Finding philsophy lessons in child-friendly places
Thursday is World Philosophy Day, a good time to get children asking the big questions
. . . and tips for parents
If your school doesn’t offer philosophy don’t worry, says UCC lecturer Vittorio Bufacchi. “I do it with my kids every day at home. If you watch a film such as Cinderella, you can ask ‘Why is she feeling this way?’, ‘Where is her beauty?’ Those are the hardest questions,” he says.
He has two children, aged seven and eight, and they “don’t need to know theories about symmetry and beauty to tackle those sorts of questions”.
Robert Fisher, a UK author in “thinking and creativity” and a P4C advocate, suggests children have four needs: emotional, physical, social and reasoning. To promote the latter, he suggests: encourage children to build on their ideas; try to get them to see the implications of what they say and make them aware of their own assumptions and encourage them to find reasons to justify their beliefs.
As with adults, movies and books can provide the spark for conversation. Take Harry Potter: As one P4C textbook points out, it throws up “questions in ethics (Is power more important than good?); epistemology (How can we know ghosts and trolls?); and metaphysics (How do spells work?)”, among other fields.
“We have made philosophy into a discipline but it’s really about thinking and reasoning, just starting to spark conversation. Then you just become more sophisticated in the questions you ask,” says Bufacchi.
Educational Action Research in Ireland, eari.ie; the UK Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education, sapere.org.uk;
philosophy-foundation.org – includes downloadable resources for the classroom; European Foundation for the Advancement of Doing Philosophy with Children, sophia.eu.org.