Philosophy for Children

Table of Content

Introducing philosophy to children is a very controversial subject. Michael S. Pritchard, the author of Reasonable Children, explores the concept of introducing philosophy to children within the schools before they enter their college years. Pritchard assumed that the study of philosophy should begin at a college level. At the start of this assignment my first reaction was similar to Pritchard’s, philosophy starts during the college years. I could never imagine discussing this higher level thinking with children. I believe that we all use philosophy throughout our lifetime without even knowing we are.

To question one thoughts, to think deep into situations, and to re-evaluate your choices are all human nature. Children are instilled with this from birth. With all that said, to limit it to a label (philosophy) is another task. Pritchard has brought an excellent point stating that the curriculum is already overcrowded as is. Why bring into this controversial subject of philosophy into the classrooms. “Besides, Philosophy is a “troublemaker” he says. This is not so much true in my eyes. Philosophy offers many positive aspects to life. It challenges us as humans to think outside the normal realm of situations.

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It helps us grow as a person and think about why we performed a certain task or why we made a certain choice. Yes, the curriculum is very crowded that is true. Instead of us focusing on teaching philosophy as a total separate subject, why not try to embed philosophy throughout each subject. Have children think beyond the subject they are being taught. Hold discussions that let them explore their minds on what they are learning. I am sure that by doing this you as an educator will learn more about your children than you ever thought you would. This will broaden the horizons of children’s thoughts. I agree with Lipman, nd that philosophy shines. He states that if schools should foster this critical thinking and how would this task be accomplished. I played with this thought for a little while in my head. Do we really want our children to think at this higher level? To question authority in many aspects? Of course we do not want to be disrespected by the children, but if they question authority and they are true and respectful with their sayings. Then why not, they are our future. Our children can then “wonder about wondering, how planning is different from guessing, how doubting is related to believing, and so on (33).

Pritchard was introduced to a Harry Stottlemeier, a fictional creation of philosopher Matthew Lipman (31). Lipman is the director of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC). Harry and his fifth grade friends are responsible for introducing actual children to philosophy. Throughout chapter three, Philosophy for Children, we see how big of an influence Lipmans novel has been. Within the ninety-six pages, Harry and all his friends use their own concepts and rules that mirror Aristotle’s syllogistic logic. They explore the “concern to look at all sides of a issue, o think consistently, to work out the implications of statements, to give reasons for what they think rather than simply assert opinions, and to examine assumptions”. What intrigue me with this is that the children did not ask or depend on adults to set their daily schedule. The IAPC has a program called “community of inquiry” that you as a reader will see the class convert to this. This program each student is encouraged to give reasons to support whatever they do and say and to evaluate the view of others. How often do people in general give support to their reasoning on situations. Through the IAPC rogram children are taught to think outside of the box and to hold valid conversations with their classmates. You see within classrooms today many children speak about non- educational subjects. Such as video games, movies, personal things going on with them. Yes, this holds importance to childhood, but why not have them challenge each other. Rather then them just repeating everything they are taught and memorizing the information, they are able to come up with ideas and thoughts that no teacher or adult has planting in their brains. Pritchard goes on to speak about some of his experiences that he has had during is research. While reading this I thought about this, does philosophy ever have an conclusion to the topics that we discuss? Jeff one of the students Pritchard has observed seemed to be uneasy about not having a closure to the discussions. He was uncomfortable with uncertainty. He states that this might be a reflection of what the traditional education has taught Jeff. In other words Jeff is used to finding out the answers to questions he might be unsure of. For example, during a social studies exam there might be a question Jeff is stuck on. He chooses to skip the question and move on. He is sure though hat there is an answer to this question that he can do some research or ask his teacher and that will solve that problem. With the world of philosophy there is no final conclusion to any answers. If we give Jeff a philosophy exam, how do we assess this ? It is all based on a reflection of what the student is thinking. It is a vision of their thoughts and how they perceive the subject. This can be a conflict within the traditional way of teaching. Thomas Nagel is introduced based upon his book What Does It All Mean? A few of Pritchard’s student’s children talk about how philosophy can be useful throughout igh school. “ Philosophy, on the other hand, attempts to look through all windows at once… As we reach high school age, we realized that we were facing some difficult problems involving ethics and justice. Philosophy encouraged us to gain a better understanding of these questions and to reach an objective position, on which we might base our actions. ” This is a valid point to be spoken about. If we think about what an influence philosophy can have on high school students and how it helps them make choices, how influential can it be with young children? They are faced with many choices everyday.

Maybe not the most important choices as far as what college to go to or so forth but they are important to them at the time and age. If they have the tools to have a better understanding of some of the choices they need to make that can change their lives. If this type of education starts at a young age, it will only be beneficial to them throughout their education. The rest of the chapter, Pritchard discusses a novel called Pixie. This novel is used to sharpen thinking skills by applying reasoning to ideas that are of interest to children (46). Instead of the word philosophy the use the word “moral” to introduce hilosophical reflection among third and fourth graders. Pixie is a fictional story that is told in the first person. Pixie uses her imagination and the children are encouraged to join her. She is constantly questioning herself throughout the novel, which opens the children up to think more on the line of moral issues and reasoning. As Pritchard explains, it is about her struggles throughout childhood. The novel focusing more on her struggle to understand the relationship she has with the people in her life. Which many children might do and they never have the opportunity or the knowledge to explore the confusion.

At the end of the novel Pixie comes to balance, a reasonable place, and joined them but still understood they were different. During my exploration on this topic of bringing philosophy to school age children, I came upon a video by Matthew Lipman and an actual classroom practicing philosophy. I agree with challenging our students beyond the traditional learning process. I believe we should emerge philosophy in the curriculum we use today. I would like to leave you with a quote Lipman has said during this video “ If you can get education to center on thinking rather than read learning than we are preparing for a very different world”.

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Philosophy for Children. (2018, May 13). Retrieved from

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