Steve Williams

PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN is often taken up because of its 'effects'. It is thought worthwhile in so far as it improves scores in literacy, speaking and listening and maths tests. It is praised for its effects on emotional awareness and thinking skills. But I also want to argue that philosophising with children and young people is a good thing in itself. Philosophy calls on imagination and reasoning and puts these capacities to work exploring values, assumptions and vital concepts like justice, truth, knowledge and beauty. A philosophical community of enquiry provides a forum where adults and children can search for meaning together.

It is so important for adults and children to talk together in situations where differences can be welcomed and explored. Normally, they donít talk together in this way enough. It's now recognised that children are influenced by their peers to a far greater extent than we had previously thought. Not surprisingly, young people talk to each other and the talk means something. Itís important and memorable. Adults can make classroom talk memorable too, through philosophy.

Philosophy for Children promotes a forum for open dialogue in which participants are not content to exchange ideas and opinions as if they were bits of information. Instead they ask questions, sift arguments and explore alternatives. Above all, they try to understand each other. It is possible to find a philosophical dimension, and so an opportunity for philosophical thinking, in any subject in the curriculum. If we had the will, we could even give it a curriculum slot all to itself.

p4c at Wharrior Street