Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

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 Challenges of Engaging All Students in Philosophy

Philosophy in K-12 classrooms is still a rarity in the United States. My work over the past 20 plus years has involved introducing philosophy into schools and helping educators and policy makers to recognize young people’s philosophical proclivities and the benefits of bringing philosophical inquiry into their lives. This involves a lot of “selling” of […]

The Cricket in Times Square

One of my favorite works of children’s literature, The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, first published in 1960, is moving, funny and philosophically suggestive. In particular, the book can inspire discussion about a variety of ethical questions. The story involves Chester, a cricket, who arrives in Times Square in an accidental way from […]

The Galilean Library

I found a wonderful website this week: The Galilean Library. The site is a resource for people interested in the sciences and humanities, and in particular philosophy, history, literature, and history and philosophy of science. It includes a library of essays and interviews aimed at all levels, along with a discussion forum on such subjects […]

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 […]

The Important Things in Life, and Rules that Help Us Keep Them

In two fifth grade classrooms at John Muir Elementary School last week, I read to the students chapter 12 from E.B. White’s Stuart Little, in which Stuart, who, despite being the son of human parents, looks exactly like and is the same size as a field mouse, has taken a one-day job as a substitute teacher. […]

The One Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ursula LeGuin short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a powerful story for discussing with high school students utilitarian ethics and the question of whether the suffering of one person is permissible if it brings about the greater good. The story is set in a joyful and seemingly perfect city, where […]

The Three Questions

“There once was a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act. ‘I want to be a good person,’ he told his friends. ‘But I don’t always know the best way to do that.’” From The Three Questionsby Jon J. Muth Muth takes Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions, […]

Two New PLATO Initiatives!

I’ve written before about PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), a national organization that advocates and supports introducing philosophy to K-12 students. Two exciting new projects: a high school essay contest – see here – and annual awards for elementary, middle and high school teachers – see here. Lots of progress in the movement to […]

What is art? Blog Series Part I

I’m going to write a series of posts about the philosophy of art unit I’m doing with sixth grade students this fall. Yesterday was the first session of the unit. We started by listing some of the things the students said they would consider art, which included paintings, sculpture, music, and poetry and also rocks, […]

What is art? Blog Series Part II

I decided that the second class of the philosophy of art series should involve actually looking at visual art and talking about it. I thought about taking the students to a local art gallery, and then decided that it would be fun for them instead to visit our local junior/senior high school (where they will […]

What is art? Blog Series Part III

This week the sixth graders and I read part of a chapter from Harry Stottlemeir’s Discovery (by Matthew Lipman, part of the curriculum developed by the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children in New Jersey), which involves two girls visiting an art museum together and talking as they wander around. The chapter raises […]

What is art? Blog Series Part IV

In the two sixth grade classrooms in which I’ve been teaching this aesthetics unit, the students and I spent a lot of time this week talking about the relationship between having feelings and expressing feelings. We read another portion of chapter 14 in Mat Lipman’s Harry Stottlemeir’s Discovery, in which two girls have a conversation […]

What is art? Blog Series Part V

This will be the final post in this series. What is music?Is there some quality that anything considered music must have?Can any sound count as music?Does all music express emotion?Is the emotion that music expresses in the music itself? In the composer? In us, the listeners?What makes music pleasurable to listen to?Why do we listen […]

Who is More Trustworthy: Children or Adults?

Earlier this month at Whittier Elementary School in Seattle, a group of fourth grade students and I had a long conversation after reading Barbara Williams’ Albert’s Toothache. We talked about the relationship between telling a lie, telling the truth and making a mistake, and that led to a discussion about why the things children say […]

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 […]