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Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun Questions That Help You Wonder about Everything! Paperback – January 1, 2001
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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For teachers familiar with the Community of Inquiry approach used in many philosophy for children activities, this book is worth examining. It provides an alternative approach that focuses directly on philosopical issues as raised by noted philosophers. In the hands of gifted teachers, White's apprach to philosophy for children, especially for gifted students, may encourage a childhood study of philosophy more akin to philosophy as done in many college classrooms. This can be a plus as long as the disparity between intellect and character is avoided.
--James S. Kelly, Department of Philosophy, Miami University, Oxford OH, Teaching Philosophy
About the Author
David A. White has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Toronto and has taught philosophy in colleges and universities since 1967. He has written 10 books and more than 50 articles in philosophy, literary criticism, and educational theory. In 1985, he received a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to study the function of myth in Plato's philosophy. From 1993 through 2007, he taught programs in philosophy for the gifted centers and various magnet schools of the Chicago Public School system, the International Baccalaureate program at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago, and Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development, grades 4 through 9. White is an adjunct associate professor in the philosophy department of DePaul University. White is married to a philosopher, Mary Jeanne Larrabee, and has two sons, Daniel and Colin, both of whom, as demonstrated by their advanced knowledge of mathematics and the principles of computer science, are much smarter than he is.
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Some great things about the book:
* There's continuity amongst the topics.
* The book has teaching notes in the back to help you direct the discussion.
* Each chapter ends with 2-4 follow-up questions that help you dig deeper if your student is really interested in the topic.
* Very accessible and well written.
* Little to no preparation involved if teaching a class.
Can you doubt that you exist?
Do we control technology or does technology control us?
"I am lying." True or False?
Two or three mornings a week, the boys and I start our academic day with these sorts of questions from David A. White's Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun question That Help You Wonder...About Everything. Philosophy for Kids is aimed at children 10 and up but could easily be used with somewhat younger gifted children, depending on verbal skills and their ability to think abstractly.
White's Philosophy for Kids is broken down into four sections: values (ethics), knowledge (epistemology), reality (metaphysics), and critical thinking (logic) -- each divided further into 10 questions. While this rather order-driven mom is covering the chapters in order, one could easily jump around through the book, following the kids' interest, as the author suggests. Most chapters end with a reference to another questions in the book, which could guide the leader's path as well. Either way would work.
Each chapter begins with a brief discussion of the question and (for the first 29 questions) a short introduction to the philosopher whose viewpoint is under examination for the lesson. Midway through the discussion, the reader/listener does a brief exercise designed to deepen understanding about the question and examine personal thoughts and beliefs. For example, question #16 (Knowledge) explores Immanuel Kant's examination of knowledge, asking, "How can you tell when you know something?" The introductory exercise asks how the reader knows that 2 +2 = 4 and how you know an apple you are holding is red. The answers are multiple choice, and after one answers (and we do these aloud), White identifies the answers that would follow Kant's philosophy, and further explanation of subjective versus objective knowing follows. Each chapter ends with two to four questions for further thought. Some are quite challenging, and the first "For Further Thought" in this chapter is no exception, as White poses the question, "What is the difference between knowledge and belief?" White guides the reader somewhat, suggesting to first differentiate between an opinion and a belief then move to the distinction between belief and knowledge. Brief notes in the back of the book give a bit of additional information about the philosopher (or, in the last 11 chapters, question) at hand as well as add some guidance for leading a discussion on the topic. I'm not sure who appreciates the additional information more, the boys or I.
White includes a general introduction to philosophy and guiding philosophical conversations with kids (and he has a number of years experience teaching philosophy to children and college-aged folks). The book ends with a resource list for further philosophy reading for children and adults, a brief list of suggestions for integrating philosophy across the curriculum, and a glossary complete with references back to the questions. The book is easy to navigate and enjoyable to simply browse and explore, which is White's intent.
While one could add additional readings or assign the "For Further Thought" questions as essay assignments, the process of philosophical thought should remain the focus of study. Philosophical thought comes more naturally to some people than others, and while some may poetically say that children are "natural philosophers", and my kids certainly ask questions ad infinitum, the jump from questioning to philosophical thinking still can take some encouragement and practice. White's book has been an excellent way to start growing more formal philosophical thought.
Our next philosophical stop is likely David White's The Examined Life: Advanced Philosophy for Kids, although probably we won't begin that journey until the next school year. That's likely to depend on the direction the boys want to take next. As for me, once my philosophical brain starts grinding away, I'm eager for more grist for my mill. It's been over 20 years since I've had a philosophy class, and I've missed that sort of thinking. Thanks to David White for setting that mill into action again.
This book would be best suited for young (of age) adults to discuss with a little wine and weed. Well laid out, a fun read but not suited for children.
That's just me.