Philosophical Inquiry Presentation

Philosophical Inquiry
Thinking broadly, deeply and creatively
in our classrooms
Some grown-up philosophical questions
• Are moral values objective? If two people disagree in their moral
judgments, must one of them be mistaken?
• Can we tell whether other people's experiences are like our own?
• Do we really know the things we think we know?
• Is pain needed to appreciate pleasure?
• Is it really true that (as is commonly said) everyone is entitled to their
own opinion?
Philosophy begins in wonder.
And, at the end,
when philosophic thought
has done its best,
the wonder remains.
(Alfred North Whitehead, 1934, p.46).
Children’s philosophical questions…
• Do things exist only if someone is thinking about them?
• Do we actually respect stronger people or are we just afraid?
• If you are told you are not you, then who are you?
• If you seek vengeance, do you lose your freedom and become a
What is a Philosophical Concept?
Common – interest in every human
Central – importance to our lives (the way
we think)
Contestable – in meaning or value
Why schools?
‘All which the school can or need do for pupils, so far as
their minds are concerned…is to develop their ability to
(Dewey, 1916, p.152)
‘The school’s central focus must be on the intellect, on
helping each young citizen learn to use his or her mind
resourcefully and well’
(Sizer, 1992, p.142)
So what is thinking anyway?
Creative thinking
Looking out, up, around and about
Open minded, curious
Critical thinking
• Looking at, through, in between
• Seeking truth and understanding, strategic, probing
Reflective thinking
Looking within
Caring thinking
• Making connections
(Ritchhart, Ron (2002). Intellectual Character
What It Is, Why It Matters, and How To Get It.
Lossey-Bass: San Fransisco)
(Ann Margaret Sharp)
The Australian Curriculum
Three goals for education:
• Successful learners
• Confident individuals
• Active and informed citizens
‘planning and organising,
the ability to think flexibly,
the ability to communicate well and to work in teams,
the capacity to think creatively, innovate, solve problems and
engage with new disciplines.’
…act with moral and ethical integrity
think deeply and logically.
The general capabilities:
• Literacy
• Numeracy
• Ethical behaviour
• Critical and creative thinking
• Personal and social competence
• Intercultural understanding
• ICT competence
teacher and students are co-inquirers
involves open questions, reasoning, evaluating
subject matter presented as contestable
collaborative and cooperative
everyone’s ideas are valued
How not what
Philosophical Inquiry in the classroom
What does it do?
• Aids the development of general purpose thinking
• Helps build an open mind and inquiring outlook
• Encourages students to think and judge for
• Enables students to assume greater responsibility
for their own decisions and actions.
Philip Cam, FAPSA conference Sydney July 2010
Philosophical Inquiry in the classroom
What does it do?
Allows students to:
• Explore different possibilities and points of view
• Listen to others with whom they may disagree
• Develop a broader, more inclusive outlook
• Take account of other people’s interests and concerns
• Be reasonable in dealing with differences and disagreements
• Engage with one another over matters of common interest and
Philip Cam, FAPSA conference Sydney July 2010
Philosophical Inquiry in the classroom
What does it do?
Philosophy improves academic and social outcomes…
…because it teaches children - to think logically and clearly
- to relate to one another.
They become thoughtful and reasonable citizens.
Faces or people?
Who can spot the word?
Quotes to Ponder…
Philosophy does not fit into a
development process.
Children can DO philosophy that adults
may find hard.
Jonathan Kozol
Quotes to Ponder…
Philosophy can be built around argument
and positions, built on a combat
metaphor. Inquiry isn’t like that. It isn’t
this position or that. It’s a place for
“co-inquiry’ in an intellectually safe
Thomas Jackson
Quotes to Ponder…
In the circle of inquiry we do not try
for closure or consensus; we talk about
the courage to be confused.
Thomas Jackson
Quotes to Ponder…
What makes a person a philosopher?
*searching for meaning in the real world
*in an intellectually safe community
*in a structured way of thinking
*willing to think about things out loud
Thomas Jackson
Quotes to Ponder…
“Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable,
because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain,
and Think of Things,
you find sometimes that a Thing
which seemed very Thingish inside you
is quite different when it gets out into the open
and has other people look at it”
The House at Pooh Corner (A.A. Milne)
Quotes to Ponder…
‘philosophy for children’ doesn’t
change the world, but it has the
potential to change individual worlds
and assist in creating world changers.
Angela Kim

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