Foundations of Philosophy (ages 9-11)
with Sally Zeiner
The Little Prince
Our reading from The Little Prince led us into some new and interesting philosophical discussions. In class we read small excerpts and then used these as starting points for our discussions. As always, we work to establish our criteria and evidence, rather than just stating our opinions.
First we considered the Turkish Astronomer who made his presentation "in Turkish costume, and so nobody would believe him."
1. How do we determine whether a person is qualified? What biases might get in the way?
Then, with the help of Aristotle, we considered friendship.
The pilot points out that, "When you tell them about a new friend, [grown-ups] never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: 'What does his voice sound like?' 'What games does he like best?' 'Does he collect butterflies?' They ask: 'How old is he?' 'How many brothers does he have?' 'How much does he weigh?' 'How much money does his father make?'"
The pilot says grown-ups will believe the little prince existed if you say, "The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612." He says grown-ups won't believe he existed if you say, "The proof of the little prince's existence is that he was delightful, that he laughed, and that he wanted a sheep."
The Little Prince says that he misunderstood the flower. “The fact is that I didn’t know how to understand anything. I ought to have judged by deeds and not words.”
How do you know a person is your friend?
For homework, students should read through Chapter XIX. They should also write a paragraph either about Aristotle's criteria for friendship (do they agree or disagree with Aristotle, and why?), or reality (Are plants and stones equally real? Are centaurs and square circles equally real?).
Philosophy for Children (ages 12-14)
with Rich Piscopo
Secrets and Trust
This week after briefly discussing the Hunger Games movie and its themes (truth has power, truth threatens oppression, tyranny uses fear to control, hope beats fear, women are very powerful and know how to use that power -- the Greek myth of Atalanta comes to mind, cooperation works better than competition, a charismatic figure who brings hope can be very threatening to an oppressor -- here, the Christ story comes to mind), a student brought up the issue of children's rights. She thought that children don't have as many rights as adults.
(We discussed this and I referred her to "Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery," Professor Lipman's first Philosophy for Children novella, the novella with which we began our Mosaic P4C journey. In it, Professor Lipman devotes much time discussing children's rights.)
A second student responded to her comment by poignantly observing that she felt too old for her own age group, but too young for an adult age group. The other students all related to this comment. I said that it must be challenging to navigate such an "in-between" time. They said it was indeed challenging. I assured them that this awkward time will pass, and, if they stay disciplined and diligent, and open and receptive to life, they will find their place in the overall scheme of things.
We then moved on to the notion of secrets. In the novella "Lisa," we started Chapter 4. It begins with Millie sharing secrets with her pet Peruvian guinea pig, Pablo. One student began the discussion by saying we keep secrets because we are afraid of being judged. Another then said that the test for a good friend is if they can keep your secrets. We just applied the critical thinking skill of establishing criteria for the idea of friendship, which we spent quite a bit of time on earlier in the term!
The dialogue continued: The students agreed that secrets are based upon trust, and trust is based upon reciprocity (a concept we discussed in Chapter 2.) Therefore, secrets are based upon reciprocity; i.e., you trust someone with your secrets only if they trust you with theirs first. So we astutely asked, "Who goes first?" To which we replied, "You can trust someone even without expecting trust in return. If you want the relationship, it's worth taking the risk."