizontalmente ao lado das crianças e permitam-se filosofar com elas. Não se coloquem em posição vertical, sempre hierárquica dos controles dos saberes. Não filosofem para as crianças. Filosofem com elas!"
Alguma vez foste surpreendida com uma pergunta de um criança? Podes partilhar connosco que pergunta foi essa? "Sou sempre surpreendida com várias respostas das crianças. Foram muitas as vezes em que isso aconteceu e não me recordo especificamente de um caso. Mas posso afirmar que me surpreendo porque me possibilito essa oportunidade de não limitar a abrangência dos temas e reflexões no trabalho com FPC."
Conheci a Leslie Cázares Aponte através do instagram. Cedo percebi a sua ligação à filosofia para crianças (filosofia para niños) e fomos mantendo o contacto. A Leslie é a actual Presidente de la Federación Mexicana de Filosofía para Niños A.C., cujo trabalho podem espreitar AQUI. Aqui ficam os ecos mexicanos da filosofia para crianças. Gracias, Leslie!
¿Te acuerdas cuando fue la primera vez que oiste hablar de filosofía para niños? "Fue exactamente hace 20 años, me fui a vivir a la ciudad de León Guanajuato y mi esposo me preguntó : ¿te gustaría tomar un curso de filosofía para niños que imparte mi tía Teresa de la Garza?. Ahora esa pregunta es extraña, ya que ella además de ser un familiar, se volvió en una de mis maestras más importantes en mi vida. Además de iniciarme en el camino del Diplomado de FpN, Tere asesoró mi tesis de maestría, llamada “el impacto del programa de filosofía para niños en los docentes que la imparten”.
¿Como has empezado a trabajar en área? "Hace también 20 años, inicié a trabajar en la Universidad, con la propuesta de dar clases de filosofía para niños a los docentes universitarios de nuevo ingreso. Mi hipótesis era que FpN, ayuda a la docencia en todos sentidos, a generar un ambiente de pensar, a tener reglas de participación, a plantear preguntas de investigación, a dialogar y buscar alternativas para solucionar problemas, y todo eso es muy útil para cualquier clase de nivel Universitario. Claro que años más tarde descubrí que esta hipótesis aplicaba para cualquier nivel educativo."
¿Consideras que la fpn és necessaria para los niños? Porquê? "Si, porque para vivir hay que resolver un montón de ideas que se nos presentan en la vida, así como infinidad de toma de decisiones. FpN, nos va preparando para esto y más, a través de la comunidad de investigación, va siendo un ejercicio permanente en la vida, buscar alternativas, plantear preguntas para indagar, elaborar cuestionamientos, detectar inconsistencias lógicas en el mundo loco en el que vivimos. Pienso que el vivir con FpN como un proyecto vital, nos va permitiendo estar más conscientes del mundo y de nosotros mismos."
¿Hoy en dia los niños tienen muchissimas actividades en la escuela e fuera de ella. Porquê debemos tener la filosofia en las escuelas? "La escuela es el espacio de socialización, en donde podemos ejercitar la realidad del mundo a través de nuestros profesores, compañeros de estudio y del material informativo que nos rodea. La comunidad de diálogo en las escuelas, se va transformando en un delicioso lugar seguro para crecer y poner nuestras ideas en consideración de nosotros mismos en relación a los demás. Es decir, que las ideas propias, van teniendo un espacio de intercambio social, que a la larga, nos permitirá tener un intercambio social en nuestras vidas, mucho más pensado y pensado en conjunto. Creo que esto solo se puede dar en la escuela. Lo mejor es tener una o dos clases a la semana para filosofar en conjunto, desde la edad más temprana en donde inicia el lenguaje, hasta la edad universitaria.
¿Que és lo que hace que una pregunta sea una pregunta filosófica - desde el punto de vIsta de la fpn? "Esto le encanta contestar a dos de mis maestros favoritos del FpN, Eugenio Echeverría de México y Juan Carlos Lago de España, Eugenio dice: Es controversial. No tiene una respuesta cerrada y es importante para nosotros y no hay edad en la q deje de ser importante. Ejemplo. La justicia. La libertad. El sentido de la vida. Juan Carlos Lago dice: Que sea abierta y controvertida, que no tenga una respuesta definitiva, sino que sea válida cuando se emite, pero que puede modificarse ante nuevas evidencias o circunstancias. Otra característica es que la respuesta no está dada ya en un texto, sino que la vamos construyendo desde nuestra experiencia personal o compartida.
