Philosophy with children, the stingray and the educative value of disequilibrium

Journal of Philosophy of Education 42 (3-4):667-685 (2008)
Abstract
Philosophy with children (P4C) 1 presents significant positive challenges for educators. Its 'community of enquiry' pedagogy assumes not only an epistemological shift in the role of the educator, but also a different ontology of 'child' and balance of power between educator and learner. After a brief historical sketch and an outline of the diversity among P4C practitioners, epistemological uncertainty in teaching P4C is crystallised in a succinct overview of theoretical and practical tensions that are a direct result of the implementation of P4C in mainstream education. These recurring pedagogical tensions in my practice as P4C teacher, teacher educator and mentor of teacher educators cause disequilibrium that opens up rich opportunities for philosophy of education in supporting novice P4Cers. Disequilibrium is a positive force that opens up a space in which educators need to reflect upon their values, their beliefs about learning and teaching, and ultimately encourages educators to rethink their own role. Plato's metaphor of the stingray highlights the role of the P4C teacher educator as model of the P4C teacher in any setting: 'to numb and to be numbed'. The P4C community and its institutions need to address the questions arising from these pedagogical tensions; and this needs to be done with integrity, that is, in communities of enquiry that include children. If not, in the long term, a more instrumental version of P4C may prevail.
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Richard Smith (2011). The Play of Socratic Dialogue. Journal of Philosophy of Education 45 (2):221-233.
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