Having trained with both SAPERE and The Philosophy Shop I’ve spent a lot of time recently reflecting on the merits of democratising philosophy, enabling teachers and other non-academic philosophers to experiment with philosophical enquiry for the benefit of their children I’ve also seen some of the disadvantages of this; poor quality sessions, a lack of insight into philosophical potential of topics and a superficial treatment of fascinating philosophical ideas.
As I once said to Roger Sutcliffe at SAPERE, if fine art was missing from the school curriculum we might propose introducing P4C ‘painting for children’. If we did we might start by experimenting with brushes and other implements, making marks on paper and canvas. Maybe we’d build skills in colour mixing and texture making. At some point in this process – wouldn’t we visit an art gallery or meet a practicing artist?
To visit an art gallery or an artist I suggest, wouldn’t be elitist. We’re not telling children: ‘this is the only art that matters’. Instead we’re saying: ‘this is what art once was, this is what art can be!’ We’re also asking them: What do you think? How will your painting compare, respond or reject this?’
My point is this: why don’t we share beautiful ideas with little philosophers as we would with little artists?
We might also ask: isn’t there some value in inviting practicing artists to work with our children since they understand the process of painting from the inside.? And what of philosophers, don’t they have valuable insights and experiences which could be similarity enriching?
It seems to me that The Philosophy Shop is motivated by a love of philosophy as a subjects as well as a practice. Their requirement that facilitators have degrees is an attempt to try and ensure that children have the opportunity to explore the history of ideas as well as the ideas in their class. Like Peter, I too was concerned to discover that many teachers who were practicing P4C with children hadn’t gone on to grow as philosophers in their own right by taking part in adult enquires and investigating the philosophical ideas of professional philosophers.
I think this is a shame. But in many cases this lack of philosophical experience (or occasionally curiosity) doesn’t stop some of these teachers from doing some wonderful work with their kids.
Teachers are the people who have the opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of children. They spend six hours a day with their class and they know them with a degree of intimacy that an external practitioner (like me) can never achieve. They are also resourceful and can borrow from philosophical enquiry applying strategies in their teaching across the curriculum.
Both approaches are supported by compelling reasons – both practical and philosophical. I’m sure many of us would agree that there’s room for both in this growing field.
The Philosophy Shop http://www.thephilosophyshop.co.uk/
This post is by Grace