Preparing Teachers to 'Teach' Philosophy for Children

Laurance J Splitter

Abstract


Like many others, I have resisted the idea that education, in general, is a form of training. We always talk about training for something, while an educated person is not educated for any one thing. But for this very reason, I do not wish to abandon the term ‘teacher training’ in favor of ‘teacher education’, although ideally I would prefer to speak of ‘teacher preparation’ (or even ‘teacher formation’) because the term ‘training’ always reminds me of monkeys. I shall use the terms ‘training’ and ‘preparation’ interchangeably, with both standing in contrast to ‘education’. All persons deserve to be educated; there is nothing specific to teachers here. Teacher training, whether general or specific to a subject or discipline, remains a contentious business. Some regard Pedagogy as a legitimate subject area (I used to teach a subject entitled The Art and Science of Effective Teaching) and structure training around it; others prefer to see teacher training firmly in the context of the various disciplines that teachers will, in turn, be teaching: mathematics, literature, history and, in this case, philosophy. Indeed, when it comes to training teachers to teach philosophy, the problem is exacerbated by the plain fact that most teachers have no formal background in philosophy. So we are faced with the rather daunting prospect of providing such a background (teaching philosophy) as well as providing whatever is needed in order to teach philosophy to others (e.g. children). Matthew Lipman and Ann Margaret Sharp were well aware of this challenge when they set up the first training programs in Philosophy for Children (p4c) at Montclair State College (as it was then) in the early 1970s; hence the requirement that if classroom teachers were not actually qualified in philosophy (however that is interpreted!), at least those who trained them to do philosophy with children should be. However, this idealistic model was always going to be difficult to apply. The problem, as it developed in countries around the world, was two-fold: teachers with little or no philosophical background were, increasingly, being trained by other educators who were in the same boat (hence the fear that however good the pedagogy, there would be little or no philosophy actually being done in classrooms); and conversely, when professional philosophers did become involved in teacher training, it quickly became apparent that they (often) lacked any real training in pedagogy, and so were inadequate to the task of modeling the role of the teacher in the (pre-tertiary) classroom. To look on the bright side, some constructive attempts have been made to resolve these shortcomings. The one with which I am most familiar (being one of those who instituted it) is the Australian model for what is termed ‘Level Two training’, that is, training those who will, in turn, train and work with classroom teachers. This model recognizes the complementary requirements of philosophical and pedagogic expertise, respectively, by awarding certificates of achievement based on whether those trained have come from the discipline of philosophy, the practice of teaching (children), or both. Ideally, then, training workshops for teachers would be directed by at least one person in the former category, and at least one in the latter.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21913/JPS.v1i1.995

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