Yo Leslie digo, que las preguntas filosóficas son aquellas que nos parecen exquisitas y complejas, difíciles de contestar de manera pronta y precisa, necesitan la exploración de ideas, la búsqueda de fuentes de información, nos mueven a la reflexión inmediatamente. Las preguntas filosóficas hablan sobre temas relacionados con la humanidad, el futuro de las especies, incluyen dilemas éticos, morales y sociales."
¿Cuáles son los mayores desafios que se enfrenta hoy en dia fpc? "El crecimiento del proyecto en todos los países, la comunicación de ideas y resultados que ha tenido el programa en las personas, profesores, alumnos, necesitamos saber qué ha pasado en todos los países para reconocer la importancia que ha tenido en las vidas, para que siga creciendo. Es por esto que estoy haciendo una red de comunicación en varios países, desde la Federación Mexicana de Filosofía para Niños, que actualmente encabezo."
¿Puede dar algunos consejos a maestros y padres para ayudarles a lidar com las preguntas de los niños?
Asombrarse y explorar las las preguntas, tratarlas de entender junto con ellos ¿qué pregunta la pregunta? ¿por qué te surgió? ¿a quién más le interesaría explorar esa pregunta? ¿qué tipo de pregunta es? ¿se responde con un sí o con un no? ¿podemos pensar en otras preguntas similares?
Evitar asustarse con las preguntas o por el tema o por como están planteadas, una buena actitud educativa es ayudarlos a comprender el orígen de sus dudas y plantearlas de manera en que sean comprendidas por los demás.
Cuando son demasiadas preguntas, puede ser que solo pregunten por preguntar sin un sentido claro, es decir, quizá nos quieran molestar con sus preguntas. En esos casos sugiero preguntarles ¿tu tienes ya una respuesta a la pregunta? ¿por qué quisieras saber la respuesta a esa pregunta? ¿crees que alguien comparte tus dudas?
¿Alguna vez has sido sorprendido con una pregunta de un niño? Puedes compartir con nosotros la pergunta?
"Me han fascinado estas:
¿Sabes o crees?
¿Será que la vida es algo que conocemos o que queremos conocer?
¿Quién soy? ¿somos parte de todo? ¿todo es parte de nosotros?
¿Qué cosas nos hacen felices? ¿Es posible ser felices en la vida sin cosas?
¿Por qué las personas no aprendemos de nuestros errores?
¿Quién inventó los árboles? ¿para qué se inventaron a los niños? ¿será que el mundo es tan grande como dicen?"
The Philosophy Man is one of the projects I follow on social media (twitter, mostly). If you visit Jason and Tom's website, you can take a look on their work and their resources to work with kids, in a P4C way. Also you can subscribe the weekly e-mail with info and resources about #p4c.
Tom Bigglestone [firstname.lastname@example.org] spared me some of his precious time, answering some questions - couldn't thank you more, Tom!
Tom first heard about P4C when he arrived at Channing School in Highgate: "I was appointed Head of Religious Education, but also had ‘philosophy’ as a weekly session on my timetable. I had a degree in Philosophy from Durham, but had never been it on a school syllabus."
So, how did you started working with p4c? "After muddling my way through the first few weeks, I attended a course on it and everything became much clearer. I became instantly ‘on-board’ with the enquiry process and it soon developed into my favourite lesson of the week. Since then, I continued to take the classes, and develop a curriculum for P4C as well as helping other staff to embed it in their lessons. I did the same at my next school, all while taking several other courses myself. In 2014 I completed a Walter Hines-Page Scholarship in New Jersey, where P4C began. I wanted to research the role of assessment in P4C and how - if appropriate – we can make better use of classroom assessment techniques to generate progress. I came back with enough data to write a book, and until I do, I’m incorporating my findings in my practice and training, which I deliver as part of The Philosophy Man."
Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why? "It’s vital. I could write for paragraphs on why it’s so important, but I’d be regurgitating what most already know and think about P4C. So I’ll try to boil it down to one thing: Philosophy can be applied to every area of life – from politics to to personal relationships. We make decisions every day, and will do so for the rest of our lives. Philosophy helps us make wise decisions, based on reason and consideration. Wise decisions are what makes the world a better place."
Nowadays children have a lot of activities at school and after school. Why should we take philosophy to schools? "One can make decisions, but it’s another thing to express them.
Having P4C in school helps children find their voice, and in turn, listen to other voices. Today’s generation of children are the first in history to grow up competing for attention with a technological device. Competing for their parents’ attention, their friends’ attention, or even struggling to give their own attention to something other than a screen. P4C makes them present in the moment and causes them to be responsive to what’s being said there and then. It’s crucial this happens in schools because they might not get this chance in other areas of their life."
