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1. it's got very noble roots.
P4C was the brain child of Matthew Lipman, an American educational philosopher who wanted to design an innovative method for enhancing children's capacity to think critically, creatively and compassionately. In the early 1970s, he and his partner Ann Margaret Sharp started writing philosophical novels about kids exploring the meaning of their lives, adapting the learning-by-doing ideas of John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce. With these books, he and his team helped kids connect to their philosophical spirit, resulting in an innovative curriculum for all ages, from kindergarten through high school.
2. it's all about community.
With P4C, young people bond over questions they find intriguing and contestable, becoming a Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CPI) committed to the pursuit of meaning, truth and value. As a group, they explore complex issues that resonate with them, discuss possible answers together and discover the diversity of human experience. Through dialogue, they learn to be comfortable with uncertainty, listen attentively, resist their own biases, steer clear of stereotypes and appreciate each other's perspectives. The motto? Many heads and hearts are stronger than one!
3. it's the kids who come first.
In a P4C community, young people take the reins: they are the ones to identify the dialogue topics, generate their own questions, exchange among themselves, come up with reasonable positions, evaluate their progress, and grow through cooperation rather than competition. This is called "child-centred learning" because the adult in the circle is not the leading expert but the helpful facilitator of a kid-driven experience, equally interested in the inquiry and dedicated to providing a safe, stimulating context to think things out.
4. it's practiced all over the world.
Since its beginnings, P4C has inspired educators around the globe and is practiced in dozens of countries as an education-for-wisdom model. UNESCO has celebrated and endorsed the P4C model's capacity to promote democracy and peace by helping young people understand and embody good global citizenship. The P4C movement grew out of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) and is now also represented internationally by the International Council for Philosophical Inquiry with Children (ICPIC). Here in Canada, P4C is on the rise, with excellent programs in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
5. it's just plain FUN!
P4C is like a big mental playground where kids can toy with ideas and delight in thinking outside the box with their friends. At Brila, we use a ton of innovative forms to spark great conversations about meaningful ideas, then with our new found inspiration, we delve into creative projects that expand on the participants' favourite philosophical themes, and showcase them through our youth zines. Thanks to P4C, Brila's participants not only build reasoning skills, empathy and creativity, they also leave feeling good about what they have accomplished as a community of imaginative, transformative thinkers.
critical thinking means using good reasoning and analytical skills when constructing and assessing arguments.
caring thinking means taking the views of others seriously and helping arguments to develop.
creative thinking means looking for new perspectives and imagining the implications of arguments.
The P4C pedagogical method is called "Community of Philosophical Inquiry" (CPI) since it describes a group of individuals joined together by a fascinating question that they find worthy of examination through collaborative philosophical dialogue. The aim of the CPI method is to cultivate multidimensional thought, or thinking that is at once critical, creative and caring.
Children develop these thinking skills by practicing self-correction, which involves recognizing errors in their reasoning, accepting criticism, rectifying mistakes, modifying viewpoints in light of new evidence and changing their minds when reasonable to do so. The CPI method is rooted in the assumption that philosophy is the best way of making meaning out of life experiences so should play an important role in children's education.
1. the stimulus
A community of philosophical inquiry session starts with a stimulus that provokes wonder, like a story, art work, video or game, full of conceptual and contestable dimensions about life's possible meanings.
2. the question
The community then responds to the stimulus by generating a list of intriguing philosophical questions based on what puzzled, bothered or enthralled them, and chooses one to explore during their dialogue.
3. the dialogue
Next comes the heart of the inquiry: the community discusses their question together, trying to define key concepts, form reasonable positions, illustrate them with examples and imagine their implications.
4. the assessment
After the dialogue, the community reflects on their collaborative thinking to determine what they achieved and how they can improve—a practice called metacognition, or thinking about thought processes.
5. the project
Finally, the community comes up with an activity to test their position in the real world to see whether it really reflects how they experience life or whether it needs to be fine-tuned. And so the inquiry cycle continues!
Philosophy liberates children from unquestioning, uncritical mental habits, in order that they may better develop the ability to think for themselves. It is self-corrective thinking—thinking inquiring into itself for the purpose of transforming itself into better thinking.
—Matthew Lipman, P4C founder
We have to be awakened to the ethical and political meaning of our experience—emotionally as well as conceptually—before we can sense, and then articulate that there's something wrong with it.
—Ann Sharp, P4C founder
People—including children—who aren't capable of critically analyzing what they are told are so easily victimized. They are far more likely to become ‘true believers' of other people's political agendas, or else completely diverted from serious thought—in either case they have suffered a loss of agency.
—Maughn Gregory, P4C scholar and IAPC director
Philosophy is not perceived primarily as a provider of either skills or answers, but as a site in which children can determine the important questions for our time, and where they can seek their own answers through the practice of thinking for themselves and with others in communal deliberation.
—David Kennedy, P4C scholar and IAPC fellow
Children typically are underestimated, and in no area is that truer than in their capacities for deep, sustained reflection about the world into which they have been born. Listening to children can provide adults with access to insights which can enlarge and expand our own thinking.
—Jana Mohr Lone, P4C scholar and PLATO founder
If we really want to give children the freedom they want and deserve, including the freedom to pursue their own philosophical interests, then we have to reckon with young children who are more assertive, more intellectually independent and less pliable than children have traditionally been taken to be.
—Thomas Wartenberg, P4C scholar
GET YOUR OWN!
Order copies of Pixie, Elfie, Kio & Gus, Nous, Harry, Lisa, Mark and Suki on the IAPC website.
Brila is proud to be part of the vibrant P4C movement within North America and around the world:
some philosophical questions from our youth participants...
Philosophy for Kids: Sparking a Love of Learning
TEDx Talk with Dr. Sara Goering, PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization)
Documentary, University of Washington
Philosophy Is a Right
TEDx Talk with Dr. Charlotte Blease
Big Ideas for Little Kids
Documentary with Dr. Thomas Wartenberg
There are a ton of fantastic books on the theory and practice of doing philosophy with children. Here are some of our favourites.
Click on the covers to purchase the books online.
ONLINE RESOURCE BANK
P4C.com is a co-operative that provides an online library of over 400 resources on doing philosophy for children, including activities, games and lesson plans.
By subscription though free samples are available.
Scholars and practitioners of philosophy for children publish their theory, empirical research and best practices in a variety of philosophy and education journals but these particular publications focus on P4C specifically:
Some regular doses of casual P4C wisdom:
Increasingly more P4C practitioners and organizations are taking to Twitter to share stories and tools. Here are some feeds to follow for tips, tricks and inspiration, or look up #P4C directly on Twitter.
Click on the handles to access the Twitter feeds online.
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