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Philosophy for Children

Stella Accorinti

President of the Research Centre in Philosophy for Children - Argentina


Philosophy for Children is an educational proposal that makes possible children and teenagers develop their complex thinking, therefore their reasoning abilities, their critical thinking, their creative thinking and their caring thinking. It’s a systematic and progressive program especially designed to be worked with children from 4 till 18 years old in research communities. Considering the children’s interest and the topics that most instigates them, and carried out with methodological work, carefully planned and proved, that recovers their curiosity and wonder, the goal is to develop and stimulate the high order thinking in the community of inquiry. This program takes place in communities where its members work hard in order to be capable of understanding different points of view besides the intent of finding out the meaning of the world and of the society which they live in.

The US philosopher Mathew Lipman, created Philosophy for Children in 1969, and nowadays more than 50 countries from all continents has applied its program. The goal has nothing to do with trying to convert these children and teenagers into professional philosophers, but instead, its aim is to develop and preserve their critical, creative and caring thinking and attitude. The program is based on:

  1. A bunch of philosophical texts, written by philosophers that works at Philosophy for Children, both in theory as well as practice. These reading texts represents the basis on which the philosophical discussion is built. The texts were thought and written in order to achieve the discussion, therefore, they are written with a didactic intention (that’s why we just don’t use any kind of text from the corpus of the literature, and that’s why we refuse to call them “tales” or “novels”. Although we avoid to use any kind of texts, we obviously use some carefully as an extra material for some discussion that are already taking place, and that was previously instigated by those philosophical texts mentioned before. In the same way, we sometimes use pictures, literature texts, films or any-other source we think is well suited).
  2. Manuals for teachers where they may find various discussion plans and exercises that facilitates the achievement of the proposed goal. Besides being a possible guide book with some suggestion, it was also written and planned to be a help for the teachers any time they need. The writing of these books presumes that we find ourselves in the presence of a program that’s not only philosophical but as well educational, which demands an ethical commitment of giving continuity to the teacher’s formation and total chances, by the teachers and schools, to put into effect the program.
  3. A formation program for teachers, that will allow them to extract all the possibilities from the texts, assuring them that the task that’s being performed is the development of the complex thought and the philosophical discussion and not something “similar” (scientific and religious discussion, or group therapy).
  4. Pedagogic methodology that tends to transform the class into an community of inquiry.

Curriculum

The philosophical issues are presented in a daily language. The program has been structured in different levels, that corresponds to different ages and courses. It presents a sequential order, in such a way that the same plot is restudied in a deeper way in a higher level, and at the same time new subjects are introduced.

According to the possibilities, and the children’s interests and necessities, it’s possible to organise the following schedule, that is supposed to be worked in a spiral manner and which plots should be recaptured each time more deeply.

