Sunday, January 16, 2011

Teaching Philosophy, Early

Though a few weeks late, a memorial article for Matthew Lipman just appeared in the NYTimes. (I had coincidentally looked at his Wikipedia page on Dec. 27 and was startled and sad to see that he had the previous day. It also affected how I think about Wikipedia!)

Lipman believed that the habits of critical thinking could and should be taught early, and he started the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children.

While some people (including some of my philosopher friends) believe that even college freshman don't yet have the cognitive maturity to tackle philosophy, Lipman believed that children, who are engaged in figuring out the mechanics of a complex world, have the ability to learn tools of logic and ethical and critical thinking. His working group has harnessed the natural curiosity and questioning of children to stimulate philosophical patterns of thought, such as drawing distinctions and discovering implications. And if test scores show success, then this program has had success.

The NYTimes quotes from one of Lipman's books for children:

Harry, like his author, came to believe that the most important thing in the world is thinking.

“I know that lots of other things are also very important and wonderful, like electricity and magnetism and gravitation,” Harry said. “But although we understand them, they can’t understand us. So thinking must be something very special.”

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