Philosophy for Children
Philosophy for Children is a fun, exciting way to engage students in critical thinking and reasoning about philosophical questions through the discussion of stories, pictures, short videos and other activities. Students learn to think in reflective ways about concepts and ideas, which develops their reasoning skills and ability to articulate their ideas. At the same time, students learn and practice the important life skills of listening to, understanding and taking seriously the positions and ideas of others. Students and teachers who participate in Philosophy for Children report development in students' cognitive, social and emotional skills.
MSUM proudly offers Philosophy for Children as the National Association of State Boards of Education issued a policy update in April 2018 recommending that all K-12 teachers have training in philosophy.
As a discipline, philosophy is centered around asking questions and seeking answers. The first step in doing philosophy is taking up the question most often asked by children: “Why?”
Engaging in philosophy helps us to better ask questions and to search for better answers. Philosophers work at clarifying words and concepts. Philosophers also work to provide rigorous, logical arguments to support their answers to questions. When we engage in philosophical discussion and learning, we train ourselves to clarify our thinking, to be logical in our answers, and to construct and consider the merit of different viewpoints. In philosophy, we look not only for our own answers to questions but also to the answers other people who disagree with us might give. Then, we develop ways to address those answers in support of our original position. Philosophy isn’t like math—it’s not about arriving at the “correct” answer—it’s about learning to explore and evaluate possible answers.
These skills are beneficial not only in philosophy as a profession but in all areas of life. When we think and reason philosophically, we become better at critical thinking and reasoning, at communicating, and at understanding. These skills are important for both adults and children.
Studies show that, on average, students who participate in a philosophy lesson for one hour a week made the following gains over students who did not receive philosophy lessons:
- 2 months advancement in reading skills
- 2 months advancement in math skills
Students who were receiving free or reduced-price lunches saw even greater gains:
- 4 months advancement in reading skills
- 3 months advancement in math skills
- 2 months advancement in writing skills (even though the program contains no writing)
In addition, students and teachers who participated in the program reported that students experienced the following social and emotional growth:
- Higher self-esteem
- Increased self-confidence
- More empathy
- More concern for fairness
All of this from just one hour of philosophy a week!
Resources and Information
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Philosophy for Children
- Montclair State University – What is Philosophy for Children?
- Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection of Education (SAPERE)
- Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO)
- University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children
- Teaching Children Philosophy
Studies on Philosophy for Children
- Topping, KJ and S. Trickey. “Collaborative Philosophical Enquiry for School Children: Cognitive Effects at 10-12 Years.” British Journal of Educational Psychology. 77 (pt 2). June 2007: 271-88.
- Topping, KJ and S. Trickey. “Collaborative Philosophical Enquiry for School Children: Cognitive Gains at 2 Year Follow-Up.” British Journal of Educational Psychology. 77 (pt 4). December (2007): 787-96.
- Fair, Frank, Lory E Haas, Carol Gardosik, Daphne D Johnson, Debra P Price, and Olena Leipnik. “Socrates in the Schools from Scotland to Texas: Replicating a Study on the Effects of a Philosophy for Children Program.” Journal of Philosophy in Schools. 2.1 (2015): 18-37.