Should kids learn philosophy?
Subjects like English and mathematics are not only deemed important, but are also compulsory for children in schools. These subjects are valued given that they allow children to learn how to read, learn, communicate reason and solve problems. In the same way, philosophy influences young minds to think for themselves as they develop a unique approach to any given situation/problem. In this case therefore, it becomes clear that philosophy also builds upon other disciplines like science and mathematics given that they involve solving problems. For this reason, philosophy should be included in children's curriculum to allow them an opportunity to employ a unique approach not only in other subjects in their curriculum, but also in their day to day life.
While philosophy may be important for children and their young minds as they develop, it is important to determine how to go about it. As such, it should not affect the rest of the curriculum (other subjects that children are learning) but rather influence them to use reason in their approach to the other subjects making it a complementary subject. For instance, according to Lipman's Philosophy for Children programme, children of about 2 years get to learn about making distinctions and comparisons while those of years 3 to 4 learn analogical reasoning skills and the philosophy of language (Lipmann, 1993). Here, children are not rushed, but rather get to advance their learning of philosophy with time. For a child of 2 to 3 years, they are still learning about numbers, colors and letters etc. Lipman's programme for this age range complements their curriculum, and actually helps them through it. Here, the benefits of philosophy for these children become evident. As they continue to develop, they not only learn how to distinguish and compare, but also reason out problems.
From Lipman's perspective, this not only allows children to learn better, but also influences the sharing of ideas as well as enquiries and conversations between teachers and students, which solidifies their understanding (Lipmann, 1993). Here, the goal is to influence children to use reason. This has the advantage of having them asking important questions, which gives ground for important discussions and builds upon their understanding. Philosophy is also important among intelligent students given that it helps them successfully apply their intelligence in practical life situations. Here, it can be said that it allows them to also be wise, which ultimately ensures that their intelligence becomes beneficial.
According to Gazzard, philosophy for children is important in that it also contributes to their emotional development (Gazzard, 2012). This is so given that it would stimulate their natural interest and enjoyment of learning, enhancing their interest and gradual deeper understanding of subjects/fields that interest them. Moreover, it moves them to feel competent and productive, which would positively influence their self esteem and sense of worth.
Whereas the Piagetian theory holds that a young child is incapable of separating self from the world/subjective from the objective, children do engage in philosophical thinking (defining, generalizing and categorization etc) (Haynes, 2008). This being the case, it is only fair that they start learning philosophy early if they are to successfully develop their reasoning skills and grow to become independent thinkers (Lipmann and Sharp, 1978). For this to become a reality, it is essential that philosophy be integrated in to their curriculum as a complementary subject that will help them learn to apply their knowledge in the real world.
Significance of learning philosophy
By the time children their elementary education, they have already started asking a wide range of questions about life and their surrounding, and thus have began to seek out for the truth. Given that an education is aimed at training the mind, providing knowledge that allows young minds to gain understanding, then philosophy can be viewed as being of value for young children in their first few years of elementary education.
In "The Meaning of Value: An Economics for the Future" Frederick Turner (1990) describes value as something that is of some importance or something useful. Value therefore becomes something that is important and beneficial for people. Given that philosophy drives children to reason out their questions in search for answers, then it becomes a valuable tool for their learning process. In his work, Piaget (1971) identified creativity and critical thinking as primary goals of education. Critical thinking is indeed a major component of philosophy given that it involves the capacity to reason out a problem even before methods of science can be used to prove conclusions. The Education Act of 2002 identified thinking skills as being integral for lifelong learning and preparing students for challenges and experiences later in life.
Piaget (1971) felt that one of the goals of education was to help students be in a position to do new things and not simply repeat what the other generations had done. On the other hand, Plato noted that the unexamined life is not worth living, which simply meant that it is unwise to just accept everything one is taught without questioning it (Plato, 1966). One of the greatest strengths of philosophy is the fact that it allows students to critically evaluate the knowledge they receive and determine whether it should be accepted. Here, philosophy will allow young children to ask the relevant questions, use their logic to criticize given views and critically analyze the views of others. As such, it proves to be a valuable tool through which they can build their understanding of the world around them rather than simply accepting everything they are taught.
For young children in particular, the value of philosophy is that it will instill a culture of critical thinking as they develop and advance in their education. It is therefore only through philosophy that they can attain true knowledge even as they pursue what interests them. For Piaget (1971) ideal education involves presenting ideas/situations that allows children themselves to explore. This allows the children to think critically about what they are interested in, and with the help of parents and teacher, develop their own views, ideas and approaches. Otherwise, a majority of students would simply be memorizing what they are taught without any critical evaluation. As such, they would have a difficult making any positive contribution in social debates in various Areas of life later in life. Therefore, it is false that philosophy has no value to young children.