What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view?"I asked this on at a school training session yesterday. We had come up with a range of questions in response to a stimulus, and narrowed them down to the best four or five. And I asked what they have in common – what makes a good philosophical question. The teachers’ answers were:
It matters to us
It deconstructs and questions a concept
Two reasonable people could disagree
…and I couldn’t agree more. I think the first one is particularly important for doing P4C in schools. A philosophical question, to be worth pursuing, should matter. Tackling it should have some consequence – whether that’s helping the philosopher develop a skill, or helping them think more clearly about an issue. If a question is too broad, or abstract, pupils can lose interest and struggle to make any headway. “Is nothing something” is an interesting whim, but without careful facilitation there isn’t much to grab on to. It would be the role of the teacher to help pupils bring a question like this into the real world. Perhaps relating it to a more accessible concept like boredom, or empty space."
What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays? "In terms of its use in the classroom, it depends on the educational environment, and this will vary from country to country. My gut instinct is to parrot the line about living in a ‘post-truth’ world, and that rigorous dissection of argument in age of fake-news’ and political spin is more important than ever before. Whilst this is crucial, this approach seems to ignore the fact there’s never really been a ‘truth world’. Information sources have always had bias, politicians have always added spin. So it wouldn’t really be responding to the ‘nowadays’ part of your question. It’s probably the amount of ideas competing for teachers’ attention. There are so many new and fresh approaches to education. Many of them lead to big gains in the classroom, perhaps others less so. It’s a matter of opinion on each. What is undeniable is the amount of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) opportunities available for teachers, and when I was full-time in the classroom it certainly left me feeling bombarded at times.
P4C is one approach that has a proven record of success and makes a meaningful difference on helping young people flourish. It’s a discipline that has shaped thousands of years of human progress. It should be put at the heart of the curriculum, but unfortunately remains an ‘approach.’ In this context, I think it’s biggest challenge is to maintain at the forefront of school development plans and not find itself squeezed out by other ideas and approaches."
For Tom, "there’s lots [of advices to help teachers and parents to help them deal with the children's questions] I could say here, so I’ll keep it brief. One piece of advice would be to make pupils aware that P4C is different from other lessons, in that there is not a ‘right’ answer the adult is looking for. Doing P4C isn’t a game of ‘snap’ – where they’re looking to find the answer the adult has. Rather, it is a place for genuinely open discussion where there can be several competing answers. As P4C practitioners, we are aware of this, but I think more can be done to communicate this to the pupils. There’s a risk when embedding P4C in the curriculum, especially on ‘well-being based’ subjects dealing with personal, health and social issues, that the children don’t know when they’re able to speak their mind, and when they are answering a question that has the illusion of openness, but has a recommended answer."
Can you share a question that surprised you? "One of my favourites was early in my teaching career. My group chose a question on gender stereotypes and toys – a very pertinent issue. There was a gap between the question choosing and the enquiry, so in preparation for our discussion, I spent hours scouring the internet for articles, news-clips and talking heads, all to stimulate the discussion and provide thought provoking new angles, if we needed them. The scene was set for an all-singing, all-dancing discussion.
During the register, one girl in the front row turned to a friend, seemingly oblivious to the silence in the room, and said: “You know we were talking about stereotypes last week?”
“I’ve been wondering… Are stereotypes formed then spread, or spread then formed?”
That symbolised was the death knell for my planning as the question quickly captured the attention of the class and lasted the whole lesson. I remained largely out of view, frantically scribbling their points down. The discussion was brilliant. It was spontaneous, organic, and most importantly, it was theirs. This may not have been the most surprising question, but certainly one of the most memorable."
Laurance Splitter is a reference to me and to all of you who study P4C (philosophy for children). Laurance has been working in this area since 1983/1984 and I'm really used to quote him on my academic work.
I feel like a real rookie, next to professor Laurance. Laura D'Olimpio encouraged me to write to him, so that my blog could share with you another point of view from someone who practices #p4c, for such a long time.
Thank you, professor Laurance!
Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)? "I think it was early in 1982. I met Matthew Lipman later that year when I was taking Sabbatical leave in the USA."
And how did you start working with p4c? "In early 1983, I contacted the state government at the time, and showed them some of the original p4c materials written by Lipman and Sharp. Their unenthusiastic response taught me that this is the wrong place to start! So I began contacting schools and teachers and arranged to sit down with primary school children in 1984 so I could claim at least some experience of doing philosophy with children, not just talking about it. With several other volunteers, we formed the first national p4c association, based in Sydney, Australia, in 1985, at the first “teacher educator” workshop which I organized. Matthew Lipman and Ann Sharp directed this workshop, and participants included philosophers, principals and teachers from around Australia. These people were instrumental in setting up local associations and networks in their own regions over the next few years, leading to the establishment of a national federation in 1990. One thing I realized early on is that despite my own passion and commitment – indeed, because of them – it was important to set up state and regional organizations which were reasonably democratic and would outlast the particular individuals who served on them. P4c should never be any one person’s “pet” project."
