Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun Questions That Help You Wonder.

Title: Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun Questions That Help You Wonder.
Author/s: White, David, A.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Prufrock Press (2000)
Format: Paperback (211 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 1882664701, ISBN-13: 978-1882664702.
Area and topic: Core areas/sub-disciplines/branches of philosophy. Philosophy and daily life/culture/experience. Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems. Pedagogical aid and/or resource. Student text book. Practical philosophy.
Intended audience/ reading level: Primary/upper or Secondary/Lower.
Purchasing and information: 1) amazon.com. 2) fishpond.co.nz.
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Philosophy for Kids’ is written as a practical introduction to philosophy for children of upper primary to lower secondary level. The book is structured around the main branches/sub-disciplines of philosophy.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Philosophy for Kids’ offers the following sections: Part 1) Values, part 2) Knowledge, part 3) Reality, part 4) Critical Thinking. The book can be used individually or by the whole class.
  • Each part consists of 10 questions. The process of discussing – and the activities in support of each question is spread over between 1and 3 pages. Questions include: ‘Who are your friends?’ ‘Can computers think?’ ‘Can something logical not make sense?’ ‘Can you think about nothing?’
  • ‘Under each question heading are thought-provoking questions … Each of these is followed by a brief activity that links the question to kids’ lives. [The author then] explains the idea being discussed, and [then] introduces [a given famous philosopher who is generally associated with or] responsible for the idea. This structure [is one of] focusing first on the practical implications and then working backwards to the idea …The way the book is organized makes it … flexible [one can pick and choose any question at random] … Each question provides an independent lesson …The length of each lesson also supports the ease of use’. In addition, one may want to extend discussion or reflection with the ‘For Further Thought’ section i.e. a series of discussion questions at the end of each issue meant for individual contemplation or group discussion.
  • The last section of the book is a teacher resource titled ‘How to Philosophise if You are not a Philosopher’. This section offers information under the four headings: ‘Organization’ which offers  a ‘detailed description of the basic structure of the book’; ‘Classroom Procedures’  which consists of ‘general suggestions’ for presenting the book in class ; ‘Question Review and Teaching tips’ consisting of  ‘a brief summary of the main theme of each question’;  ‘Specific Suggestions’ for presenting the activity and developing the content of each question; ‘Curricular Integration’ which offers ‘a number of possibilities for integrating various questions in ‘Philosophy for Kids’ with standard subjects’ i.e. Math’s, Science, Language arts and Social studies.
  • The third section (Teaching Tips) mirrors each question in the book (one page dedicated to each question) and also includes various links to other questions that are related in some sense to the question under discussion. The book ends with ‘Suggestions for Further Reading’ and a ‘Glossary of Philosophical Terms’.
Strengths: The book is made specifically with classroom teaching in mind. The issues discussed are clear, simple to grasp and represent a wide variety of classic and contemporary philosophical problems. The text covers the main approaches to introducing philosophy i.e. as a set of problems – as a discipline with specific subject matter (ethics, epistemology etc) and as a historical tradition associated with certain prominent names. Furthermore, the issues discussed are presented in a way that offers a nice balance between encouraging independent thought, and teacher guidance with regards to possible answers. The book is aimed at a lower age group, a level under-represented in secondary school philosophy.
Limitations: Although the text may quite readily be used at the secondary school level, the recommended age level for this reviewer is for upper primary to early high school. More advanced students and students beyond this recommended age may (will!) require material that is more in-depth and challenging.

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