Matthew Lipman: testimonies and homages

Childhood and Philosophy 6 (12):167-210 (2010)
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Abstract

We lead off this issue of Childhood and Philosophy with a collection of testimonies, homages, and brief memoirs offered from around the world in response to the death of the founder of Philosophy for Children, Matthew Lipman on December 26, 2010, at the age of 87. To characterize Lipman as “founder” is completely accurate, but barely evokes the role he played in conceiving, giving birth to, and nurturing this curriculum cum pedagogy that became a movement, and which has taken root in over 40 countries, from Iceland to Nigeria to Taiwan to Chile and everywhere in between. The movement itself is broader than the program, which has in fact experienced multiple transformations in multiple contexts over its half-century of life. In fact, as many of the testimonies below either state outright or imply, the movement is an emancipatory one and thus implicitly political, infused with all the long-suffering hope for our species inspired in us by the fact of natality, and by our own intuitive faith in the transformative power of reason—or as Lipman came to call it, “reasonableness.” For those seized by its educational possibilities, it presents a sudden influx of sunlight and fresh air into an institution long stultified by its own rigid habitus, and promises the reconstruction of schooling in the image of authentic democratic practice that recognizes and honors the unique capacities of children. As Philosophy in the Classroom—Lipman’s first and now classic statement of educational philosophy--puts it, the movement promises a re-orientation of the goal of education from information (or “learning”) to meaning, and inaugurates the dialogue with childhood and children that follows from that. Lipman was not just founder of this movement but creator, inventor, developer, convener, organizer, faithful soldier, ambassador, apologist, polemicist, propagandist, and, finally, undying optimist.

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Walter Kohan
Rio de Janeiro State University

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