In your opinion, what is the most important skill that a P4C teacher must have? "Along with such attitudes as a love of philosophy, a good degree of intellectual humility, and a commitment to teaching young people to think well, I think there are several key skills which are equally important, including: listening carefully, asking appropriate questions at the appropriate time, and developing an “ear” for what constitutes a philosophical direction or focus. Although it is not the teacher’s primary task to provide answers to philosophical questions (even if she thinks she knows them!), this philosophical “ear” usually requires a degree of familiarity with philosophy, so that one has a sense of the great dialogical tradition that children are invited to join. In practice, this is not always possible for classroom teachers, so it helps to have experienced philosophers on hand as well. Conversely, professional philosophers may not be particularly good teachers so, ideally, it is great when teachers and philosophers can work together."
Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why? "Interpreting “p4c” broadly to mean “doing philosophy with children and adolescents”, I certainly think it is important. Since many children survive in the world without much – if any – contact with philosophy (especially if their own philosophical musings are ignored), it is too strong to say that p4c is strictly necessary. It is even possible for young people to grow into thoughtful, reasonable and respectful adults without the benefits of philosophy, but this is much more likely if they have had the benefit of being members of a community of philosophical inquiry. I say this because, in my view, such a community empowers children to think conceptually and, thereby, to appreciate the ethical, logical, metaphysical, epistemological and aesthetic dimensions of their experiences."
What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view? "We seem always to come back to this “meta” question, partly because it is important, and partly because we keep rethinking the answer! As tempting as it is to refer to such features as openness, having no (universally accepted) answers, etc., I no long favour this approach, just because they are features of any kind of genuine inquiry, whether philosophical or not (scientific or historical, for example). More precisely – since others will point out that scientific questions do or will have accepted or settled answers, at least in the scientific community – I think that a good teacher of inquiry-based learning and thinking knows how to create the sense of openness – even tension – among students that comes from feeling unsettled or puzzled by the questions they explore. Coming back to the question, I tend to fall back on the idea that philosophical questions are those that deal essentially with concepts and their meanings."
What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays? "I am not sure if there is one universal challenge, as a lot depends on time and circumstance. Still, I am tempted to point to the relatively recent and alarming rise in “populist” thinking that is evidenced by recent political events. Populist thinking tends to downplay such norms as reasonableness, truth and judgment in favour of looking to those who promise quick and easy solutions to problems. As the term suggests, it makes the terrible mistake of assuming that the most popular answer is the best answer, no matter if it is shown to be false or contradictory. In such an environment, many people will simply have no time or patience for the kinds of careful and deep deliberation that philosophy requires, or for the crucial idea that there is nothing noble about absolute certainty. Of course children will still be curious and ask lots of questions, but the adults who govern their lives have the power to deny them the opportunity to do philosophy, by discouraging their questions, demanding unquestioned obedience, and pushing a “dumbed-down” curriculum in schools and classrooms. There is a positive dimension to this issue. IF more children engage in philosophical dialogue and inquiry, the chances are good that they will develop both the skills required to think well, and the dispositions that accompany them, including a concern for the truth (and for telling the truth). Such children are unlikely to become “populists”!"
Can you give the teachers and the parents some kind of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions?
"Some questions require, or deserve, straight-forward responses (“Is Grandma coming today?”, “Is it ok to cross the road now?”, for example). But both in philosophy class and in ordinary life, those with a philosophical “ear” (as noted above) can often discern that children’s questions provide great opportunities for thoughtful discussion. In these cases, it is neither necessary nor desirable to simply “answer” their questions. As other writers have pointed out, children’s questions are often “invitations” to “play with” ideas and thoughts. Since most such questions already reflect a good deal of thinking on the child’s part, one good strategy is ask them, in turn, “What makes you ask that?” or “What are you thinking about here?”
More generally, we need to take their questions seriously, and check with them before assuming we know exactly what they mean. As for sharing our own views on substantive issues with children, I think it depends on the extent to which they have mastered or internalized the tools of deliberative inquiry. For example, if they are satisfied with what we say simply because we are the “clever” adults in charge (as teachers or parents), then they are not yet thinking for themselves."
