“Philosophy is having ideas to make the world a better place,” Adam, 9 years old.
“It’s learning to live better”, Louise, 8 years old.
“Most people first react and then think. That’s why there are so many problems. Philosophy helps us to think first.” Sarah, 10 years old.
It is natural curiosity for children to ask “why?” Although it can sometimes be irritating for parents to answer these endless questions, should we not encourage children to become little philosophers? Philosophy is most commonly associated to the conceptual reflection and reading of great authors therefore we can assume it is out of reach for young children. However, Socrates believed that profound questioning enables progressive reasoning and refined thoughts. So, if philosophy is not only considered as acquiring knowledge but learning to think, there is no minimum age!
Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living”
The world is new to children, and it’s perfectly normal that they have lots of questions about it. Apart from being genuinely and naturally curious, children derive a great deal of satisfaction from investigating the things they find puzzling. Schools and home are usually the starting point, and the ideal places to dive into in philosophical conversations with them. These exchanges can create special bonds and we can be very surprised at their reactions and clarity of mind.
When and how?
A philosophical discussion can happen from an early age and be sparked by many things. It can start with a story, an experience, a picture, a quote, what’s on the news, or just simply an idea… Questions come up, and rather than answering them, what is interesting is to further the exploration of the topic by answering with other questions.
- What makes someone a good friend?
- Someone who has the same interests.
- Does that mean that someone who has different interests can’t be your friend? What is friendship?
Challenging ideas, formulating definitions or giving counter examples can make children explore the nuances of complex ideas.
Philosophy workshops are recommended from the age of 6 and can be very beneficial both individually and to the group. To start off, invite children to participate in establishing a set of rules to make the experience respectful and positive for all. This is essential and makes them accountable and more conscious of their behavior.
Also, it has been scientifically proven that a short meditation can release tensions, connect the mind and the body and increase their focus to begin with the right mindset.
The aims of philosophy workshops, other than giving children a safe space to express themselves and be listened to, is the development of self-confidence, constructing arguments, and having reasoned discussions with each other. It gives an opportunity to explore profound and timeless concepts such as truth, justice, knowledge, love, friendship, and fairness.
“Happiness is a joy that is shared with others”. Julia, 9 years old
“A friend is someone loyal who will always help you,” Chloé, 8 years old.
“Is love and emotion or a feeling?” Arthur, 8 years old.
“Unlike animals, humans are never satisfied. They always want more,” Robin, 10 years old.
What are the benefits?
By engaging in these discussions, young people develop a variety of essential life-long human skills. The benefits are all-round.
Individually and intellectually, children develop independent thinking, self-confidence and a sense of responsibility for their opinions and actions. Several studies in the UK have also proved that there is a direct link between weekly philosophy workshops and increased literacy and numeracy skills.
Socially, by working together and listening to each other and considering different points of view, children develop greater respect and empathy towards others. Raising awareness about ethical issues and tolerance for opposing views gives them essential tools to develop values and principles.
Funding is still is the main difficulty for most schools to offer extra pedagogical workshops. Many schools fear that as these activities are not compulsory in the curriculum, funding is not justified. However, teachers can be trained or even train themselves to animate these workshops through associations such as SEVE (in France and Belgium). The investment is highly worth it as it gives children the tools to become independent and collective thinkers and develops their critical and creative minds.
Combining art and philosophy, Culture Kids has created a great programme for children from age 6 on Wednesday afternoons. Our programme for 2020-21