Session 8: Cultural Contexts of Children’s Thinking
Chair: Roberta Vicentini
Philosophy for Children and Moral Development in the Indian Context
Sanjana Mehta and David Whitebread
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
This paper is based on a study that was carried out using Philosophy for Children as an intervention technique to enhance children’s socio-moral reasoning and behaviour. The sample consisted of 50 students (including 26 boys and 24 girls) aged 12-13 years from grade 7 of an urban school in Southern India.
The Indian education system is characterised by didactic teaching, individual work, a product oriented approach (output being entirely measured in terms of achievement in exams), absence of independent thinking and the presence of unquestioned obedience to authority. In a setting such as this, it could be argued that there is a pressing need to introduce activities that may enhance the children’s abilities to critically analyse situations, make decisions, empathise with people and work cooperatively towards a common goal. The current education system in India is highly effective in developing individuals who can be successful in situations where they have an authority to follow, but is not so effective in preparing individuals to deal with situations where they need to exercise their own judgement. Producing autonomous individuals, according to Matthew Lipman and his followers, should be the foremost aim of education. As it could be argued that the Indian curriculum currently neglects this aim, the present study was constructed to see whether Philosophy for Children could make a significant contribution, particularly in relation to children’s moral development.
The intervention consisted of 22 Philosophy for Children sessions which were audio and video recorded. In order to assess the effectiveness of the programme, further data was collected through children’s thinking diaries, feedback forms, interviews with students and teachers, and field notes based on the researcher’s observations. Pre and post assessments were also carried out with the students using moral dilemmas and personality inventories.
Analysis of this data was carried out in the cognitive, social and emotional domains to determine efficacy of the programme separately in relation to each area and the transfer of these skills to children’s day-to-day life. Moreover, the findings obtained were corroborated against different data sources. The analysis revealed that the programme most positively influenced the social and emotional domains. Gender differences also emerged in relation to some of the outcomes. These findings are discussed in the context of the Indian educational system, the Indian culture and specifically the culture of the school where the programme was implemented.
Fatal Flaw: The Lack of Philosophical Thinking in African-American Children
The Utopia Center
The inability to think critically may be the greatest fatal flaw of the African-American community. However, this inability to think critically is not biologically innate, it has been taught. For generations, African-American’s have been educated in a system that encourages thoughtless obedience in an atmosphere where critical thinkers are often punished. One educational approach has succeeded in encouraging thought in African-American children.
The High/Scope Approach has been scientifically proven to benefit African-American children in profound ways. The participates who were introduced to this approach in their preschool years, at age 27, have not only shown greater academic success, but have also greater social benefits, such as having less criminal arrest and higher incomes. This approach shows great benefits to the individual and to society because it teaches children to think. Within the approach, children are encouraged to think before action and to reflect on action. Children are also encouraged to share their thoughts with their peers. Encouraging children to think and express their thoughts to others lays the foundation needed for future philosophical thought.
Unfortunately, this approach to education is not the norm in the African-American community. Educational emphasis has traditionally been on obedience and rote memorization. Both of which do not require thought, consequently, they discourage thinking. Encouraging children to think philosophically, is not merely an added luxury in education, it is vital to the survival and growth of our society. In the next few pages the tradition of education that silences African-American children’s inner voices and the determent it causes later in life to the individual and society will be explored, as well as, recommendations for the future of philosophy in early childhood education which will not only give the African-American community back its inner voice, but also its life.
Factors Affecting the African Child’s Right to Inquire
DEPT. of Critical and Creative Thinking, African Thinkers University, Enugu, Nigeria
In the 18th century the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau echoing Plato asseverated that children should be free to express their energies in order to develop their special talents. His view suggests that normal development occurs best in a nonrestrictive, supportive environment. According to the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, a child is a person under the age of 18 years . Inquiry, which is subsumed in freedom of self-expression, is a basic right of the African child. The African child is a potential inquirer, from all indications. However, language development, intelligence and learning, the three gunas or modes of material nature, family relations, social relationships, a parent’s involvement in secret cult and socialization affect the right of the African child to inquire. The study views the foregoing amongst others and maintains that if availed to anti-material inquiry, the African child can better the lots of understanding of his/her pristine identity, environment, and control of his/her passion and thus improve human relations.