meeting youngsters where they “are at”: demonstrating its advantages

Childhood and Philosophy 15 (1):1-26 (2019)
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When Mathew Lipman first introduced Philosophy for Children to the world, his goal was not to sneak a little academic philosophy into the typical school curriculum, as one might expect from the titles of his first books: Philosophy in the Classroom and Philosophy Goes to School. His goal, rather, was to create a paradigm shift in the field of education itself: namely, to transform the typical hierarchical model into one in which the teacher/facilitator solicits responses from students and hence, in that sense, meets them where they “are at.” This non-hierarchical model, however, has stumbled in taking root, which is, perhaps, not surprising given that the hierarchical model, whether in school, in sport or in the home, appears to be so much easier and so much more efficient. If those of us who support a non-hierarchical model in all these arenas are serious about furthering this approach, it would appear that the onus lies with us to articulate precisely in what ways a hierarchical model falls short. In so doing, we will not only provide ourselves with a precise framework by which to make the case for the importance of adopting a non-hierarchical approach, we will also provide ourselves with a metric whereby we can measure whether our own non-hierarchal practice is true to its justification; and that the approach is not simply non-hierarchal for sake of being non-hierarchical, nor quasi-authoritarianism for the sake of more wide-spread acceptance. It is the articulation of the flaws of a hierarchical model that non-hierarchal model can correct that will be the focus of the analysis here.

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