Session 1: Thinking, Philosophy & Teenagers
Chair: Rob Fisher
As is well known, Matthew Lippman’s approach to philosophy with children centres around the discussion of philosophical stories. The advantage of this approach is that fiction is effective in stimulating student interest. The disadvantage, however, is that reading/listening to a story written by someone else is a passive process. I am currently co-writing a textbook for philosophy with high school students. It features what I am calling the “scenario” approach which, I believe, preserves the advantages of fiction while avoiding passivity.
Each chapter begins with a casual and realistic conversational exchange between two teenagers who disagree (for example, over what love is or whether lying is always wrong). Their disagreement illustrates two philosophical positions on an issue.
I and my co-author have the good fortune of being in the position to test our book and the scenario approach on high school students next year. We plan to begin each two-hour class by asking volunteers to act out the scenario for that week’s chapter. Then we will read about the issue and discuss it in small groups. Students will be asked to formulate their own views, find a partner, and write a scenario of their own. Some will act out their scenarios, and perhaps record them on video. They will always use pseudonyms to encourage experimentation with views they may not be ready to adopt as their own.
In my experience doing philosophy with teenagers, I have found that one of the major challenges students face is learning to view disagreement as a positive thing. My theory is that, by asking the students to adopt active scenario roles, they will begin to enjoy dialogue and incorporate effective dialogue skills into their everyday lives. For this presentation, I will bring video footage of some scenario sessions to facilitate discussion of the pros and cons of this approach.