  1. First approach to the methodological basic points that tends to develop the ability of communication, of expression, participation and co-operation among the kids. Concepts like ambiguity , identity, name, family, tastes, truth, lies are introduced.
  2. It’s focused on the acquisition of language, attending to the rational forms that are implicit in the kid’s daily conversation. Also puts emphasise on the intensification of the perceptive consciousness, on sharing perspectives through the philosophical discussion, in the similarities, distinctions and classifications and by thinking over it’s own daily experience.
  3. As soon as the kids are already familiar to the knowledge of a plural and dynamic (constant changes) reality, they are prepared to start thinking about the language. At this stage, the semantics and syntactics structures, the detection of speech vagueness, the discussion of concepts that establishes relation and philosophical notion, such as, casualness, space, individual, class, are paid more attention.
  4. The students are introduced into the logic field, going through not only the language, but specific areas as ethical and social research as well. All this work, as always occurs in the program, goes on according to the kids’ interests, and in no way, logic is “taught”. Our task with the program is to work as midwives: the child that is to be born is in the students and not in us (at least not at the moment in which we are supposed to co-ordinate the philosophical discussion, in which, as adults, we shouldn’t give our opinion, but instead make questions in order to help the students in this wisdombirth). The main reason to have formal logic in the curriculum is to help the students finding out they can think about their own thoughts in an organised way. Formal logic contains the criteria in which one can discriminate between the valid reasoning and any other kind which it isn’t, and in this sense, it’s an important subject among all science and essential when thinking education as a way to improve the thoughts. At this phase, from a variety of situation and on the detection of applications that shows how it can be used, the discoveries and awareness of the formal logic rules are focused. As the kids are already familiar to their own language, a formal logic system useful for this is syllogistic logic, which main features are: consistency, or lack of contradictions, logic consequence, or the way in which, according to the rules, allows to go from one sentence to others and coherence, or the way in which the rules are in accordance in a whole united and systematic. Because of the limited application of this kind of logic, the focus on good reason are also worked, introducing informal logic, that permits to evaluate one’s thoughts and others in relation to the actions and happenings. This focus doesn’t present any particular rule besides insisting on the search for good reasons in a particular situation and appreciate the reasons that were offered. It’s worked with the kids accomplishing impartiality, objectivity, respect for people, being a primary aim helping the members of the research community to discover a great number of applications a structured deliberative thought presents and stimulate them to use the reflections thought actively in their lives. The main effort in this teaching consists in maintaining the research process and stimulate reasons’ assessment. With this process, that is supposed to be worked in a transverse way, ethical and social research field are developed.
  5. The emphasis are put on the deepness of the philosophic specialisation as ethic, aesthetic, metaphysic and gnoseologic research.

Each unity of the program – texts for the students and the extra material for the teachers is a thematic group that gradually introduces to the class group the personal and dialogic thought. Even though the units present a graduation in the questions difficulties that are presented, each one is independent from the other and can be administrated during one or two years to the same class group.

The main objective of each book in the program is to supply the readers with elements capable of making them aware of their own thoughts and the way in which one’s thoughts may work in their lives. The book is, therefore, the starting point for the philosophical discussion.

On the following page there is a Philosophy for Children program schedule, with the details about the texts, teacher’s manual, area belonging to and a frame with the application’s school’s levels.

Aproach to the philosophical discussion instruments

In Introducción a Filosofía para Nińos. [Before working with the texts.]

STUDENT’S BOOK TEACHER’S GUIDEBOOK AREA COURSE AGE ALLOWANCE AGE
Lis Wondering at my experience Introduction-Language Philosophy Initial- 1st year 5 - 6 4 - 7
Rebeca Discovering the world Language Philosophy 2nd.-3rd . year 6 - 8 6 – 8
Thinking, stories,1 Ethic and Social Investigation Ethic and Social Science 4th.-5th year 9 - 10 9–11
Lisa Ethic Investigation Logic and Ethic 6th . – 7th year 11 - 12 10 - 12
Suki Writing: how and why Logic and Aesthetic 8th – 9th year 13 - 14 12 - 14
Golden city Going towards my assumption Metaphysic and Gnoseologic High school 15 –17 14 –18

Community of Inquiry

As the aim of Philosophy for Children is to prompt a philosophical behaviour and the children have a remarkable tendency to the verbal expression, the most appropriate pedagogic methodology is the philosophical discussion. Starting from various sources the dialogue is instigated from the basic level, once it’s an appropriate environment for the children to express mutually their ideas, learning to listen to their partners’ response, they over come the feeling that what they have to say is absurd or out of place, confirming it with the classmates, in such a way that the experience from others is a teaching.

Transforming the class into an community of inquiry is considered to be essential in order to stimulate the kids on thinking and behaving in a higher level than the one they would have performed alone: a genuine community of inquiry is based on the mutual respect and on the member’s volunteer commitment to search for something in common. For “inquiring” we understand the constant in the self correction exploration of plots that at the same time are realised as something important and problematic. From this theoretic perspective, to learn something is to learn it again with the same discovery spirit that was once experienced when it was discovered, or with the same spirit of invention that was predominant when it was invented.

