Resources: philosophy

18th May 2001 at 01:00

The Philosophy Club: an adventure in thinking
By Roger Sutcliffe and Steve Williams

Newswise: thinking through the news
By Roger Sutcliffe and Steve Williams

Storywise: thinking through stories
By Karin Murris and Joanna Haynes

"Philosophy is an ancient subject but with a modern significance," as the authors of The Philosophy Club say. In a pluralist society where there are wide differences in belief and opinion, how can we help young people find their own path to meaning? Children have a natural thirst for ideas and discussion, but where do we find time for this in a crowded school curriculum or in a busy life? An answer is offered in The Philosophy Club .

This pack provides ways of introducing philosophy and the discussion of ideas to young people at home, school or summer school. By a "philosophy club", the authors mean a space where young people and adults can share questions, discuss ideas and find their own answers to some perennial problems of humankind. This "thinking space" is not for the aimless chat of playground, or for focused thinking on curriculum content, but is a forum which supports serious and sustained discussion on questions and issues identified by the children.

Newswise began as an internet project, offering topical news stories to develop thinking and communication skills. The authors have now produced an "almanac", including the six editions of 2000 in one volume, which is of particular value for teaching citizenship and critical thinking with older juniors or secondary children.

The Newswise almanac features last year's stories. Does this matter? Most of the topics chosen have continuing relevance, including issues such as poverty and wealth and the environment, but they also provide models for structured questions and exercises that could be used or adapted to stimulate thinking about any news story. No wonder Newswise was recommended in the Crick report as a good resource for citizenship.

The aim of philosophy with children is to develop thinking, citizenship, and literacy. Storywise is a valuable resource that harnesses the power of stories "to open up a space for children's thinking" and develop literacy skills.

It is an updated version of Karin Murris's ground-breaking Teaching Philosophy through Picture Books . The focus is on nursery and primary children, but the teacher guidance provides useful advice for setting up communities of enquiry with people of all ages.

Robert Fisher is professor of education at Brunel University.
More on philosophy with children at

A longer version of this review appears in this week's Friday magazine


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