Philosophy in Schools: Then and Now

Megan J Laverty


It is twelve years since the article you are about to read was published. During that time, the philosophy in schools movement has expanded and diversified in response to curriculum developments (see Cam 1993, 1997, 1998; Kennedy 2013; Sprod 2001; Wartenberg 2009, 2013; Worley 2011), teaching guides (see Cam 1994, 2006; Freakley, Burgh & MacSporran 2008; Goering, Shudak & Wartenberg 2013; McCall 2009; Wilks 1996), web-based resources, dissertations, empirical research (Daniel & Michel 2000; Leckey 2001; Garcia-Moryon, Rebollo & Colom 2005; Reznitskaya 2005; Russell 2002) and theoretical scholarship (Davey Chesters 2012; Hand & Winstanley 2008; Haynes & Murris 2012; Kennedy 2006; Kohan 2014a, 2014b; Lone 2012; Lone & Israeloff 2012; Shapiro 2012; Sprod 2001). Philosophy and philosophy of education journals regularly publish articles and special issues on pre-college philosophy. There are more opportunities for undergraduate and graduate philosophy students to practice and research philosophy for/with children in schools. The Ontario Philosophy Teachers Association (OPTA) (founded in 1999) reports that in English-speaking Canada there are over 28,000 senior high school students studying philosophy in over 440 schools, and philosophy is now a Teachable Qualification (for an overview see Pinto, McDonough & Boyd 2006). In the USA, the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) was founded in 2009 to create a network of pre-college philosophy teachers. With the loss of its founders—Matthew Lipman (1922-2010), Ann Margaret Sharp (1942-2010) and Gareth Matthews (1929-2011)—the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) is developing a digital archive in P4C. My original article was inspired by the design (1999) and pilot (2000) of a new philosophy elective for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). This initiative garnered considerable interest from the P4C community because many believed that (a) the decision to offer a VCE philosophy elective reflected the effectiveness and popularity of P4C in elementary schools, and (b) the new philosophy elective would establish P4C as an essential prerequisite for the study of philosophy in senior secondary school and at university. In my view, enthusiasts overlooked an important difference in the conception of philosophy informing the new philosophy elective: it introduced students to the theoretical or academic discipline of philosophy, whereas P4C conceived of philosophy as a wisdom tradition—otherwise known as the art of living.


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