Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

A Wrinkle in Time

I love this book. A science fiction young adult novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time was first published in 1962 and has won all kinds of awards. In the engrossing story, packed with philosophical questions, three children travel through the universe by means of “tesseract,” a fifth-dimensional phenomenon explained as being the square […]

And the Pursuit of Happiness

Maira Kalman writes a wonderful illustrated New York Times blog, “And the Pursuit of Happiness,” about American democracy, with a new post on the last Friday of every month. In March she wrote “So Moved,” about tolerance, the democratic process, civility and compromise. It is a marvelous piece to use to broach these issues with […]

College Students in Pre-College Classrooms: Philosophy Books and Other Ideas

Thursday was our last seminar session at UW for the spring. Through this class, twelve college students introduced philosophy into public school classrooms around Seattle over the quarter. The seminar included students majoring in philosophy and education. On Thursday the seminar students presented the lesson plans they had implemented in the classrooms in which they […]

College Students in Seattle Schools

We began our Philosophy for Children seminar at the University of Washington earlier this month, and this quarter we have 10 students going into 8 different classrooms, from 1st to 12th grade, in six different Seattle public schools. The students are facilitating philosophy sessions in our seminar to help them to get ready to do […]

Comments from Memphis High School Students

I had a conversation recently with a colleague about the difference it makes, in his view, when students who have had philosophy in high school enroll in his undergraduate philosophy classes. He said that he almost always recognizes students who have studied philosophy in high school — he observes deeper thinking about the questions explored […]

Does what we are matter when thinking about what we ought to do?

Is science relevant to moral philosophy? In the marvelously clear and accessible Experiments in Ethics, Kwame Anthony Appiah explores the relationship between morality and the empirical research of science. Many philosophers have held that science in general, and moral psychology in particular, hold little relevance for moral philosophy (stemming in part from Hume’s distinction between […]

February

The House in WinterHere,in the year’s late tidewash,a corner cupboard suddenly waversin low-flung sunlight,cupboard never quite visible before. Its jarsof last summer’s peacheshave come into their native gold—not the sweetness of last summer,but today’s,fresh from the tree of winter.The mouth swallows peach, and says gold. Though they dazzle and are gone,the halves of fruit, the […]

Fifth Grade Questions

I had a marvelous class with some fifth grade students yesterday. The first class of the year, we began by talking about what philosophy is and why anyone might be interested in it. I had planned that we would read part of chapter three of Mat Lipman’s Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery and probably talk about thoughts […]

Forgiveness: “Forgiving Dr. Mengele”

This week I watched Forgiving Dr. Mengele, an interesting and provocative film about the life of Eva Mozes Kor. Eva and her sister Miriam were among the many sets of twins who were victims of Josef Mengele’s horrific twin experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp. They arrived at Auschwitz when they were nine years old, […]

High School Philosophy Classes

There is lots of exciting work in philosophy going on in high school classrooms around the country! Here are two public high school philosophy classes about which I’ve recently learned: In Memphis, Michael Burroughs, a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Memphis, is teaching a philosophy class at Booker T. Washington High School. […]

Listening to Our Children

Somewhat frequently I receive email messages or other communications from parents asking me about how to introduce philosophy into their conversations with their children. The main advice I give people is to listen for the philosophical questions kids ask. I don’t believe that bringing philosophical dialogue into your relationships with your children is about teaching […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust — Blog Series Part II

This morning I taught the second class of the “Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust” unit to two eighth grade classes. This class is an introduction to moral philosophy, a way to give the students some background before we launch into the issues raised by the Holocaust. We began by talking about Plato’s Ring of Gyges […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part I

I spent the morning last Friday with two eighth grade classes in the first sessions of a unit I teach every year on “Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust.” I teach the unit with Jane Orme, the eighth grade language arts teacher at Liberty Bell Junior High School, and over the past four years we have […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part III

When Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, Jane Elliott, a third grade teacher in Iowa, decided to implement an exercise in her classroom to help her students understand racism and discrimination. She divided the class into students with brown eyes and students with blue eyes, and spent one day discriminating against the brown-eyed students […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part IV

Why do people obey authority even when they sense that what they’re doing is wrong? Central to the conditions that allowed the Holocaust to occur was people’s tendencies to conform to the situations in which they find themselves. In this class we watch a clip from the film Obedience, which documents the Milgram experiments. In […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part V

In this class we view the film Heil Hitler: Confessions of a Hitler Youth. The film is an interview with Alfons Heck, who describes his childhood experiences as a member of the Hitler Youth and his rise to prominence as a leader in the organization, and then his shame and revulsion as he realized after […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part VI

