Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

Fourth Graders and the Story Double Trouble

I had an interesting experience recently with the fourth grade students I’m teaching this year at John Muir Elementary.  I read them the story “Double Trouble” by Philip Cam. A kind of retelling of the “Ship of Theseus,” the story is about a robot whose parts have been replaced, one after another, until he no […]

Harold and the Purple Crayon

What can we know about the nature of reality? A wonderful story for motivating conversations about this question is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. First published in 1955, the story begins with Harold deciding, “after thinking it over for some time,” to take a walk in the moonlight. No moon is out, so Harold takes […]

PLATO and a national movement for philosophy in the schools

For most of the 15 years that I’ve been involved in this field, there have been an isolated few of us around the country working to introduce philosophy to pre-college students. But in the last few years, over a dozen new pre-college philosophy programs have begun, and I now hear regularly about additional new efforts […]

The Dragon who liked to spit Fire

This delightful picture book by Judy Varga, written in 1961, tells the story of Darius, a little dragon, and the friendship he develops with young prince Frederic. Can Darius be himself, a dragon who likes nothing more than to spit fire (in many colors), and still be friends with Frederic? Darius decides to move to Frederic’s […]

The experience of childhood

Last week I had a conversation with fourth grade students at John Muir Elementary about the story Albert’s Toothache by Barbara Williams, one of my favorite picture books. In the story, Albert, a turtle, complains that he has a toothache. His family points out that he has no teeth, and so he cannot have a […]

The Universe and Dr. Einstein

I’ve been re-reading the short book The Universe and Dr. Einstein, originally written in 1948 by Lincoln Barnett. I first read and was inspired by this book when I was 17. An engrossing account, written for the general public, of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, this is an accessible and effective resource for […]

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Mem Fox’s picture book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is the story of a young boy, Wilfrid Gordon, whose “house was next door to an old people’s home and [who] knew all the people who lived there.” His favorite person at the home is Miss Nancy, and Wilfrid Gordon’s father tells him that, at 96, she […]

You Can’t Say You Can’t Play

I’ve been re-reading Vivian Paley’s book You Can’t Say You Can’t Play. The book describes Paley’s observation of what she calls the “habit of rejection” year after year in her kindergarten class, in which certain children (the “ruling class,” as she calls them) decide which children will be accepted and which will be excluded, setting the […]