Philosophy - Legendary thoughts

7th December 2012 at 00:00
An interpretation of ancient myths for the modern world

TES talks to 13-year-old pupil Alfie Blagg about the importance of Philosophy for Children and how a book called The If Odyssey got his class hooked.

When did you become interested in philosophy?

I was about 7 when I had my first lesson with the Philosophy Foundation at primary school. Peter Worley's book The If Odyssey encouraged us to examine stories in an analytical way, which is helpful when you are studying English or history.

What did you study from the book?

Lots of stories about Troy and the adventures of Odysseus. I particularly enjoyed the tales about the Trojan Horse, the Sirens and the Lotus Eaters: they are presented in a way that is really easy to understand. It helped that we were dealing with questions of philosophy, but we were hooked on the stories.

But we're talking about ancient Greece. How did this help?

Yes, but while the world has changed hugely in 2,500 years, we still have the same needs and dilemmas. In stories such as the Lotus Eaters, where Odysseus is offered juice that would make him happy but would prevent him from going home, a lot can be learned by asking why Odysseus didn't choose short-term happiness.

How does The If Odyssey work?

We were told the story of the Laestrygonians and we were all intrigued. Then we were asked whether it is OK for humans to eat other humans, which left our brains swirling. We had to discuss it with the person sitting next to us. Suddenly, everything you think comes out at once; everyone's talking and you find a solution. We had 12 sessions over a term and we all learned the value of thinking differently.

What was your favourite part?

Debating. One of the techniques is called Socratic "elenchus": you have to define a concept, such as happiness, and see if you can come up with a situation that challenges your definition.

What did you say in the letter you wrote to education secretary Michael Gove?

I suggested that philosophy is put on the national curriculum, because children are being taught subjects, not how to think, which is the basic thing you need for everyday life. If children are taught to really think, everything in school should become a lot easier.

The If Odyssey: a philosophical journey through Greek myth and storytelling for 8 to 16-year-olds by Peter Worley is published by Bloomsbury Education. It is available through the Philosophy Foundation: bit.lyT1xfNu

What else?

Explore the wonders of ancient Greece using the TES collection. bit.lytesAncientGreece

Learn how to apply Philosophy for Children in your classroom with this Ofsted guide. bit.lyOfstedP4C.

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