Monday, November 15, 2010

Philosophy 4 Children

Philosophy can be defined as the study of general and fundamental problems, by thinking critically and systematically and engaging in rational argumentation. All students can benefit from philosophy, so there is just no good reason why they should not be taught it.

How to Teach Philosophy

Students should not read books or listen to lectures; rather they should be motivated to engage themselves in debate about topics and ideas that concern them and they think are worthwhile pursuing. Philosophy taps children's natural curiosity and sense of wonder. The subject matter is common and central concepts that underpin both our experience of human life and all academic disciplines, such as: truth, knowledge, right, wrong, bad, good, justice, fairness, etc. Topics and ideas for discussion can be found in books, movies, on the Internet or other sources.

Community of Inquiry

Students should work together to generate and then answer their own questions about an issue; it is a community of inquiry. In this community, as all participants share their own ideas and arguments, each individual student must consider many different opinions and perspectives. The students become accustomed to asking each others for reasons and opinions, listening carefully to each other, and build on each others' ideas. This encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning process and develop as independent thinkers. They develop confidence and courage to put forward their own views and arguments in a group.

Between Absolutism and Relativism

The discussion should be aimed at constructing the most reasonable and defensible answer(s) to the question(s). Answers are not provided or validated by the teacher. The teachers' role is to develop and challenge the students thinking. The students have the responsibility for both constructing and evaluation the range of possible responses to a question. Even if final answers are not obtained, students will find out that some answers are more reasonable and defensible than others. The rigorous nature of the inquiry, and the emphasis on assessing reasons for positions, means that, in practice, the students are very unlikely to come to the conclusion that “anything goes”. In addition, students will create a stable set of core intellectual and ethical values which have withstood the test of careful evaluation.

The Benefits

Philosophy engages children in a search for meaning, extends their understanding, strengthens thinking skills, and builds self-esteem. They improve their communication skills and their abilities to work with others.

Thinking Skills:

• Analyzing concepts and clarifying ideas
• Constructing and evaluating arguments
• Deductive and inductive logic
• Identifying fallacies
• Identifying underlying suppositions and assumptions
• Finding examples and counter examples
• Formulating and testing criteria
• Seeing broader perspectives and fundamental principles
• Seeing connections and recognizing implications
• Testing ideas with thought experiments

Intellectual Values:

• Confidence and Courage
• Curiosity, Open-mindedness and Skepticism
• Integrity and Consistency
• Offer and Accept Constructive Criticism
• Truth and Honesty

Ethical Values

In the community of inquiry requires and develops a range of values that are essential to participation in a society, in which there exists a plurality of democratic values, including: tolerance, openness, and co-operation.

Transferable Skills and Values

Thinking skills and values are transferable. They enable students to make bridges between various things they learn, thus making the curriculum more meaningful and therefore more exiting. This will increase their motivation and liking for intellectual work. Both thinking skills and values will improve social interaction and responsibility.

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