Philosophy in Schools

An Introduction to Philosophy for Children and Community of Inquiry

Now half a century old, the influence and reach of Philosophy for Children (P4C) has become a significant educational and philosophical movement. Today, P4C is practiced, interpreted, debated, researched, and recreated in more than 60 countries around the world. Since Matthew Lipman & Ann Margaret Sharp established the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) at Monclair State University in 1974, P4C and the associated pedagogy of Community of Inquiry have been taken up in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, children’s shelters, youth groups, teacher education departments, universities, and government education departments around the world. Children’s philosophical practice has given rise to new understandings of the meanings of childhood, adulthood, and, indeed, of philosophy.

Discourses of P4C and the Community of Inquiry both inform, and are informed by, other fields of scholarship and practice such as cognitive psychology, pragmatism, critical theory, critical pedagogy and literacy, posthumanism, democratic and alternative philosophies of education, moral and social education, argument literacy, and contemporary childhood studies.

Historically, P4C has offered a distinctive and critical take on broad areas of teaching, such as thinking skills, global citizenship, children’s literature, emotional literacy, inclusive education, and distance and online learning, and in subjects such as science, mathematics, literacy, religious studies, social studies, environmental education, and gifted education. It has been taken up in all phases of education.

Philosophy for Children offers a distinctive perspective in a number of key areas of inquiry and provides a counter-narrative to psychological and sociological perspectives that often dominate educational discourse. Its radical move, in bringing child and philosophy together, has made a unique contribution to the blurring of disciplinary boundaries and opened up new avenues for scholarly inquiry. P4C is a field in its own right through its articulation of philosophy in, rather than of, education. The integration of philosophy, inquiry, and community creates tension and harmony between form and content and positions PC as a ground-breaking and imaginative critical pedagogy and methodology, not only of teaching but also as a mode of general inquiry and research.

– Adapted from: Maughn Rollins Gregory, Joanna Haynes, Karin Murris, The Routledge International Handbook of Philosophy for Children, Routledge, 2016

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VAPS promotes critical and creative thinking among young people.

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