موجز أخبار راديو البلد
  • الحكومة تؤكد إنجاز أكثر من اثنين وستين بالمئة من قائمة التعهّدات التي أعلنها رئيس الوزراء عمر الرزّاز ضمن البيان الوزاري.
  • وزير الخارجية أيمن الصفدي، يعلن أن الأردن يعمل بالتعاون مع عدد من الدول والهيئات المعنية؛ على تنظيم مؤتمر لبحث سبل تجاوز الأزمة التي تعاني منها "الأونروا"
  • عشرات المستوطنين يجددون اقتحام باحات المسجد الأقصى من جهة باب المغاربة، وبحراسة من شرطة وقوات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي.
  • أمانة عمان تزيل مئة وتسع وتسعين حظيرة ذبح للأضاحي، وتحرر أكثر مئة وستين مخالفة لعدم التزامها بشروط السلامة العامة.
  • وفاة خمسة أشخاص وإصابة حوالي أربعمئة وتسعين آخرين، بحوادث مختلفة خلال عطلة عيد الأضحى.
  • وحدة تنسيق القبول الموحد تستقبل أكثر من ثمانية وثلاثين ألف طلب التحاق الكتروني بالجامعات الرسمية.
  • وأخيرا.. يطرأ انخفاض على درجات الحرارة نهار اليوم، وتكون الأجواء صيفية معتدلة في المرتفعات الجبلية والسهول،و حارة في الأغوار والبادية والبحر الميت.
Teaching Children to Philosophize
Dr. Aseel Al-Shawerb
2015/05/28

I would like to begin my first monthly article with a proverb by the philosopher Immanuel Kant: “We cannot learn philosophy, but we can learn to philosophize.” In this article, I will discuss the teaching of philosophy to children in kindergarten, which was the subject of my Ph.D., thesis twelve years ago, and my suggestions, as well as the suggestions of others, for the development of the education system.

 

I will not go into a theoretical debate about the relationship of childhood to philosophy, the contrast and convergence between them, or the problems related to the subject, but I will begin with two key principles: the nature of a child and his capacity for wonder and astonishment, which forms the basis of philosophy, and the child’s ability to learn philosophy and to practice it.

 

The first principle refers to the inquisitive child’s love of constantly seeking to fulfill his innate astonishment, and to those tools which make everything “click” for the child taking his first steps in the practice of philosophical thinking. Here, philosophy begins in some form or another through thinking, asking questions, and dialogue. Thus, the methods practiced by the child in every moment of his life become invaluable.

 

The second principle is the child’s ability to learn and practice philosophy. This is supported by the latest psychological and neurological studies and scientific achievements in these fields which all point to the enormous learning capabilities of children.

 

The child is able, based on what has been recorded, to practice philosophizing and ensure that logical standards govern and orient his thinking process, however this thought process does not necessarily mimic the adult way of thinking about things.

 

Research, including the results of my own study which I conducted in 2003 on a sample of children in kindergarten, has shown that children who study philosophy tend to be better academically, and achieve a higher level of creativity in all of its dimensions: Originality (presenting new and original ideas when discussing topics), Flexibility (the ability to exercise flexible thinking when thinking about traditional templates), and Fluency (ability to deal with a multiplicity of ideas and new alternatives). They also display a higher level of self-confidence than others.

 

The payoff for a child practicing philosophical thinking is evident in the child’s academic performance and social relationships. Practicing philosophical thinking helps the child develop many effective communication skills, for example: the technique of critical listening, good conversation skills, the ability to reason heuristically when appropriate, and the associated ownership of the tools for thinking used in the scientific method such as accurate observation, inference, hypothesizing and the ability to draw subsequent conclusions.

 

 

Why teach children to philosophize?

 

Today, we live in a world that is characterized by constant cognitive momentum and technological progress. Enveloped in that environment are the living systems of the entire world. It is essential to impose a comprehensive review of the curricula and teaching methods to suit these changes and ensure that future generations of human beings are capable of facing the development and changes in all areas of life. A return to the teaching of philosophy is one of the most important contemporary educational trends. By presenting philosophy in an interesting, functional and practical way at an early age and by linking philosophy with life and its problems, students will move from obtaining mere knowledge of philosophy to becoming active philosophers themselves, applying it in their own realities. Using philosophical principles in a rational discussion about the problems and issues apparent in real life acts as a gateway to critical thinking. This behavior is one in accordance with ethical considerations and personality trends as well as one that is open to the science and respectful of the available body of knowledge.

 

To establish a holistic education system that integrates philosophy, it is necessary to start from the early stages, which is exactly what the contemporary American philosopher Matthew Lipman did in the 1950s. At that time philosophy was considered the work of each individual, not linked to a certain age. He called for the teaching of philosophy to children in order to familiarize them as young students with free and independent critical thinking.

 

Lipman’s method gave rise to suitable teaching methods based on story, dialogue, art and drama. These methods are still selected in the field and are suitable to be applied by all teachers. The methods are based upon cultural inquiry in the school being dependent on the questions of the children themselves and the proposal of topics, narratives and stories that affect the lives of the children and are linked to their reality. Support for thought-provoking subjects that create an atmosphere of freedom, and support for dialogue and discussion related to those issues, is key.

 

This philosophy was met by widespread acceptance, was adopted by UNESCO, and the program has spread to a number of countries which have developed educational systems that aim toward the progress of the modern civil state but, alas, these programs are absent in African and Arab countries that suffer from political tyranny due to restrictions imposed by governments on education systems, directed by narrow interests.

 

Lipman began his project of teaching philosophy to children when it was discovered that  the American education system suffered from poverty of thought among children. This was in large part because the educational subjects were given directly to children though they had no practice in critical thinking. He began his project through telling children’s stories, which is considered an effective educational tool to provoke thinking once the child listens to the story and recognizes the new information and characters. This called for a debate which raised questions and occupied philosophical research. The main necessity of this rational debate was to discover a means that would promote alertness, awareness and understanding in the child to his world–a means that would aid in his formation of the meaning of things, the new meaning of his experience, and help make his thinking accurate, logical and open.

 

Teaching philosophy to children, whether based on the approach of Lipman or of another, is an educationally valuable investment. It forms a solution to confronting the coming education challenges and responding to them with simple tools which teachers can adopt. Let us cast aside all calls that put philosophy away in an ivory tower, far from the public education system and far from childhood.

 

Dr. Aseel Al-Shawerb is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Sciences at the University of Petra. She has conducted dozens of research studies and authored academic papers on topics related to learning and teaching, such as, parental perceptions about appropriate developmental practices in kindergartens, and perceptions of student teachers majoring in classroom instruction.

 

*The Arabic version of this op-ed article appeared on May 20, 2015. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of AmmanNet.

 

Translated by Julia Norris

 

 

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