Teaching Diary: Philosophy for Kids (24/9/2015)

[Originally published on the 24 September 2015]

Teaching Diary: Reading to kids and Philosophy for Kids! 🙂
Today was an exhausting 12 1/2 hour day! Tonight was Family Library Night at my primary school. The first event of the evening was reading a story to a group of kids in the library.

Then it was time for me to introduce and facilitate my new ‘Philosophy Club’ for the first time! I first had a bunch of tiny kids looking at me with puzzlement after some parents/teachers shooed them in my direction and said “listen to what this philosopher guy has to say about something or other.” So they sat down not knowing who I was or why they were there (although there were a few kids of my co-workers who showed up because they seem to think I’m kinda cool).

I decided to talk about the infamous paradox of the ‘Ship of Theseus.’ This first group turned into pure chaos. After laying out the problem of one ship possibly turning into another (or does it remain the same ship?) I soon found myself helplessly watching them after they got a hold of my whiteboard marker and began drawing more ships on the whiteboard until there was an entire bloody fleet of them…which one of them was THE Ship of Theseus? I’ll be damned if I knew!

After 15 minutes a second group of kids magically appeared, and this time many of the parents remained to listen. This group didn’t have the obsession to use my whiteboard marker, but one girl kept asking “why are we asking all these questions?” She was in effect asking the question that some adults pose when they say “what’s the point of philosophy?” Her older sister tried to tell her that we were asking questions, and as we came up with answers we were then asked even more detailed and difficult questions, which over time gave us a greater understanding of the overall idea we were thinking about. The younger sister wasn’t impressed. So I think I lost one kid (although her other two sisters did seem to like this class, so they might drag her to Philosophy Club every week anyway).

Once we had covered the basics of the Ship of Theseus, some of the parents then got involved and began asking questions (since the questions I am asking are the same questions that philosophers have been asking and discussing for thousands of years and haven’t arrived at an answer, even adults want to get involved). I ended up talking with one parent for 45 minutes after my Philosophy Club ended.

Exhausting day but it looks like enough kids will show up to keep my class going every Thursday, and who knows, they may even tell their classmates and through word of mouth others might show up (that is how things worked when I was a university tutor).