A Elfie: Student Book
Elfie is in the first grade and is so shy she can't speak in class and can hardly even formulate a question. Yet little escapes her in the goings on in the class, and her mind puzzles over everything that happens to her friends, in the classroom and at home. When the principal proposes a contest aimed at improving reasoning, her whole class is caught up in explaining the nature of sentences, the relationship of subjects to predicates, the making of distinctions and the recognition of connections. At the same time, she and her classmates discover many distinctions fundamental to inquiry: the differences between appearance and reality, the one and the many, parts and wholes, similarity and difference, permanence and change, and change and growth.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN
Philosophy for Children is the brainchild of Matthew Lipman, PhD, distinguished scholar and professor of philosophy, at Montclair State University. The cradle of philosophy for children is the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children, or IAPC, of which Dr. Lipman is the founder and director. Dr. Lipman's unassuming nature belies the revolutionary nature of Philosophy for Children, Philosophy for Children deviates radically from the teacher learner paradigm in which the teacher "bequeaths" or "dictates" his or her know-how to the student, a metaphorical "empty vessel".
Philosophy is one of the most ancient and prestigious of all academic disciplines. Philosophers in Greece were known as "friends of wisdom", or as those who cultivated excellence in thinking.
But for 2500 years, philosophy was thought to be too difficult a subject for children to study. It was therefore restricted to courses in the colleges and universities. Yet it has long been known that children's reasoning and moral judgment need to be strengthened. The most appropriate source of assistance was obviously those subdivisions of philosophy known as Logic and Ethics. But how could these branches of philosophy be made available to children?
The answer began to emerge in the third quarter of the 20th century. It began to dawn on educators that a major aim of education is to make children more reasonable, and if this were so, then the process of education should focus on the improvement of thinking. After all, if Reading and Writing are taught to children under the auspices of Literature, why not make Reasoning and Judgment available to children under the auspices of Philosophy?
Children do not need to learn philosophy. Rather as with reading and writing it is something one does. An added advantage of introducing philosophy into the homeschool has been the realization that this would be an ideal way of having children study values, for in philosophy, conceptual analysis plays a major role, and values are, among other things, concepts of importance.
This is the background out of which Philosophy for Children emerged in 1969 and has been playing an increasingly significant role in education ever since. Today, Philosophy for Children is the outstanding curriculum for homeschool philosophy.
In Philosophy for Children, students begin by reading texts in the form of stories. These stories are about fictional children who discover how to reason more effectively, and how to apply their reasoning to life situations. These stories are then discussed by the children in the classroom. Many problematic issues are encountered and examined. The students deliberate among themselves, and this process of deliberation is then internalized by the individual students: they become more reflective and begin to think for themselves. These deliberations evoke thinking that is skillful and deliberate, thinking that employs relevant criteria, is self-correcting, and is sensitive to context. It is not just any kind of thinking: it is critical thinking.
The classroom dialogue is something students find irresistible: they can't help joining in, contributing their own reflections to the discussion. In this way, cognitive skillfulness is acquired and in context, rather than in isolated drills.
Although Philosophy for Children is suitable for any child, it is not something that can be readily taught by any parent without assistance. We highly recommend the companion teacher manuals which explain how to facilitate dialogue and the formation of a propery inquiry.
Philosophy for Children sharpens children's linguistic, logical and cognitive competence. If any subject should be added to the school curriculum, it should be philosophy. And if philosophy is to become a mandated subject in the schools, there is no better way of offering it than through the Philosophy for Children approach.
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 developed.
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.
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