The school season is starting off with enthusiasm and hope for a year with way more time in classrooms and way less time in online settings. After 18 months of only seeing children in our philosophy classes through screens, I am very much looking forward to being back in a classroom this month. The multi-sensory richness of being together in person cannot be duplicated in virtual experience, even at its best.
Yet at the same time, I appreciate that the pandemic created a space for our work to reach young people who do not live in the area and could not have accessed our work otherwise. The small Zoom classes we began last year, with no more than 10 students in a class, enable children from all over the country (and some from outside the country) to meet and talk with each other online about some of the big philosophical topics that interest them. We will continue these classes this fall and into the future, working to enhance the virtual experience in new and creative ways.
So many challenging philosophical questions have emerged from this time, about isolation and safety, the individual and the community, uncertainty, friendship, what is needed to live a good life. I am eager to listen to the children’s thoughts and questions and to learn about their experiences and perceptions of this pandemic period. For all of us it has been a time of great uncertainty and change, but I expect that for children this time will prove to be an especially profound influence on the way they see their lives and futures.
Jana Mohr Lone is the director of the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children, and her most recent book is Seen and Not Heard.