By the philosophical discussion in the centre of the community of inquiry, the children may achieve their own point of view and their own conclusions. Philosophy insists on the strict logic, but only as a mean to produce a more effective thinking, and not in the sense of achieving a total concordance among all the ideas. The program emphasis the discussion process and not the achievement of a particular conclusion (the process is worth, not the product). Even though no philosophical subjects are taught, the teacher must use the typical philosophical way of thinking and questioning. Gradually, the students begin to find out that a philosophical discussion presents a different pattern from any other discussion, they start to realise that they can share ideas, experience and perspectives among each other. They start to appreciate other’s point of view and realise the importance to give reasons that support their opinion. It makes sense, then, the objectivity, and the necessity of examining carefully the problems instead of getting satisfied with only expressing their ideas in a raw and superficial way, or making a monologue pretending to be a dialogue. It makes sense the philosophical discussion in an community of inquiry.

Objectives

The children get wondered and ask themselves not only about them, but also about the world and the society in which they live in, and they have the necessity to find a meaningful reference frame to the puzzling realities. They try to clarify the environment by a scientific explanation, through some kind of history capable of supplying a useful interpretation in the symbolic ambit or formulating the matter philosophically in a questioning manner. Some of the questions they usually ask are; “What is the mind?”, “What is reality?” , “What are the things?”, “What is goodness?”, What is fairness?”, based on what we know, “what can we find out?”, and they can be considered philosophical questions (once the questions or the concepts aren’t philosophicals by itself, but in the meaning net that the research community assigns).

Philosophy for Children proposes to promote a distinct pedagogic modality since the philosophy, in which the informative and the formative make part of the same unity. The aims do not end with the development of cognitive abilities (neither is tried to develop in steps the cognitive ability in order to accomplish next the complex thinking. As the complex thinking is developed the cognitive abilities are achieved) otherwise is orientated to form reasonable people, in which involves a sociability instance in the reasoning .Besides the development of cognitive abilities ( abilities in reasoning, in inquiring , in conceptual analysis, in interpretation) and the work with philosophical concepts (“truth”, “justice”, “beauty”, “goodness”, “language”, “liberty”, “identity”), the program is worried about behaviours and habits such as; developing the ability of self-correction, learning how to listen to other people, paying attention and trying hard in order to understand, asking for and giving reasons, among others. Obviously the formative phase overtakes the philosophical domain as these abilities also belong to other areas of the knowledge. Nevertheless, these habits and behaviours are crucial for the existence of a democratic society.

It’s important to teach the children how to think for themselves, so that they are capable of renovating creatively and carefully the society in which they live in, and at the same time be able to grow up in a critical, careful and creative way. By saying that education must allow the students to develop the instruments they need in order to evaluate carefully, creatively and critically the social expectations, it means that education must tend to develop human beings capable of evaluating the world and oneself, as well as expressing fluently and creatively besides caring for others.

On the following some of the specific aims of Philosophy for Children:

  • Children and teenagers develop their reasoning capacity (derive inference of different kind, classify and categorize , work with coherence and contradiction, formulate questions, identify assumptions, formulate cause-effect relation, knowing and avoiding - or at least know how to use – language vagueness, distinguish ambiguities, recognize interdependence between means and results, define terms, identify and use criterion, exemplify, built hypothesis, context, anticipate, predict and estimate the consequences, generalize, find out informal deceitfulness, normalize daily language phrases);
  • Develop one’s creative thinking;
  • Familiarize oneself with the practice of the caring thinking;
  • Develop one’s capacity to find out the meanings of experience (find out connections, alternatives, offer some reasons, relations between part-whole and whole-part, detect and recongnize incoherence).