This is one of my favourite questions, because I think we all have curious stories related to the children's questions. Laurance, did the children ever surprised you with a question? Can you share that question with us? "This is an empirical question that relies on my having a decent memory – something about which I am no longer so sure! But I will always remember one particular question that came up during a fourth grade class demonstration which was actually being videoed for television. It was one of my very first experiences doing philosophy with 9 year olds and I was quite nervous, particularly because the cameras were rolling throughout the lesson. We read a chapter from Matthew Lipman’s novel Pixie which raises all kinds of metaphysical issues to do with relationships, mind, space and time, etc. At the end of the reading I asked the kids if there was something they found especially interesting or puzzling – and was met with complete silence!
I have learned since then that silence can, indeed, be “golden” but back then every second seemed like an hour, and still the students seemed to have nothing to say. Finally, much to my relief, one child put his hand up. His question: “What’s that funny mark at the bottom of the page?” (pointing to a smudge made by the photocopy machine). What to do with such a blatantly non-philosophical question? Simply answer it? Ask if anyone else can answer it? Ask the questioner what made him ask that question? Fortunately, I opted to take his question seriously and wrote it up on the board with his name next to it. I explained that all questions are welcome and that this was his question which he was kindly giving to the class community. At that point several others raised their hands to ask questions which lead to some great dialogue; but they had been encouraged by that student’s willingness to break the silence and ask the first question.
I met Peter Worley on facebook. I think I was searching for new resources on #P4C and I found about one of his books: The If Machine. Peter was (well, is!) very nice to everyone who approachs him on social media and we started talking about P4C, resources, about how things are going on in the UK and Portugal. Peter is the president of SOPHIA and I joined as a member. Peter asked if I could help him finding out about a place to held the next SOPHIA member's meeting. We talked about it and - guess what? - the meeting will be held in Aveiro, Colégio D. José I, on July 2017. Right after ICPIC, in Madrid.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you The If Man aka Peter Worley.
Peter, can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)? "Because I had begun doing philosophy with children off my own back and with nothing other than my years of music teaching/counselling experience to help, my colleagues at the SPP (Society for Philosophy in Practice) put me in touch with their P4C practitioner. Through her, I found out about SAPERE and attended a Level 1 training course."
How did you start working with p4c? "Before I had heard about p4c and Sapere, I was a guitar teacher in schools with an academic background in philosophy and an interest in philosophy outside of academe. After my first degree I trained with Tim LeBon to become a philosophical counsellor while completing an MA in philosophy. So, three things came together: music teaching, philosophy and counselling, and they led me naturally to think about doing philosophy with the children I worked with. At that time, I was unaware of a tradition of doing philosophy with children. The question is: is what I did then and do now P4C? I do philosophy with children (the phrase ‘philosophy with children’ is meant purely descriptively – it is not an acronym or a brand: I do X with F). Also, what I do when I do philosophy with children is not so different (though there are some differences) from what I do when I do philosophy with adults. So, I might prefer ‘P4X’. ‘X’ could be ‘children’, ‘teachers’, ‘adults’, ‘philosophers’ etc. Also, is it ‘P4C’ (for) or ‘PwC’ (with)? Is it ‘over’, ‘under’, ‘between’, ‘around’, ‘through’? Never really quite figured that one out (but looking at these, I quite like ‘between’ or ‘through’). I will be chairing a panel discussion at the next ICPIC conference in Madrid (2017) entitled ‘What does ‘P4C’ capture?’ with the aim of attempting to answer this question. Questions we might explore are: ‘Is p4c a referring term or a catch-all term?’, ‘Are there rules about who can use it?’, ‘Does it refer only to those within the Lipman tradition?’ and ‘If so, how close does one need to be to that tradition to be considered within it?’ When I write about what I do, I’ve taken to simply saying ‘philosophy with children’, ‘philosophy in schools’ and ‘philosophy in classrooms’. The particular approach that we at The Philosophy Foundation have developed we call ‘PhiE’, which simply stands for ‘philosophical enquiry’. But even then, if you run a PHiE, no philosophy is guaranteed. It is the hope. And with greater expertise from the facilitator, and with practice by the group and facilitator, the hope becomes more likely; and if not today then tomorrow. To find out more about PhiE go here: www.philosophy-foundation.org and here: https://kcl.academia.edu/PeteWorley"
Thanks, Peter. We shall check out your links. But tell me, do you think p4c is necessary for children? "Why? It depends what you mean by ‘necessary’. (A typical philosopher’s answer, I know!) If we mean a sine qua non then no, it’s not, children can get by in their education perfectly well without it. If, on the other hand we mean ‘necessary to achieve y’ then, maybe it is. And this depends on what we perceive the goals of education to be: functional or ideal?
