Examined Life: Advanced Philosophy for Kids.

Title: Examined Life: Advanced Philosophy for Kids.
Author/s: White, David.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Prufrock Press (2005).
Format: Paperback (212 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-13: 9781593630089, ISBN: 1593630085.
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas. Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems. Pedagogical aid and/or resource. Philosophical skills and methodology. Student text book. Practical philosophy.
Intended audience/ reading level: Secondary/lower
Purchasing and information: 1) amazon.com 2) barnesandnoble.com
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Examined Life’ is a slightly more advanced (age/level wise) follow up to David White’s ‘Philosophy for Kids’ (also reviewed on this site). The book presents three sections: 1) A theoretical introduction to philosophy with discussion, analysis and evaluation of certain positions and arguments; 2) a more practical/ applied approach to philosophy through games and student activities; 3) a section purely on pedagogical matters for those intending to teach philosophy at this level .
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • Part 1) is comprised of an introduction to the book, which includes teaching information, followed by 10 chapters. Each chapter poses a specific question as a way to introduce and explore a certain philosophical issue/topic. The topics/issues are introduced through selected passages from various classic readings. The order is roughly chronological.
  • With concern to each reading, the author (White) offers commentary on the content in relation to the topic under discussion. The passages and commentaries are then followed by various teaching tips, advice and other helpful information that differs depending on the function and purpose of the reading; this may include e.g. definitions of unusual terms, background information for context (this includes outlines of other philosophical positions that are presupposed), suggested questions to initiate discussion, anticipated student responses and various ways to respond in kind … and so forth. Finally, specific suggestions are offered for ‘curricular integration’ across the various academic subjects and topics.
  •  In sum, the whole process serves the dual purpose of a) introducing various philosophers and their classic texts through a discussion on various issues/questions, b) the inverse – introducing various philosophical issues through specific questions that are discussed in light of particular influential philosophers and their writings.
  • Part 1) chapter examples include: Chapter 1) (the question) “Who Are My Friends?” (the issue) Friendship, (the author/philosopher of the given passages) Aristotle. Chapter 2) “Where Has Time Gone”, Time, Augustine. Chapter 5) “The Sound of a Tree Falling in the Forest”, Perception, Berkeley. Chapter 9) Feminism and Social Justice, Feminism, Bell Hooks … and so forth.
  • ‘Part 2 offers easy-to-use activities that focus on the direct application of philosophy to areas such as critical thinking, language, and the arts [e.g., music and visual design]; Part 3, [A philosophical postlude,] offers a unique perspective just for teachers, a philosophical look at how teachers can become more reflective philosophers themselves’. (Back cover).
Strengths: Obvious strengths of ‘Examined Life’ are as follows: The text is designed as a high-school text book. The text follows on from a previous book (also reviewed on this site) and therefore has a certain continuity with the previous text. The text offers a nicely balanced introduction to philosophy through classic historical writings (which in turn introduces the student to various philosophers) and through various philosophical issues and topics. The text is designed mainly with ‘gifted’ children in mind just short of high school level; this makes the book ideal for ‘general’ early secondary school level. It is also worth noting that books written for this the age level i.e lower secondary level students, are under-represented in secondary school philosophy. The explicit suggestions concerning circular integration may be very helpful for incorporating philosophy into other subjects and units.
Limitations: Although the text may quite readily be used at the high school level, the intended age level is really for upper primary school.

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