For most of the 15 years that I've been involved in this field, there have been an isolated few of us around the country working to introduce philosophy to pre-college students. But in the last few years, over a dozen new pre-college philosophy programs have begun, and I now hear regularly about additional new efforts taking place. Many of these projects have been initiated by philosophy graduate students, just as we founders of the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children started it as grad students in 1996. My hope is that this groundswell of support for bringing philosophy into the lives of young people will result in more and more children and teenagers around the US having access to philosophical thinking and discussions.
This growing movement inspired a group of us to start PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), a national organization affiliated with the American Philosophical Association. PLATO will advocate for pre-college philosophy and provide a point of connection for the education and philosophy communities. We are in the process of developing a more detailed vision and structure for PLATO.
Our inaugural event, the first PLATO Institute, will take place at Columbia University this June. Over 25 speakers from more than 15 colleges and universities will be speaking about both conceptual and practical issues involved in teaching pre-college philosophy. The institute will be organized as a community of philosophical inquiry, in which the focus will be on constructing an ongoing dialogue among the participants. I expect it will be a really energizing and meaningful two days!