Why did some people become rescuers during the Holocaust? What makes some people, despite the risks, act to prevent moral wrongs? Is being a bystander morally wrong? In this class we see the film The Courage to Care, involving profiles of individuals during the Third Reich who helped protect Jews in France, Holland and Poland. […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part VII

Can one person make a difference? The last class for the Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust unit involves watching the film Not in Our Town, which describes a series of hate crimes that took place in Billings, Montana, in the 1990s, and the town’s reaction to these events. The people in the town really came […]

November

During Wind and Rain They sing their dearest songs–He, she, all of them–yea,Treble and tenor and bass.And one to play;With the candles mooning each face….Ah, no; the years O!How the sick leaves reel down in throngs! They clear the creeping moss–Elders and juniors–aye,Making the pathways neatAnd the garden gay;And they build a shady seat….Ah, no; […]

October

To Autumn Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel […]

Online Philosophy for Children course

The Institute for the Advancement for Philosophy for Children, in Montclair, New Jersey, is offering a fall online class on “Teaching Children Philosophical Thinking.” Here is the description of the class: This innovative course prepares teachers and philosophers to facilitate philosophical dialogue with children and adolescents, in classroom settings and elsewhere. The course is suitable […]

Online Philosophy Resources

People often ask me about finding philosophy resources online. There is now a multiplicity of online resources available for free — online philosophy classes, lectures, materials, etc. This is a sampling: http://www.epistemelinks.com/index.aspx (thousands of links to philosophy audio and video, course materials and other philosophy resources) http://broodsphilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/06/15/online-videos-of-philosophical-lectures/ (list of online videos of various philosophy lectures) […]

Philosophy as a way of life

When, in our first class together, I asked the fifth grade students with whom I’m doing philosophy this winter what they imagined was the definition of philosophy, one student volunteered that he thought philosophy was “a way of life.” Of course, I loved the sophistication of this answer, and there are philosophers who hold this […]

Philosophy in the Classroom

This week and next students in our Philosophy for Children seminar at the University of Washington will be doing philosophy lessons in a variety of public school classrooms around Seattle, from 5th through 10th grade. We have been meeting for seven weeks now, and in the seminar we’ve discussed topics ranging from the nature of […]

Poem

The World But Seems To BeThe world but seems to beyet is nothing morethan a line drawnbetween light and shadow.Decipher the messageof this dream-scriptand learn to distinguish timefrom Eternity. — Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi (Fakhr al-din Ibrahim) English translation by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

Puzzles about Ethics

A couple of years ago I created a series of ethics puzzles to introduce various moral questions to two fourth grade classes. I adapted some of these scenarios from puzzles created by others and made up the rest. I found that formulating dilemmas that would be easily recognizable to ten-year-old students was an effective way […]

Science Fair and Ethics

Yesterday I showed up in the fifth grade classroom in which I’ve been teaching, prepared to talk with the students about whether you can get something form nothing, whether everything has a beginning, and related questions. When I arrived, the class informed me that they had just had a discussion about an ethical problem related […]

Stormy Night

I have used Michele Lemieux’s book Stormy Night in elementary school philosophy classes. It’s a great resource for an introductory session to help the students start to recognize philosophical questions and to think about the questions they have. Stormy Night is wonderfully illustrated with black and white line drawings. It starts off with a young […]

The Book Thief and Psychological Egoism

On Friday I had a marvelous discussion with a group of students in an eighth grade English class about The Book Thief, a novel by Markus Zusak. The story is told from the perspective of Death, who describes his experiences during the Holocaust, and in particular the story of a young girl living near Munich. […]

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (1944) is a great book to inspire discussions about the nature of friendship, the ethics of being a bystander, and questions about what moral duties we owe to others. I have used this book with students from ages 8-18, usually taking three or four classes to read it together […]

Thoughts and feelings

This week I started a series of philosophy sessions with a fifth grade class. This was a first introduction to philosophy for this group of students. I started by asking them if they had any idea what philosophy was. We talked about that for a few minutes. I described some of the questions I associate […]

Women in Philosophy

There has been an ongoing discussion on the Leiter Reports blog about the under-representation of women in academic philosophy. The speculations about the reasons for the dearth of female philosophers include the following possibilities: (1) that the way in which philosophers talk about our profession (using language about arguments, defending our positions, attacking our opponents’ […]

World Philosophy Day

Introduced in 2002, World Philosophy Day, the third Thursday of November each year, is a celebration of philosophy that seeks to bring philosophy into the lives of people everywhere. The day is an initiative by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) that honors philosophical reflection internationally by bringing together people from around the […]