There is a serious disconnect in the learning experience between the infant stage and school, caused by the fact that each individual creates an unique base from which to learn new skills. In part this explains the difficulty some children have in the classrooms. I am convinced that ‘Philosophy for Children’ (P4C) (http://p4chawaii.org/who-we-are/ ) is the ideal tool to bridge this gap,
Philosophy for Children’ is not what it sounds like; neither learning about the ancient philosophers, nor using what is called the ‘Socratic Method’. P4C involves creating an ‘intellectually’ safe place in which the students discuss ‘philosophical’ questions which, by definition have no hard and fast answer, so that no idea is unworthy of discussion. Students explain their ideas making sure that the whole group understands them. They are encouraged to ask pertinent questions if they do not understand a fellow student, or teacher as their education advances.
If P4C is implemented in very early grades, it does not require any change of curriculum in higher grades. The discussion habits learnt can be continued in Philosophy clubs and/or in sessions in traditional classes.
The focus of education should be on lifelong learning. There is no knowing what graduates will be required to know in an ever changing world, and P4C extends the natural inquisitiveness and love of learning with which children were born. This does not exclude learning skills needed now, but should change the way students learn.
I am planning to run a course, ‘Joy of Playing with Ideas’ for Grades K-6 from July 14th - 17th, as part of the Newburyport Youth Services summer program at the Kelley school. I will have a group of mixed aged children initially enjoying a P4C session based on a story. They may go on to solve a trig problem, using SCRATCH, without assuming anything about angles.
I believe that philosophy for children should be introduced to the Newburyport schools within the visiting scientist program, bearing in mind that the art of scientific invention grew out of philosophy. Professor Thomas Jackson from the University of Hawaii is the driving force behind P4C and has offered to spend up to a week in Newburyport to demonstrate P4C. He would also provide some instruction to interested teachers. To initiate this I need help from people with influence on the visiting scientist program.