I’m returning to reviewing books and suggesting resources – and this one is with huge thanks to Embiggen Books in Melbourne, whose site is always beautifully appointed with the very latest and high quality resources when it comes to… erm, embiggening the mind.
For some time I’ve been involved in supporting the Philosophy for Children methodology (so, warning – I’m biased!) – and this book has a slightly different take on that, as demonstrated on pages 7-8:
There are a number of ways of doing philosophy with children but what they all share is the use of enquiry that is open-ended – extended discussion using questioning and reasoning – for engaging classes. Some recommend enlisting the children to formulate and select questions (Philosophy for Children or P4C) and others recommend the use of carefully constructed questions that are put to the children, such as the start and further questions in this book. The Philosophy Shop can, in some cases, be used either way, but it should be noticed that many of the examples have been carefully selected for their philosophical focus. By allowing the children to choose their own questions the focus may be lost. Having said that, many more interesting philosophical questions may be discovered by the children when they formulate their own questions based on their concerns and interests. many of the more fleshed-out stories… have a good deal more going on than is covered by the prepared questions. A balance between the two approaches is probably the best, so that the focus is perserved but the participants guide the discussion within the remit of the focus.
For my part, I think this misses the important element of democracy and class interactivity that comes with children debating and clarifying a question that they will discuss further by using the P4C methodology, but I do like the way this book has a huge range of topics in a rather hefty volume. The problem is that there isn’t much support in terms of further teachers’ notes, which is something that Lipman and Sharp’s P4C did provide with their manuals. It does, however, have some great advice as to creating your own exercises and I think that this should definitely provide some inspiration for teachers when it comes to creating philosophical adventures in the classroom.
Overall, an interesting and inspiring read that is clearly aimed at children, but would generally be very useful for all ages as a introduction to and expanding critical thinking in classes. The book does recommend that teachers learn how to conduct discussions effectively – such as time management, facilitation skills – by referring to another book ( The If Machine: Philosophical Inquiry in the Classroom) and I would have included more on that in this book, along with the included ‘quick guide to running a PhiE (Philosophical Enquiry)’. I think this is a good addition to my library and although it’s not as highly recommended as (say) Law’s Philosophy Gym for my high-school and older classes, it’s encouraging to have a book that suggests creating activities for discussions using my own experiences.