Throwing a philosophical question out cold to a group of kids in hopes of sparking a lively discussion is as unpromising as igniting a bundle of damp wood. This is where philosophical stimuli come in. Stories and other kinds of stimuli serve as tinder to get things started, and as kindling to keep it all going. A good philosophical stimulus has the virtues, as Peter Worley says, of engaging attention, helping students to grasp otherwise arcane concepts, activating students’ moral agency, and helping them rehearse for life.
Early one summer morning, a young Australian philosophy graduate was awoken by a phone call. It was the eminent professor David Lewis, calling from Princeton University’s philosophy department. “You’ve been admitted to our graduate program,” Lewis said. “Do you have any questions?” Still in the fog of sleep and desperate to think of something to ask, the student blurted out: “How many Australians are in the department?” After an uncomfortably long pause, Lewis replied: ‘Depends how you count Australians.’ This anecdote, recounted by the erstwhile student Alan Hayek, shows that even the most commonplace concepts can turn out to be polyvalent. Especially if you let a philosopher loose on them.
Ever on the lookout for innovative teaching resources, I jumped at the invitation to preview a sample of The Blob Guide to Children’s Human Rights, a new release in the […]
(Or, how to be inimitable) We’re a motley crew, we Philosophy in Schools people. Our goals are so varied, it can be hard to say exactly what it is that […]
The New Yorker has disappointed me again, this time by its recent coverage of a series of children’s philosophy workshops at the Brooklyn Public Library. Rebecca Mead’s article, ‘When Kids […]
(Or, Which Ethical Paradigm Do You Choose?) I once facilitated a philosophical dialogue among 8 – 10 year olds about The Lost Thing, an animated short film based on Shaun […]
What is philosophy to you?* Philosophy is something we do to make sense of our lives and our experiences, and to build a coherent worldview. Open-mindedness, scepticism and intellectual rigour […]
The Philosophy Foundation has a track record of producing a kind of book that’s in short supply: truly innovative contemporary guides to teaching critical and creative thinking to children. Peter […]
We’re excited to announce that our in-school program Big Questions has just won a prize! It’s the inaugural Prize for Innovation in Inclusive Curricula, awarded by the Australasian Association of […]
Oddly, very few books exist to foster philosophical enquiry among high schoolers. Of these few, David Birch’s Provocations is a standout, distinguished by the originality, breadth and richness of its material. Anyone […]