If education aims to produce functional citizens then there are many things that might be considered unnecessary: maths (beyond arithmetic), music, drama and maybe science among them (putting to one side specialisms). But if education aims to produce an ideal learner, a cognitive and moral agent, then you might say, as I do, that philosophy is necessary towards that end. Philosophical thinking is particularly well-placed to develop intellectual agency. How philosophy is to be implemented in education, whether p4c for instance is the right or only way to go, is another question."
Nowadays children, at least at portuguese schools, have a lot of activities. Why should we take philosophy to schools? "Having said what I’ve just said, I do think that some strong cases can be made for doing philosophy in schools, without having to commit to its being necessary. A case can be made on the basis that it helps to develop reasoning, or more broadly, intellectual virtues, that it equips children to deal with incoherence, ambiguity, inconclusiveness, uncertainty. And whatever you think about philosophy being necessary for education, I think philosophy is inescapable if you’re human. Providing children with the language and methods to deal with something that they will, at some point, encounter could make a good case for an intervention such as philosophy. Prof. Michael Hand thinks that something like this is the case regarding political and moral aspects of civic life (that education informs). Philosophy is also a good antidote to the ‘pressure cooker’ environment the children find themselves in most of their school life. Having a ‘space to think’ may, for some, be considered a necessary part of any child’s school life, sufficient reason for its inclusion in education; but, I would caution: only if it remains a ‘space’ and doesn’t itself get sucked into the pressure cooker climate of testing and over-evaluation. As I mentioned briefly earlier, I also think that philosophy develops certain intellectual virtues and though philosophy is not unique in this, there is a case to be made for it being best placed to do this.
The kinds of virtues I have in mind are: re-evaluation, judiciousness, developing a synoptic view, all of which develop metacognitive skills. In other words, philosophy is well-placed to develop a reflexive relationship between our ‘inner Socrates’ and our ‘inner slave boy’ (see Plato’s Meno). In effect, philosophy’s special ‘outside-of-itself-and-everything-else’ character helps to develop one’s own inner moral and cognitive ‘guide’. Could this be what Socrates meant by ‘his daimon’ in Plato’s Apology? However, I should point out that it is not a foregone conclusion what it is the guide should lead one to. In other words, I dispute the popular view that doing philosophy necessarily makes you a morally better person or that philosophy leads children to broadly liberal, communitarian values; philosophy is also subversive, iconoclastic and disruptive. I’m currently writing a piece on this for The Journal of Philosophy in Schools special issue on why we should teach philosophy in schools. So, keep an eye out for that!"
I remember reading an article that you wrote about questions. Can you tell us what makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view? "Probably its openness. There is the openness of the question itself – it should be contestable, leading to controversies; and there is the openness of the philosopher – he or she should adopt what I call a position of defeasibility. (See here for more this: http://www.innovatemyschool.com/ideas/item/52-socratic-irony-in-the-classroom-clouseau-or-columbo?.html and http://www.ojs.unisa.edu.au/index.php/jps/article/view/1350 ) It should also get beyond first-order, surface considerations. For instance, ‘Who started the war?’ is not a philosophical question, but there are philosophical questions lurking very close by: e.g. ‘What is a war?’, ‘Under what circumstances would war be justified?’, ‘How can we decide what constitutes the cause of a war?’ Even these are only philosophical if they are treated in a philosophical way. For instance, ‘What is a war?’ might be answered by looking in a dictionary and, if the group feel that the matter is settled, then the question would not have been treated philosophically; but the fact that it still could be means that it has philosophical potential, even if it’s not been tapped yet by a particular group. But with regard to P4C (or philosophy with children), practically rather than theoretically speaking, I would say a good question is one that results in a philosophical conversation with the least amount of effort from the facilitator. Often the question needs to be linked to some kind of situation or other stimulus for contextualisation. For example, in the context of the situation of ‘the ship of Theseus’ (a ship that has all its parts replaced gradually over time) the question, ‘Is it the same ship?’ is perfect. I also think that (and this is not without exception, just a general observation) a good question is grammatically closed (where the answer is a one-word or short phrase answer) but conceptually open (it is contestable): e.g. ‘Is the mind the same as the brain?’ These kinds of question have the best of both worlds: the focus of a closed question but the elaboration of an open question."
What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays?
"There are several challenges: training, funding and resources, but in my view, the biggest challenge is maintaining quality. Making sure that philosophy is done when p4c is done, making sure that it doesn’t get over-simplified and done in the wrong way. Just to take a couple of examples: philosophy should not be used to explicitly lead children to desirable conclusions (particularly moral, political or religious ones), children should not be misled into thinking that ‘there are no right and wrong answers in philosophy’, and it should also not be hijacked for political ends, such as for sniffing out terrorists (the UK has a ‘Prevent’ agenda that p4c is being drawn into) or for promoting (for e.g.) ‘British values’ (another agenda p4c is being used for); to problematise them, yes, but not to blatantly promote them."