To achieve the development and co-ordination of these thinking abilities it’s required a gradual and systematic process, nevertheless, it’s needed a cognitive aptitude for implementing those, further than the abilities themselves. This aptitude is consisted of co-operation, trust, self-appreciation, attention, respect for people, among others. Philosophy for Children believes these attitudes are stimulated when the class is transformed into a dialogic seminar committed to inquiry. It’s assumed that dialogue produces cogitation; people who participate in a dialogue have to cogitate, to concentrate in what is being said, to evaluate different alternatives, have to pay careful attention to the definitions and significance, to recognize different options that haven’t been aware of, and in general, have to perform a great number of mental activities. Participants reproduce in their own thinking process the structure and the dialogue progress taken place in class. A thesis based on the social and cognitive psychology, that claims thinking is the interiorization of the dialogue. “Dialogue” meaning not just any kind of conversation, but it’s referred to the dialogue in which aims an elaboration of the thinking from the contribution of others. For that reason, the community of inquiry is the place where the group’s self-appreciation and the process will be cared, in which the aptitude is meant to appreciate and criticise one’s reasoning as well as the mate’s. It will be trusted that the group’s procedures are reliable as they are self-corrected. When this becomes habitual, a following support is provided to the social and individual forming character.

Finally

Philosophy for Children is an alive organism. Therefore, it’s creator, Dr. Mathew Lipman, up-holds and stimulates each country or region to develop it’s own curriculum, according to the children’s interest and necessity, and the research and writing capacity of each Philosophy for Children Centre. Dr. Lipman wrote his own curriculum, between 1969 and 1980, which titles are; Elfie (6 to 7 years old), Kio and Gus (8-9 years old), Pixie (9-10 years old), Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery (11-12 years old), Lisa (11-12 years old), Suki (12- 14 years old) and Mark (15-18 years old). These texts, with their corresponding support manuals, constitute the traditional program. Some of the texts haven’t been used lately in some parts of the world. More than twenty years has passed since they were written, therefore some of them don’t instigate the students from the XXI century any more. Others experts from the program with their critical, creative and caring effort are elaborating, writing, and publishing new texts for the program (as it happens in Argentina), that respects, amplifies, and turns into more complex the initial idea. It continues to be caring, creative and critical, and from the contribution of the philosophy introduced in education since early ages, goes on thinking about the teachers, the students and in a better world for everyone.

References

ACCORINTI, S., Introducción a Filosofía para Nińos, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 1999

ACCORINTI, S., Trabajando en el aula. La práctica en Filosofía para Nińos, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 2000

ACCORINTI, S., Lis, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 2000

ACCORINTI, S., Maravillándome con mi experiencia, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 2000

CAM, P., Historias para pensar, trad. H. Pons, revisión técnica y adaptación S. Accorinti G. Arbonés, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 1999

CAM, P., Manual de apoyo para acompańar a Historias para pensar, trad. H. Pons, revisión técnica G. Arbonés y S. Accorinti, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 1999

LIPMAN, M. et al., La filosofía en el aula, trad. García Moriyón y otros, Madrid, De la Torre, 1993

LIPMAN, M., Thinking in education, Cambridge University Press, 1991

LIPMAN, M., Suki, trad César Aira, revisión técnica y adaptación G.Arbonés- S.Accorinti, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 2000

LIPMAN, M., Escribir: cómo y por qué, trad. César Aira, revisión técnica y adaptación S.Accorinti- G.Arbonés, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 2000

LIPMAN, M., Lisa, trad. H. Pons, revisión técnica y adaptación G. Arbonés - S. Accorinti, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 1999

LIPMAN, M., Pensamiento complejo y educación, trad. V. Ferrer, Madrid, de la Torre, 1997

LIPMAN, M., Philosophy goes to School, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1988.

LIPMAN, M., Thinking Children and Education, Iowa, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1993.

REED, R., Rebeca, trad. H. Pons, revisión técnica y adaptación G. Arbonés y S. Accorinti, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 1999


Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Education

25/03/2000


 
 

EEPAT is published in association with the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia and the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory.