Philosophy for children in Australia: Then, now, and where to from here?

Re-Engaging with Politics: Re-Imagining the University, 45th Annual Conference of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia, ACU, Melbourne, 5-8 Dec 2015 (2016)
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In the late 1960s Matthew Lipman and his colleagues at IAPC developed an educational philosophy he called Philosophy for Children. At the heart of Philosophy for Children is the community of Inquiry, with its emphasis on classroom dialogue, in the form of collaborative philosophical inquiry. In this paper we explore the development of educational practice that has grown out of Philosophy for Children in the context of Australia. Australia adapted Lipman’s ideas on the educational value of practicing philosophy with children in order to advance children’s social and intellectual capacities and dispositions. This has subsequently led to its development by both scholars and practitioners in directions that may or may not have been what Lipman had initially intended and to discussions on the nature and educational value of varied approaches that have been implemented in the classroom. To understand fully the effects of these changes requires an understanding of the towering influences that Peirce and especially Dewey were to Lipman. Whilst Lipman developed his own educational philosophy, he freely acknowledged that philosophy for children owes a debt to Peirce for the concept of the community of inquiry and to Dewey for his guidelines on education. We will explore various ways in which the practice of philosophy for children has been implemented and analyse its expansion. This will achieve a better understanding of the possible future directions for classroom practice and research.

Author Profiles

Gilbert Burgh
University of Queensland
Simone Thornton
The University of Wollongong


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