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[Xmca-l] Re: Doing Philosophy with kids

Hi Mike,

By your questions I see I need to provide even more background for this study, which I did find challenging in the space an article-length 
manuscript provides. This study took place in a Texas public school where remedial after school offerings were plentiful and
often mandatory for certain children but non-remedial opportunities were scarce and short-lived. The philosophy club was announced to
the grade 4 students at a beginning of the year assembly and touted as an opportunity for children to talk and think together
as participants in philosophical conversations once a week, after school. As the only school in this district for grade 4 and 5 students, 210 grade 4 students attended this school. The philosophy club was open to all students and the first twenty signed parental permission slips were granted entry. (A similar offering for grade 3 and 4 students in a nearby school district admitted 30 students but the office had to time stamp the returned permission slips and create a waiting list as 62 were returned the first day.) What we found was both students and parents had considerable interest in unique after school learning opportunities when admission was open and without cost.

Attendance did fluctuate slightly over time, primarily due to a few children being required by the principal to attend remedial after school sessions due to poor grades in either reading or math. While all of the children's responses were not included in this article, as I cited in my full-length study,
there was differential take-up of learning opportunities by the child participants. In Informal interviews with several key participants, some children expressed difficulty not focusing on the "right answer" and one child admitted he was uncomfortable voicing his ideas and preferred to write them 
in his reflection journals. The children had the opportunity to respond orally and in writing each session, though I did not include the reflection journal data in this manuscript. 

Thank you for sharing the P4C example from a preschool classroom. Children's literature as a stimulus for philosophical conversation often yields such fabulous results!

Kim Skinner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Literacy Studies
Louisiana State University
School of Education
226 Peabody Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

From: xmca-l-bounces+kskinner=lsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+kskinner=lsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu>
Sent: Sunday, November 8, 2015 12:14 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l]  Doing Philosophy with kids

Kim et al--

I have long been interested in the philosophy for children ideas of Lipmann
and Mathews, as well as the potentials of afterschool activities as a space
in which to enrich children's experiences with the stuff being crammed at
them in school, so it was especially interesting to see the two combined.
The collation of ideas from discursive psychology and Vygotskian, as well
as the toolkit of methods seems to be very helpful in understanding what
was transpiring.

But I came away with a few questions.

Re afterschool. A major question I had as I started the paper was how
successful a "doing philosophy" club would be for 9-10 year olds (which I
assume 4th graders to be). In our work we have always focused on the
voluntary nature of participation, so kids have to want to come. Seemed
like quite a challenge!

Am I right that about half the kids dropped out by session 7 or was it that
attendance fluctuated a lot so that you just happened to have few kids on
sessions 7 and 19? With respect to the question of opportunities to learn
that you raise in the introduction, what should we make of this? Only some
kids like doing philosopy? And of those who liked it,

were opportunities differentially taken up by different kids? It was hard
for me to follow.

I have a question about the use of the term, activity, which is very often
brings me grief when reading Vygotsky and many others because the term
seems to be polysemic within

texts. For example,

"The expression doing philosophy signals philosophy as an activity, like
doing work (Wittgenstein) vs : "I considered an event as a set of
activities bound together by a common theme or purpose."

Would it be doing an injustice to your thinking to refer to events as
(collective) actions that are bound together by the common activity of
doing philosophy"?

I was impressed after reading through the paper how importantly it
contrasts with standard education where the most problematic thing a
teacher can do is to assert that s/he does not know the answer to a
question or that there is no right answer. It seems as if embedding a
"doing philosophy" curriculum in schools that can survive in the very
different set of the ground rules of transmissiong, direct-instruction
regimes is to embed it in the language arts/literacy part of the
curriculum, which in different ways by Mathews and Lipman.

 Below is one of my favorite examples of philosophy in the preschool using
a book and author for whom so many core philosophical issues appear in
appealing form.

Thanks for the informative article.



The Kindergartners in Vivian Paley’s classroom are discussing the story by
Leo Leoni of Tico, a wingless bird who is cared for by his black-winged
friends. In the story, the wishingbird visits Tico one night and grants him
a wish. Tico wishes for golden wings. When his friends see his golden wings
in the morning, they are angry. They abandon him because he wants to be
better than they are. Tico is upset by his friends’ rejection and wants to
gain readmission to the group. He discovers that he can exchange his golden
feathers for black ones by performing good deeds. When at last he has
replaced all the golden feathers with black ones, he is granted readmission
by the flock, whose members comment, “Now you are just like us” (Leoni,

*Teacher:* I don’t think it’s fair that Tico has to give up his golden

*Lisa:* It is fair. See, he was nicer when he didn’t have any wings. They
didn’t like him when he had gold.

*Wally:* He thinks he’s better if he has golden wings.

*Eddie:* He is better.

*Jill:* But he’s not supposed to be better. The wishingbird was wrong to
give him those wings.

*Deana:* She has to give him his wish. He’s the one who shouldn’t have
asked for golden wings.

*Wally:* He could put black wings on top of the golden wings and try to
trick them.

*Deana:* They’d sneak up and see the gold. He should just give every bird
one golden feather and keep one for himself.

*Teacher:* Why can’t he decide for himself what kind of wings he wants?

*Wally:* He has to decide to have black wings.

(Paley, 1981, pp. 25–26)


It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an
object that creates history. Ernst Boesch