Philosophy for Children in Teacher Education: Effects, Difficulties, and Recommendations

By Çayır, Nihan Akkocaoğlu | International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, December 2018 | Go to article overview

Philosophy for Children in Teacher Education: Effects, Difficulties, and Recommendations


Çayır, Nihan Akkocaoğlu, International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education


Introduction

Matthew Lipman initiated philosophy for children (P4C) in the 1970s. Pre-school to high school aged children from many countries were taught philosophy, and had the opportunity to philosophize with their classmates. Thus, P4C research also began. In studies, P4C's relationship with thinking skills (Daniel & Auriac, 2011; Millett & Tapper, 2012), democracy (Bleazby, 2006; Burgh & Yorshansky, 2011), citizenship (Garrat & Piper, 2011; Splitter, 2011) and values education (Cam, 2014) has come to the forefront. In addition to P4C's contributions to children's reasoning skills (Lam, 2012; Marashi, 2009), studies have also noted its impact on children's ability to debate (Cassidy & Christie, 2013; Poulton, 2014). Despite fifty years of such contributions, P4C has been institutionalized in only certain countries, and continues to exist only through concerted efforts of educators; it is not well-recognized globally. In addition to the challenges faced by the promotion of non-traditional approaches in schools, P4C also has its own unique problems. These problems impede an extensive and effective implementation.

Philosophy Education and Philosophy Perception

P4C's main obstacle is traditional philosophy education-the transfer of philosophical knowledge rather than philosophizing (UNESCO, 2009). Schools' traditional philosophy education negatively affects philosophical perceptions. Philosophy is seen as a mass of complicated and confusing information reflecting only the views of philosophers; its relationship with thinking processes and its value in human life are ignored. Popper (2006) says that everybody is capable of philosophy: we can each accept many concepts. Such non-critical assumptions are often philosophical. Sometimes they are true, but often they are fallacies. Whether we think rightly or wrongly can only be identified through a critical examination of the philosophies that we accept. This critical examination is the source and responsibility of philosophy. Popper says that philosophy applies to everybody, especially when approached appropriately. Philosophy education should bridge the relationship between philosophy and our lives, and teach us to think rightly. Kuçuradi (2006) states that the Paris Philosophy Declaration of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s philosophy education encourages thinking, openness, responsible citizenship, understanding, and tolerance. He also asserts that it generates responsibility for ethical problems, especially significant contemporary problems, by promoting independence in thought, and enabling people to question diverse forms of propaganda. In order for these achievements to occur, philosophy education should not merely transfer the history of philosophy, it should also include philosophizing. Kant says that philosophizing, not philosophy, is to be learned (Comte-Sponville, 2006). Philosophy occurs when we ask questions, debate and test thoughts, consider possible evidence against ourselves, and question our concepts (Nagel, 2004). Philosophizing makes it possible to actualize philosophy's critical attitude as well as relate it to human life. Philosophy education should be reassessed through this point of view; otherwise, a philosophy education appropriate for its purpose and aligned with the nature of philosophy will not be realized.

Childhood Perception

Lyle (2014) notes that teachers' perceptions of childhood influence the quality of P4C practices. Hand (2008) explains the misconception that children cannot grasp philosophy, both by exaggerating the cognitive capacity required for philosophy and by underestimating the cognitive capacities of children. Philosophers are often perceived as unattainable intellectuals, disconnected from the practicalities of daily life, giving incomprehensible answers to unsolvable questions (Billington, 2011). As mentioned above, this view is justified by the inadequate quality of current philosophy education, wherein some teachers are not concerned with whether philosophy is understood, and/or believe that its understanding requires special talents. …

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