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Should We Teach Philosophy to Children?

Should we teach philosophy to children? You’d have a hard time, I imagine, convincing many readers of this site that we shouldn’t. But why? It’s not self-evident that Kant’s ethics will help Johnny or Susie better navigate playground politics or lunchroom disputes, nor is Plato’s theory of forms likely to show up on an elementary school exam. Maybe it’s never too early for kids to learn intellectual history. But it’s less clear that they can or should wrestle with Hegel.

Perhaps the question should be put another way: should we teach children to think philosophically? As we noted in an earlier post, English educators and entrepreneurs Emma and Peter Worley have answered affirmatively with their Philosophy Foundation, which trains children in methods of argumentation, problem-solving, and generally “thinking well.” They claim that practicing philosophical inquiry “has an impact on affective skills and… cognitive skills.”