Thursday, May 30, 2013

Everyone Sees Things So Differently

"It doesn't frustrate me that we don't have the answers to these questions. I like hearing what other people think about them, because there are so many different ways people think about things. That's what's great about philosophy, you realize that everyone sees things so differently."
Fourth grade student at Whittier Elementary School, Seattle

When I consider why it's important that we encourage children to explore the philosophical dimension of the world, one of the things that I think matters most is that this practice helps children appreciate that the world contains many perspectives. This supports children's abilities to evaluate critically their own views and reasoning, because taking seriously points of view other than your own leads to examining your own thinking in a new light. Moreover, the experience of grasping that there are questions for which there are not settled answers, that can be approached from a variety of angles, leads to an understanding that not all questions lead to easy answers and that there are numerous ways - all unique and valuable - to see the same thing. 

Philosophy teaches us to take any view seriously - even when it seems outlandish - if there are good reasons offered for it. Especially in this time in human history, where greater and greater presumed certainty about knowledge, identity and moral beliefs lead people to extreme acts of violence and oppression, it's imperative that our children recognize that there are many legitimate ways to see the world.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Two New PLATO Initiatives!

I've written before about PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), a national organization that advocates and supports introducing philosophy to K-12 students. Two exciting new projects: a high school essay contest - see here - and annual awards for elementary, middle and high school teachers - see here. Lots of progress in the movement to bring philosophy into children's lives!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Just Pretend

Benny and Penny in Just Pretend, by Geoffrey Hayes, is an early-reader graphic novel about two siblings and the efforts of the younger child, Penny, to join her brother in "playing pretend." Constructing pretend worlds is part of many children's childhoods - I remember when my children wouldn't answer me unless I addressed them as "Darth Vader" or whomever they were pretending to be. And, of course, younger siblings efforts to get their older brothers and sisters to include and accept them is also part of many children's experiences.

The story raises questions about why we create pretend worlds, the lines between pretending and getting lost in fantasies, the differences between playing alone and playing with others, how siblings understand one another, and how our relationships with other people change us.