Philosophy for Children and its Critics: A Mendham Dialogue

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Abstract

As conceived by founders Matthew Lipman and Ann Margaret Sharp, Philosophy for Children is a humanistic practice with roots in the Hellenistic tradition of philosophy as a way of life given to the search for meaning, in American pragmatism with its emphasis on qualitative experience, collaborative inquiry and democratic society, and in American and Soviet social learning theory. The programme has attracted overlapping and conflicting criticism from religious and social conservatives who don't want children to question traditional values, from educational psychologists who believe certain kinds of thinking are beyond children of certain ages, from philosophers who define their discipline as theoretical and exegetical, from critical theorists who see the programme as politically compliant, and from postmodernists who see it as scientistic and imperialist. The paper is written as a dialogue in order to illustrate the complex interactions among these normative positions. Rather than respond to particular criticisms in depth, I indicate the general nature of my position regarding them and provide references to published material where they have been made and responded to over the past 40 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-219
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2011

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