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Permalink to “It’s a hard life” says Grace

“It’s a hard life” says Grace

This has been an exciting summer. In August I flew to Cape Town to give a paper and take part in an international conference on philosophy with children. I was joined by philosophers and educators from across South Africa and the rest of the world – some were familiar faces like Lizzy Lewis from Sapere, Pete Worley from the Philosophy Foundation , Karin Murris from Cape Town University and Darren Chetty from IOE and Power to the Pupils. Many more were unfamiliar faces giving accounts of the educational challenges faced by South African children and teachers, speaking of the African ethic of Ubuntu and the impact of philosophy in African schools, colleges and communities.

The programme for this conference and all the papers given are available here.

This was the International Council on Philosophical Inquiry with Children’s (ICPIC) sixteenth conference and the first in South Africa. It was also my first trip and it was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited; beautiful and sobering in equal measure; somewhere you can spend the morning on Robben Island where only a few decades ago Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for opposing apartheid; then, in the afternoon, climb Table Mountain and look down on the beautiful city from above the clouds.

My paper, in case you’re interested, looks at the role of narrative in ethical enquiry with children. In it, I present a view of the nature of narrative and ethics, and the relationship between the two. Narrative, I argue, is at the heart of ethical life and learning. We live and learn by virtue of the stories we tell and the stories that are told to us. This is possible not only because these stories present us with vivid ethical contexts, but also because successful engagement with and enjoyment of these narratives requires the exercise of capacities that also help us lead good lives.

Permalink to A philosopher’s first steps

A philosopher’s first steps

Leeds Philosophy Exchange developed the philosophical skills of each child in some way. How one student developed was particularly interesting, although each of the student’s development in the Exchange is worthy of a blog post, this is a great example of how projects like the Exchange work.

The Exchange ran a total of nine sessions for each year group. During the earlier sessions ten year old Stan made frequent contributions that were often praised by peers. Once the rest of the class had begun developing their philosophy skills to a similar level, his began to be challenged. As the sessions went on, Stan began contributing less in the class discussions.

On the surface, it could appear that Stan’s development was heading in the wrong direction: a cause for concern. However, when it came to discussion in smaller groups the contributions he made were well-expressed, thought through and showed they were very aware of contrasting opinions. Each time they were directly aware of the problems of the particular issue raised; it was evident that he was heading in exactly the right direction. Through the class discussion he wasn’t distracted or daydreaming, but spending the time in deep-consideration over the issue at hand; considering the responses to each opinion offered.

Stan was demonstrating key skills in philosophy. He was no longer saying the first thing that came to his mind, but spending time reasoning through the process. His contributions improved in clarity and logicality; he provided more well-rounded opinions that would then stand a better chance in the face of challenges from peers. Stan has by no means perfected these skills but he has had a promising start in applying them.

When Stan was asked how he had changed since starting to do philosophy he said, ‘I think a lot more’. Along with other students: ‘It helps me learn other things’, ‘I think carefully, I don’t miss out details’ and ‘I think about my work more’. The transferable skills and the development evidenced by Leeds Philosophy Exchange demonstrates the need for philosophy in schools and the value of projects like this.

This post is by philosophy student intern Emelia

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