Philosophy for Children

In philosophy you learn how to think, not what to think - A student

Philosophy for Children (also known as P4C or P for C) was developed more than twenty years ago by Dr. Matthew Lipman a philosophy professor at Montclair State College in New Jersey, it is an international educational programme taught widely in many countries. At last count, Philosophy for Children was represented in some thirty countries around the world - ranging from Austria to Iceland, Bulgaria to Brazil and Canada to Taiwan - with philosophical conversations among children taking place in sixteen languages.

Philosophy for Children is often described as a thinking skills programme or a course in critical and creative thinking. While it is true that philosophy for children does improve students’ critical and creative thinking skills, calling it a “thinking skills” programme does not do it justice. It does much more as well.

Philosophy for children builds on the students’ own wonder and curiosity about ideas that are vitally important to them. The subject matter of Philosophy for Children is those common, central and contestable concepts that underpin both our experience of human life and all academic disciplines. Examples of such concepts are: 
Truth, reality, knowledge, evidence, freedom, justice, goodness, rights, mind, identity, love, friendship, rules, responsibility, action, logic, language, fairness, reason, existence, possibility, beauty, meaning, self, time, God, infinity, human nature, thought.

The central pedagogical tool and guiding ideal of Philosophy for Children is the community of inquiry. In the community of inquiry, students work together to generate and then answer their own questions about the philosophical issues contained in purpose written materials or a wide range of other resources. Thinking in the community of inquiry is critical, creative, collaborative and caring.

Traditionally, philosophy is the discipline primarily concerned with logical, critical and reflective thinking, the development of reasoning competence and the analysis of meaning. Philosophy is thinking dedicated to the improvement of thinking. It is both open-ended and rigorous.

Philosophy taps children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder. It engages them in the search for meaning and enriches and extends their understanding. It strengthens thinking and reasoning skills and builds self-esteem. It helps to develop the qualities that make for good judgement in everyday life.

Philosophy for children improves critical, creative and rigorous thinking. Participants develop their higher order thinking skills and the attitudes and dispositions necessary for good thinking. They improve their communication skills and their abilities to work with others.

(Ref:P4C, New Zealand)

See sapere.org.uk for further information on Philosophy for Children.