Can you give the teachers and the parents some kind of advice to help them deal with the children’s questions? "Don’t focus too much on questions! I was in a Year 1 (ages 5 and 6 years) class the other day and we (the teacher and I) tried to run a standard p4c session with the book ‘Frog is Frightened’ by Max Veltjuis and when I asked them to come up with questions about the story the children didn’t know what a question was. (I did an exercise with them where I taught them what a question is and what a statement is and we sorted what they said into questions and statements and this worked very well). What we noticed was that the children became the most animated when one girl said, ‘Ghosts don’t exist’. Now, that’s not a question! So, we could either continue with the process of question-formulation, gathering and voting, or we could just ‘go with the children’. And that’s what we did. The point here is: 1) don’t worry too much about the procedure (be ready to jettison any procedure at any time) and 2) don’t worry too much about questions; statements can be just as – if not more – effective at provoking discussion. And actually, very young children are more likely to respond with statements than questions. This is not a problem though; just go with it. I call it the ‘Quote. Discuss.’ strategy; a common ‘question’ approach for degree and higher exams that works just as well with younger students. I also like tasks such as ‘Do nothing’ or ‘Think of nothing’ or ‘Draw a round square’, or ‘Do a deliberate mistake’. So, it’s not always about questions. The next SOPHIA meeting, here in Portugal, will be entitled ‘Questioning questioning’ and we will be looking in some depth at this and many other related aspects of questions and questioning in the facilitation of philosophical conversations. So, do come along!"
Did the children ever surprise you with a question? Can you share that question with us? "Yes: ‘Do you paint your hair grey!’ and ‘Have you had medical difficulties this week, Mr. Worley?’ But if you mean philosophical questions, then, ‘yes’ to that too. One that sticks in my mind is when we had pretty much finished the session and I had been ‘boarding’ a good deal during the session (I don’t always do this) and one very philosophical boy put his hand up and said (while pointing to the board), ‘Mr. Worley, we’ve heard all these ideas today but how are going to decide which one’s right?’ I think this is one of the most profound questions I’ve heard (interestingly, not a voted-on enquiry question; just one that came up spontaneously – my favourite kind, by the way). His question reminds us that philosophy is not just a sharing forum, it has an evaluative aspect that is sometimes forgotten. Philosophy doesn’t just explore, it has to move to an eliminative, evaluative stage too. Good questions we (philosophy facilitators of whatever school) should all ask ourselves are: how often do my philosophy sessions move beyond simply sharing and exploring? And how do I/we move to meta-analyses in the classroom? And how do I/we move to the elimination and evaluation of ideas? Though there are ways to do this, it is not easy and I’m never satisfied that I or the p4c community has properly answered his question. I’d love to hear from anyone who thinks they have!"
I met Jane on twitter, Jane and her "Philosopher's Backpack". In her website we can read that Jane " has over 20 years of practical experience of P4C with primary school children. She is a registered SAPERE trainer and has led P4C training for over 1200 primary and secondary teachers from over 200 schools across the UK and also in Spain, Mexico City, Nepal, India, British Virgin Islands and Malawi. These include: whole school training, comissioned courses and open courses for state, private and international schools." I asked Jane to share her point of view about P4C and she answered so quickly! Thank you so much, Jane.
Can you recall the first time you heard about philosophy for children (p4c)? "I heard about P4C in 1993 from a primary geography lecturer called Chris Rowley (one of the founders of P4C in the UK) at the teacher training college, Charlotte Mason College. He did a workshop at a conference that I helped to organise in response to the infamous Rio Earth Summit in 1992 through my work with Cumbria Development Education Centre, which is based at the college."
And how did you started working with p4c? "Every few weeks, some of the lecturers at Charlotte Mason College, where I was working(and had trained), would hold a community of enquiry with each other using the Lipman stories as the stimulus. They kindly invited me to take part. As someone in my early 20s, I remember feeling quite daunted practising ‘philosophy’ with all these learned academics as I had come from an educational background where philosophy was certainly never an option. I was like one of those quieter children you sometimes find in P4C sessions in the classroom. I worried I would be laughed at. I worried that I didn’t have the sophisticated vocabulary to articulate my thoughts. Over time, I grew more confident to speak in this group and realised the impact it could therefore have on pupils. It was during these sessions that I learnt the nuts and bolts of reasoning and realised what a rigorous process P4C should be. I was then hugely fortunate to work with some of the lecturers at the college to try out P4C in some local schools and from there many projects developed. I was part of the catalyst for connecting P4C and Global Citizenship way back in 2010. Whatever job I’ve had, I’ve always tried to build in P4C somewhere. For the last five years, I’ve gone back to teaching and have been working with my school to achieve the P4C Gold Award (a new accreditation we have here in the UK). It was an absolute joy to achieve this in 2015. Crickey! That’s over 25 years of P4C!" Jane, that's kind of a lifetime. Congratulations!
