Philosophy For Children November 2020
This week in collective worship we have continued to explore the theme of compassion. One morning Year 2 pupils explored the question, ‘Should we also have compassion for an ant? As usual with our children, the responses we get to questions like this are both inspiring and profound.
We have learnt through Philosophy for Children what a mistake it is to underestimate children’s critical thinking, to treat them as if they were empty vessels. On the contrary some evidence would have it that divergent thinking (that is thinking which is creative, spontaneous and free-flowing and explores lots of possible solutions) is at its healthiest and active when we are young and actually declines as we get older. Here are some of the children’s thoughtful responses: – ‘Ants are living things like us and they are therefore equal to us…ants are part of the food chain so if you kill them you are making it difficult for other creatures…I like wildlife and I don’t want any of it to die…if you were small like an ant and an ant was big like you, you wouldn’t want it to hurt you.’
Philosophy For Children is now a recognised worldwide movement and practice. The teacher, as facilitator, supports the children in their thinking, reasoning and questioning, as well as the way the children speak and listen to each other in the dialogue. In fact in some ways watching ‘how’ the children engage in the discussion; how respectful they are; their active listening and the way they deal with other points of view, is a sobering experience when one considers how inept too many of us adults are at this basic but critical skill. It is well documented that P4C has an impact on children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. P4C is about getting children to think and communicate well; to think better for themselves.
One child said, “P4C is a unique learning place. It really gets me thinking deeply and often makes me think- ‘is that really what I think?’ You can experience lots of different things such as confusion or frustration because you just can’t think of the right word. You can learn something you didn’t know before; you can build on whatever other people are saying. You can learn a lot but most of all, I enjoy it.”