Friday, March 29, 2013

Prof. Kenneth Kidd to Speak at SDSU on April 11th!

We here at SDSU and the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature can't get enough of the University of Florida's Dr. Kenneth Kidd. First he virtually visited us last October for an illuminating brown bag discussion session of a chapter from his book Freud in OZ. And now he will be right here with us (live! in the flesh!) to speak about his research on the Philosophy for Children movement of the 1970's and its resurgence in child-rearing and children's literature now.

Please join us on Thursday, April 11, 2013 from 5:00 - 6:30 pm in Hardy Tower room 140  (HT 140) to hear Professor Kidd's lecture followed by a question-and-answer session. We are all extremely excited to have him here, and you should be too! 

Professor Kidd kindly wrote up an introductory piece to acquaint us with his talk, so here we go:

On Thursday, March 27, 2013, the NPR blog written by Robert Krulwich featured a story with the title "Socrates (In the Form of a 9-Year-Old) Shows Up in a Suburban Backyard in Washington." The entry describes how Washington, D. C. based musician, blogger, and camera man Zia Hassan, visiting his fiance during a babysitting gig, comes across a young boy with an interest in cosmology. Teasingly Hassan asks the boy about dark matter, and is stunned to hear the boy's nuanced, careful answer. The ensuing discussion, taped with the boy's permission, is now on YouTube with a million and a half views so far. The boy is not named, but simply referred to as The Philosopher. "Where," asks Krulwich, "did he learn about multiverses, free will, the odds of intelligent life in the universe? How does he manage to be so aware of what he doesn't know?" (Meanwhile, the Philosopher's young brother talks just as philosophically about baseball). The piece is a meditation on the curiosity and wisdom of children, and on the importance of parental encouragement. Krulwich quotes Hassan: "I think there are a lot of kids who think about interesting things. It's my guess no one really asks them about it." The moral seems to be that if adults were less afraid of what their children might think or say, their children might think or say pretty deep things.
Such was a core assumption of the Philosophy for Children movement, or P4C for short. In 1970, inspired by 1960s social activism and eager to promote critical thinking in young people, philosophy professor Matthew Lipman published his philosophical novel for children, Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery, which was used for teaching purposes in the Montclair public school system of New Jersey. Its success in the classroom alongside positive media attention helped lead to the establishment of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC), headquartered at Montclair State College where Lipman was appointed. Students involved in IAPC programs ostensibly saw significant improvements in their reading and critical thinking skills. Under Lipman, the IAPC devoted itself to producing pedagogical materials, beginning with additional novels written by Lipman and accompanying teacher workbooks. Lipman also designed graduate level programs in the field of Philosophy for Children and in 1979 founded Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children, which folded in 2011. Other universities as well as various institutes also undertook work with public school students. Wikipedia reports that “Before the Department of Education cut funding for such programs in the early 1990s, there were over 5,000 programs in K-12 schools nationwide which engaged young people in philosophical reflection or critical thinking, more generally. This number has dropped substantially.”
While support for P4C programs has faded, the idea that children are natural philosophers persists, and lately we've seen a resurgence of this notion, in child-rearing literature, in writing for children and young adults, and in how-to volumes such as Dr. Seuss and Philosophy. This presentation focuses on the P4C movement, and on ongoing claims to the child as exemplary philosopher. Special attention is given to the place of children's and young adult literature, and also to the connections between P4C and a related enterprise, "theory for beginners."

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