Philosophy is often thought of as a discipline that is too abstract, deep, and rigorous for children to comprehend. However, children are natural philosophers who are capable of raising and contemplating philosophical questions on their own.
In this blog, we will explore why teaching philosophy to kids is important, what philosophical questions are, and how we can teach philosophy to children in a way that engages and excites them.
What Are Philosophical Questions?
Philosophical questions are questions that raise fundamental issues about the nature of reality, knowledge, values, and existence. These questions do not have straightforward answers, but instead require careful reflection, analysis, and critical thinking. Philosophers have been asking these types of questions for centuries, and many of them remain unresolved.
For example, what does it mean to be free? Can we be both determined and free? What is the nature of right and wrong? How do we make meaning in our lives knowing that we will eventually die? These are the kinds of questions that philosophers ask, and they are questions that children ask naturally as well.
Why Teach Philosophy to Kids?
Philosophy is not only reserved for academia and intellectual elites. It is a discipline that is relevant to everyone’s daily lives, as it encourages individuals to think deeply about the world around them and to question their own assumptions and beliefs. Philosophy teaches critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills, which are essential for success in any field.
By teaching philosophy to children, we are encouraging them to become active learners who are curious about the world and are willing to engage in thoughtful conversations with others. Moreover, teaching philosophy to kids helps provide them with the mental tools to be better equipped to handle the challenges they will face in their personal and professional lives.
For example, philosophy can improve critical thinking skills, which are essential for academic success and lifelong learning. By exploring different perspectives and ideas, children can learn to analyze and evaluate information, think creatively, and develop problem-solving skills.
Second, philosophy can enhance children's social skills and emotional intelligence. By engaging in philosophical discussions, children can learn to listen and respect others' opinions, express themselves clearly and respectfully, and develop empathy and understanding.
Third, philosophy can help children develop their own sense of identity and values. By exploring philosophical concepts such as ethics, morality, and justice, children can reflect on their beliefs and values and learn to articulate and defend their positions.
Lastly, teaching philosophy to children can foster a love of learning and intellectual curiosity. By introducing children to a wide range of philosophical ideas and questions, they can develop a passion for learning and a desire to explore the world around them.
How to Teach Philosophy to Kids?
Teaching philosophy to children does not mean giving them complex philosophical texts to read. Rather, it involves engaging them in age-appropriate conversations that encourage them to explore their own thoughts and ideas about philosophical concepts. Researchers suggest teachers and parents can introduce philosophy to children by simply asking them to reflect on the questions they ask themselves late at night or during quiet moments. Children’s responses can be used as a starting point for a philosophical discussion.
Teaching philosophy to kid also involves the use of fun and creative ways to convey complex topics. For example, storytelling involves using stories, fables, and parables to introduce children to philosophical concepts in a relatable and engaging way, followed by a discussion about the philosophical themes and questions raised. Encouraging children to ask questions and explore different perspectives is an important aspect of teaching philosophy, as is playing games that involve critical thinking and reasoning.
In addition, the concept of the Community of Inquiry is a structured approach to teaching philosophy that involves a group of students engaging in a collaborative philosophical discussion.
Finally, children can be taught philosophy using art, music, or creative writing, children can express their philosophical ideas and explore complex concepts in a more abstract and imaginative way.
Studies show that incorporating philosophical concepts and teachings in classrooms is beneficial for both students and teachers. Philosophy is considered both a challenging, yet rewarding topic by students and teachers that leads to discourse, debates, and expands students’ worldview. Moreover, incorporating philosophical elements into teaching and pedagogical settings can greatly improve the learning experience.
It is important to note that there is no single correct answer to a philosophical question. Instead, there are better and worse answers, and the process of arriving at these answers is just as important as the answer itself. Therefore, it is essential to create a safe and supportive learning environment in which children feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions without fear of judgment or criticism.
Tips for parents and educators:
Beatty, J. E., Leigh, J. S., & Dean, K. L. (2009). Philosophy rediscovered: Exploring the connections between teaching philosophies, educational philosophies, and philosophy. Journal of Management Education, 33(1), 99-114.
Bialystok, L., Norris, T., & Pinto, L. E. (2019). Teaching and learning philosophy in Ontario high schools. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 51(5), 678-697.
Pardales, M. J., & Girod, M. (2006). Community of Inquiry: Its past and present future. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38(3), 299-309.
Välitalo, R., Juuso, H., & Sutinen, A. (2016). Philosophy for children as an educational practice. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 35, 79-92.