Do you think p4c is necessary to children? Why? "I think p4c is totally necessary. Young children begin their lives naturally wondering about the world. As babies, they use their hands to manipulate objects to explore and wonder about their immediate world. There’s a lot of research about the link between the brain and the hand and how important brain connections are made when toddlers are stimulated to think through object play. As children begin to develop language, there’s a shift of thinking towards speech. This wondering about the ‘world’ can extend not just to their own world, but to that beyond their own immediate experience. I believe that the ability to wonder is our most important human capacity. Just as we would not hesitate to provide a stimulating environment for babies, we must also provide stimulus for thinking as babies become children and navigate their way to becoming adults. Through thinking, children learn about the world, but they also learn about each other. It helps them develop relationships, judgements and decisions."
In Portugal have a lot of activities at school and after school. There's a lot of discussion going on around this. Why should we take philosophy to schools? "Once children know what is expected from a p4c session, it can transfer to any aspect of school through curriculum lessons and life in school. Some of the best p4c that I see happens naturally in a corridor between individuals. Philosophy, ultimately, should help us to live a better life."
What makes a question a philosophical question – from a p4c point of view? "There’s lots of debate over this. Most of my P4C follows the Lipman tradition by the hugely powerful experience of children developing their own questions. In this case, I would say a philosophical question generated by children needs to include, explicitly or implicitly, a clear concept or two. The way the question is framed needs to have potential to engage everyone in the community. My favourite way of describing a philosophical question is to say that it is one that we are ‘not going to settle easily’ and ‘there might be different opinions and ideas within and outside our community’ and ‘we might need to apply logic and reasoning to test out different examples within our question’."
Sometimes we hear that a philosophical question has no right or wrong. What do you think about this, Jane? "It used to frustrate me that children often get into a habit of saying philosophical questions have ‘no right or wrong answers’. Arguably, the concepts of right and wrong are so huge in themselves that this notion can often reduce the complexity of a philosophical question to something rather more simplistic. And with this, there comes a tendency for relativism. However, I would suggest that sometimes children perceive ‘something’ from their unique individual experience of being part of a philosophical enquiry and jump to the conclusion there is ‘no right or wrong answers’ rather than it being something the facilitator has stated or encouraged. The binary concept of ‘no right or wrong’ is a hugely powerful one for children, especially when their experience of childhood might have very clear boundaries of what is right and wrong! For me, when this situation arises, it makes for a timely opportunity to explore the concept of right and wrong as binaries and as concepts on their own. Having said all this, some of the best enquiries have come when the questions have not been obviously philosophical. Increasingly, I am seeing the importance of involving the children in enquiry around the philosophical value of the questions themselves. I also think there is necessary value in the facilitator bringing questions that are not generated by the children through discussion plans and activities to deepen and further philosophical enquiry."
What’s the biggest challenge p4c faces, nowadays? "It’s always challenging giving the time to start something new. People want quick results and P4C is not something that can change things over night. I don’t think you can do p4c half-heartedly with children, as they will know you are doing this and the rich benefits will not be as apparent."
What can you say to teachers and parents about P4C, some kind of advice?
"As a teacher, I would use Socratic questions within the context of the enquiry to respond and help them deepen their thinking. I’m more of a facilitator of their thinking without swaying them with my own opinions. As a parent, I would always try and find out their thinking behind the question: What made you ask that question? It’s so easy to make assumptions about the meaning behind our children’s questions. Then I’d ask: What do you think? I’m more of a co-enquirer with my own children. For example, sometimes I might agree or disagree with what they are saying, through reasoning. Above all, I never tell them they are wrong. My 10 year old son made up a great quote recently: ‘If you say someone’s wrong then you are closing the question, but if you disagree with someone then you are opening it up for more answers.”
Can you share a question that really surprised you? "I’m never generally surprised by any question but I’ve had many that have really made me think. Once, we had an enquiry around: “If children were in charge of school, then how would school be different?” What interested me most, was their ideas were hugely possible and powerful but called for a very different structure than our current tradition of schooling. We must never underestimate the power of children’s ideas and only see them within the narrow lenses of our own experience."