The kids are alright

May 26, 2011

Children should be seen and not heard... who says? A Philosophy academic at The University of Nottingham is challenging the adage by teaching primary school children to argue properly.

For the past three years Dr Andrew Fisher —an academic in the Department of Philosophy — has run Philosophy clubs in primary schools in the Bilborough area of the city, to raise aspirations and self-belief.

“The idea is not to have the children coming away reciting Kant, or Plato,” says Dr Fisher. “It’s simply to get them to think for themselves and to be able to express their opinions and feelings.

“Some people might think encouraging children to argue is asking for trouble, but it’s a crucial skill to have.”

The clubs were set up through Nottingham City Council’s Education Improvement Partnerships (EIP), which ensures children from disadvantaged areas get the very best from their education.

“The Philosophy clubs have been great for the children in these schools,” says the EIP’s Anne Lindley. “Andrew has a fantastic way with the children and they enjoy thrashing out ideas in the sessions.”

Teaching philosophy to primary school children isn’t without the odd humorous outcome. “I remember one pupil,” says Dr Fisher, “who said ‘I can now go to bed later, because I can argue with my mum’.

“Philosophy frees the children in their relationships and allows them to take risks in their thinking, which is vitally important.”

The clubs are also proving that Philosophy is every bit as relevant as other academic subjects and of interest to those who haven’t been exposed to it before.

”If the clubs achieve anything I hope they empower the to not always just accept what they’re told. It’s an important skill to have in life, a skill some adults would do well to work on.”

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