Big Questions for Little Minds

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Big Questions for Little Minds

This week’s guest blogger is author and editor Robin Twiddy. Robin has a first-class honours degree in Psychosocial Studies, and as today is World Philosophy Day, we got him pondering on the idea of philosophy in the primary classroom.

Our children learn a lot of brilliant, exciting and eye-opening things in the classroom each day. They learn science and maths, they learn about nature and geography, history and art and a hundred things more; but it is rare to hear that primary school children are learning philosophy. But what is philosophy? Is it learning Greek names by rote? Is it remembering German words with too many syllables for the untrained tongue to pronounce? No. Philosophy is about learning how to question, how to think rationally and reasonably, and how to consider ideas outside of our own frame of reference. I ask you: are these not qualities that are best instilled as early as possible?

Now don’t get ahead of yourself, that copy of Being and Nothingness can stay on the shelf for a few more years. But children are natural philosophers; they love to question, so why not start introducing their little minds to big questions?

What is love? What is truth? What does it mean to be a good person? Is everything connected? But children already have the most important question. You know the one: the really big one that kids love to ask. Ready…

WHY?

Guide children through questioning their own assumptions and I think you will be genuinely surprised by some of the brilliantly insightful conclusions they come to. Philosophy is challenging, yes, but it is also rewarding and oh-so valuable. So many things that children learn have seemingly straightforward answers. When was the battle of Hastings? 1066! What two colours make green? Yellow and blue! But some questions don’t have straightforward answers; the whys and the hows can produce more interesting, if less concrete, answers. It is important to introduce children to this idea, to give them the tools to question established knowledge and, most of all, in this age of information, it is more important than ever that we provide our children with the tools to distinguish good arguments from bad arguments. This is the fundamental quality of philosophy, and it is something that we owe to our children, in our roles as educators; be that from the pages of the books we write, or the teacher at the chalkface. Philosophy can start children on a journey of questions and discovery; what more important skill could there be?

“The beginning is the most important part of the work” - Plato

We’d love to hear your thoughts on philosophy in the classroom. Do you use it? How can it enhance other forms of learning? Maybe you have some questions for Robin? Pop over to join the conversation on twitter @BookLifeSocial – we’d love to see you there!