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 pre-college philosophy. This past week two students led our discussions of Arnold Lobel’s story, “Dragons and Giants” (in Frog and Toad Together), and Plato’s Ring of Gyges. Topics in our seminar range from ethics to aesthetics to philosophy of mind and language.
One of the things we talked about last week is the importance of letting the classroom discussions flow organically, and not trying to push an agenda. Our seminar discussion of the Ring of Gyges ranged widely, and was a good example of letting a philosophy conversation take its course in its own way. One of the most challenging aspects of doing pre-college philosophy, in my view, is letting go and not trying to control where the students take the discussion. Helping to keep it philosophically focused and making connections between what the students say is crucial, but it is equally crucial to allow the questions and topics of inquiry emerge from the students and not be imposed upon them.