Philosophy for Children, Northwest
Dale Cannon, director
Philosophy for Children. What is it?
The Philosophy for Children program is an internationally recognized and
internationally utilized program for developing the entire range of reasoning
skills in young people from grade level K through 12. Its central aim is
to help young people become more thoughtful and more reasonable persons.
There are currently seven components to the program: three early elementary
grades ( Getting Out Thoughts Together--- reasoning about experience
Wondering at the World -- reasoning in nature and Looking for
Meaning -- reasoning about language); two for middle school and junior
high (Philosophical Inquiry -- basic reasoning skills and Ethical
Inquiry -- reasoning in ethics); and two for secondary school (Writing
How and Why -- reasoning in language arts, and Social Inquiry --
reasoning is social studies). Other components of the program are being
The program has been extensively implemented in the U.S., Canada, Australia,
Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, in some cases in whole school
districts at all levels. Extensive testing, particularly at the middle-school
level, has repeatedly demonstrated participation in the program to have
significant impact on improving basic skills, performance in other subject
areas, and readiness for learning generally.
Curriculum materials include a storybook writen specifically for each
level of the program, a comprehensive instructor's manual to accompany
each storybook to guide facilitators in the effective management of children's
philosophical discussions, a program rationale, Philosophy in the Classroom,
and other related books and materials. The storybooks, which are about
young people involved in reasoning through a wide range of issues and ideas
on their own, are used as springboards for guided classroom discussions
centered upon issues the students find of interest.
The program has been developed by the Institute for the Advancement
of Philosophy for Children, Montclair State College, Upper Montclair, NJ
07043 (tel. 201-893-4277). The institute oversees the training and accreditation
of teacher-trainers and coordinates implementation of the program internationally.
For further information, curriculum materials, and availability of teacher
training in the Pacific Northwest region, Contact Professor
Dale Cannon , Philosophy for Children Northwest, Western Oregon University,
Monmouth, OR 97361 (tel. 503-838-8335)
The Approach of Philosophy for Children to the Development
of Reasoning Skills
The distinctive approach of Philosophy for Children lies in its assumption
that reasoning skills are best developed where young people are involved
in open-ended, peer group discussions of ideas in which they are themselves
interested and where each holds the others of the group responsible for
reasoning well. Thus it places the intellectual play of philosophizing,
which is native to young children, at the center of reasoning skill development.
It regards philosophy to be primarily a matter of thinking about thinking
-- or, more specifically, to be the effort to gain sovereignty over one's
thinking through clarification and progressive refinement of the ideas
and principles with which one thinks, so that they make better sense on
reflection in common among peers. The program does not attempt to inculcate
any particular philosophical theory or viewpoint -- only good reasoning.
The program assumes further, that, similar to the way language is naturally
learned, the skills and disposition of reasoning well on one's own are
internalizations of what is first experienced interpersonally. It is in
discussions that children develop the habits of alert and skillful but
also thoughtful and considerate thinkers. And just as language is learned
more readily in play, Philosophy for Children helps children learn to reason
well in discussions where they are free from having to come up with pre-determined
results and free to follow up and explore their own ideas in relation to
those of others.
Success of the Philosophy for Children program depends on having teachers
who are genuinely interested in philosophical inquiry as described above
and who respect, and seek to encourage, the efforts of children to realize
sovereignty over their own thinking. Learning to be a teacher of the program
consists of learning how to effectively guide philosophical discussion,
through a course of apprenticeship and supervised practice, how to enable
children to shape the agenda of discussion, and how to avoid being the
repository of answers.
Experience has shown that substantial guided practice is normally needed
for the successful implementation of the program. Philosophy for Children
is no commercial gimmick that would demand from the teacher little thought
or reorientation from business as usual in order to implement. It is actually
a novel realization of the discipline of philosophy in a manner appropriate
to the classroom. Yet teacher competency in the program can readily be
aquired in a workshop by anyone who has a genuine commitment to philosophical
inquiry with children. Keeping this in mind, teacher training workshops
can be tailored in a variety of ways to meet the needs of individual teachers,
schools and districts.
Regardless of the level of the curriculum they will be implementing in
their classrooms, teachers are introduced into the Philosophy for Children
program by (1) experiencing the formation of a genuine community of inquiry
in which they are participants and given responsibility for enabling that
formation, (2) becoming skilled at drawing out the ideas and reasoning
of others in relation to each other -- i.e., enabling a philosophical discussion
to emerge, prosper, and progress, and (3) becoming acquainted with the
philosophical issues raised in the specific program components they will
have to deal with and how to handle them effectively. This typically takes
a minimum of 30 hours of workshop time. Training works best when (1) it
can be connected with supervised implementation in the teacher's own classroom,
(2) when it takes place in a retreat setting removed from competing interests,
(3) when it is not spread over too long a time, and (4) when teachers implementing
the program can participate in a support system to discuss their experiences.
Successful workshops have been designed as regular college courses,
5 to 14 day retreat experiences (these tend to be well-liked by teachers),
contracted in-service on-site courses of training (e.g., on consecutive
days, one day per week for several weeks, a series of weekends, a series
of evening seminars combined with practicum experiences), among other possibilites.
An optimal introductory, one-component workshop for teachers living at
home would be 7 to 8 days in length; shorter worshops under these circumstances
tend to create an ''overload.'' In any case, content and format can be
adapted to school and district needs.
Prices vary widely among these options, depending on teacher trainer honoraria,
length of workshop, and the number of teachers in a workshop. Additional
costs would include provision of books and materials for each, plus any
expenses enabling teachers to attend the workshop. Graduate credit validation
is available for a reasonable fee for on-site workshops. For further information,
contact Dale Cannon , who also may
be able to put you in touch with teacher trainers closer to your location.
Training for Individual Teachers
Individual persons desiring training should contact Dale
Cannon , Coordinator for training in Oregon, indicating current status,
address, phone number, component of the curriculum in which training is
desired, and what times you might have available for training (e.g. a 1
to 2 week workshop at the begining or end of summer). You will be kept
informed of upcoming open workshops in the region . Regularly each Winter
term at Western Oregon University, a Wednesday evening course (for graduate
or undergraduate credit) is offered from 4:30 to 7:30 PM, which serves
as an introductory workshop. The program component used in the workshop
varies from year to year.
Philosophy for Children Awareness Sessions
Presentations on the Philosophy for Children program for educators, board
members and/or parents can be arranged from a brief 1 ½ hour demonstration
to a full day presentation of the entire program, sampling of different
components, a demonstration with children, and videotapes of the program
Additional Training Opportunities
In-service consultation and mini-workshops are available to be conducted
on resoning skill development, including both theoretical perspectives
and practical guidance, from ½ day to 2 full days in length. (This
is outside of and not a substitute for regular teacher training in Philosophy
for Children.) A mini-workshop specifically on the development of reasoning
skills is available on a ½ to 1 day format.
Philosophy for Children, Northwest
Western Oregon University
Monmouth, OR 97361
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Copyright © 1997 Western Oregon University
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Last Modified 12/2/96