Article: Should Schools Teach Morality?

Philosophy Now | Issue 127: August/September 2018

Philosophy for Children is all about encouraging inquiry into moral standards, but should schools also try to teach moral behaviour?
The controversial nature of many ethical principles seems to pose a hurdle, but philosophy of education professor, Michael Hand, argues that there is sufficient agreement on some basic standards to support the cultivation of morally desired dispositions.

Resource: Cultivating conceptual questions

“What colour was Theseus’s ship?”

“Does Locke’s prisoner have an Xbox?”

“Were there sprinkles on the donut?”

These questions are likely familiar to anyone who has attempted to run a philosophy session with primary school children – but how do you guide the discussion to more conceptual questions?

Writing for the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, PhD student Rosie Scholl explains how the ‘Question Quadrant’ technique can help.

Read more here:

Article: Merleau-Ponty on the importance of full-body learning

Aeon Magazine | 02 August, 2018

Fordham University political scientist, Nicholas Tampio enlists the work of the 20th-century French philosopher,  Maurice Merleau-Ponty to argue for the importance of physical interaction in learning,  and to push back against the the trend of screen-based education.

“According to Merleau-Ponty, European philosophy has long prioritised ‘seeing’ over ‘doing’ as a path to understanding. Plato, René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant: each, in different ways, posits a gap between the mind and the world, the subject and the object, the thinking self and physical things. Philosophers take for granted that the mind sees things from a distance. When Descartes announced ‘I think therefore I am’, he was positing a fundamental gulf between the thinking self and the physical body. Despite the novelty of digital media, Merleau-Ponty would contend that Western thought has long assumed that the mind, not the body, is the site of thinking and learning.

According to Merleau-Ponty, however, ‘consciousness is originally not an “I think that”, but rather an “I can”’. In other words, human thinking emerges out of lived experience, and what we can do with our bodies profoundly shapes what philosophers think or scientists discover. ‘The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived world,’ he wrote. Phenomenology of Perception aimed to help readers better appreciate the connection between the lived world and consciousness.

Philosophers are in the habit of saying that we ‘have’ a body. But as Merleau-Ponty points out: ‘I am not in front of my body, I am in my body, or rather I am my body.’ This simple correction carries important implications about learning. What does it mean to say that I am my body?

Read more here…

Study: Evidence for lasting cognitive benefits of primary school philosophy

British Journal of Educational Psychology | Volume 77, Issue 4 (24th December 2010)

In a study of 148 students from eight primary schools across Scotland, researchers at the University of Dundee found significant gains in cognitive ability for those exposed 16 months of weekly of philosophy sessions – compared to a control group . Two years later a follow-up study found that these benefits continued into secondary schools.

(Topping & Trickey, 2010)

Read more here: Topping, K. J., & Trickey, S. (2007). Collaborative philosophical inquiry for schoolchildren: Cognitive gains at 2‐year follow‐up. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(4), 787-796.   

Report: A large-scale study on the benefits of Philosophy for Children sessions

Education Endowment Foundation | July 2015


An investigation by researchers from Durham University measured the impact of a year of weekly philosophy for children sessions on 3159 students in 48 schools across England. Their key conclusions were:


1. There is evidence that P4C had a positive impact on Key Stage 2 attainment. Overall, pupils using the approach made approximately two additional months’ progress in reading and maths.

2. Results suggest that P4C had the biggest positive impact on Key Stage 2 results among disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for free school meals).

3. Analyses of the Cognitive Abilities Test (a different outcome measure not explicitly focused on attainment) found a smaller positive impact. Moreover, in terms of this outcome it appears that disadvantaged students reaped fewer benefits from P4C than other pupils. It is unclear from the evaluation why there are these differences between the two outcomes.

4. Teachers reported that the overall success of the intervention depended on incorporating P4C into the timetable on a regular basis. Otherwise there was a risk that the programme would be crowded out.

5. Teachers and pupils generally reported that P4C had a positive influence on the wider outcomes such as pupils’ confidence to speak, listening skills, and self-esteem. These and other broader outcomes are the focus of a separate evaluation by the University of Durham.

Article: How in-school philosophy can combat extremism

BBC News | 8th November 2017

Since 2011, Bjorn Ihler, one of the survivors of Norway’s Utoya island massacre, has dedicated his life to combatting the kind of extremism that motivated its perpetrator, Anders Brevik.

Through the ‘Extremely Together’ initiative, Ihler now campaigns for the teaching of critical thinking and philosophy in schools.

“Students need to learn to analyse the information they receive, and to understand that there are many ways to interpret information, rather than see the world as black and white.”

Ihler also recalls how the advice of his former philosophy teacher helped him in the aftermath of the attack.

“I was all over the place, I couldn’t make sense of anything, so I decided to call my old high school philosophy teacher,” he says.

“He had taught me that people can see the world in different ways. If Breivik had had him as a teacher, I think things could have been very different.”

Read more here…

Article: When it comes to P4C, UK schools could learn a lot from the French.

The Guardian | 20th June 2018

Does culture make us more human? Is desire a mark of our imperfection?  To prove an injustice, do you need to know what is just?”

These are just a few of the questions faced by French high school students as they sat down at their final philosophy exam last June. Writing in the Guardian, Philosophy Foundation co-founder and co-CEO, Peter Worley argues that British students would benefit from facing a similar challenge.

Read more here…

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Good morning. French students are taking their high school philosophy exams today. Here are a few of their test questions for you to ponder: <br> <br>- Does culture make us more human? <br>- Is desire a mark of our imperfection? <br>- To prove an injustice, do you need to know what is just?</p>&mdash; Katy Lee (@kjalee) <a href=””>June 18, 2018</a></blockquote>

Video: Dr Sara Goering argues that children are ‘natural philosophers’

YouTube | TEDxOverlake

Dr. Sara Goering is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Member of the Program on Values in Society, and Program Director for the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children at the University of Washington, Seattle. In a talk at TEDxOverlake she argues that children are natural philosophers, and that encouraging this will help them fall in love with learning.

Research: Philosophy for Children with Additional Support Needs

In 2017 researchers from the University of Strathclyde explored the effectiveness of the Community of Philosophical Inquiry method among children with additional support needs in Scottish schools. They found that all children in the study were able to participate effectively in the philosophical discussion, with teachers reporting improved listening behaviour and increased confience as the sessions progressed over the course of ten weeks.

Read more here…