Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children Grant and Summer Workshop

Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children just received a three-year grant from the Squire Family Foundation! The grant funds a summer workshop for teachers that will take place this June, and also provides money for graduate student involvement in the program, materials and website support, and three years of transportation for UW students to get to and from local schools. We are very excited about the possibilities for the growth of our program that have been created by receiving this grant.

The summer workshop will take place at the University of Washington June 28-29 and is open to teachers and others interested in exploring how introducing philosophy in K-12 classrooms can enrich and enhance student learning. Participants will learn about the history and methods of philosophy for children, and will engage in philosophical discussions on topics such as: “What can we know? What makes something right or wrong? Are we free? What is a mind? How can we define happiness?”

The workshop is free of charge, including 11 clock hours, materials, refreshments, lunch on the second day, and parking. Anyone interested should contact me at info@philosophyforchildren.org by June 1. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

New York Times article on doing philosophy with children

I am living it up in Italy at the moment, but thought I would write this post to note that the New York Times published an article last week about philosophy in elementary school classrooms: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/education/edlife/18philosophy-t.html

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Developing a philosophical self

As part of the book I'm working on, I've been thinking a lot about the development of our philosophical selves. In my experience, most children begin to exhibit a "philosophical self" around age 5, when all of the questions that demonstrate "wonder at the world" often start to emerge. This curiosity about and exploration of some of the basic facets of human life -- why we're alive, what it means to be good, what obligations we have to others and why, identity, the nature of reality -- seem to me fundamental aspects of what it means to be human. Yet, for many (most?) people, this development gets cut off at some point between age 5 and graduation from high school.

Recognized as important are the development of children's physical selves, intellectual selves, moral selves, and social and emotional selves, but there is little attention paid to the development of our philosophical selves: the part of us that recognizes and ponders the intense strangeness of the human experience, that thinks deeply about the concepts that underlie our collective understanding of the world. For me what has always been most important about engaging in philosophical discussions with children -- my own, and students in pre-college classrooms -- has been helping children to think more clearly about questions they are already thinking about. I remember my first class in philosophy, which I was lucky enough to have in a public high school, and how thrilling it was to be able to talk about these questions I'd thought about since I was little and that I imagined no one else ever considered very much.

I think that the development of children's philosophical selves is of crucial importance to learning how to evaluate the difficult questions of life thoughtfully and imaginatively. Encouraging children to cultivate their natural inclinations to wonder about life's perennially unsettled questions and to think about these questions carefully and coherently helps them become effective independent thinkers. Our philosophical selves are central, I think, to the uniqueness of human consciousness, to our awareness that we are experiencing whatever we are experiencing. Development of this part of us can profoundly enrich and deepen our lives.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


After almost two years of work, the new national organization for pre-college philosophy in the US, PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), has been born! PLATO is a national support, advocacy and resource-sharing organization for teachers, parents, philosophers and others involved in teaching philosophy to pre-college students. Launched by the Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association, PLATO’s goal is to attain a visible, national presence, and to advocate in both the philosophical and educational communities for more pre-college philosophy instruction. Check out the website -- it is full of resources to use for introducing philosophy to young people!