“Gee, I never dealt with that question before”: Philosophy for Children

Some years ago, Matthew Lipman, a professor at Columbia University, created the Philosophy for Children program.  The basic tenet was that children were born natural philosophers, and that many of their queries had philosophical import.   On the basis of that tenet, he created a curriculum dedicated to utilizing and developing children’s philosophical skills.  His first book, Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery, proved enormously successful with 5th graders in a New York City school.  His project was quite ambitious, because philosophy encompasses such areas as:  ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, logic, foundations of mathematical and scientific principles, politics, and the law.

In 1973, Professor Lipman established the Institute for the Advancement for the Philosophy of Children at Montclair State College in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.  Using money from grants, he developed philosophical readings and exercises from K-12.  He also provided a comprehensive teacher’s manual with plans for discussions and future projects.

Dale Cannon, a professor of philosophy at Western Oregon State College, describes the five basic elements in the Philosophy for Children program.  “First, a thought-provoking story and subsequent comments.  Typically, in Philosophy for Children, the students read the story aloud, even though they may have read it before.  Second, student interest is what sets the agenda for discussion.  Children are interested in talking in response to what they have read.  Third, a community of inquiry is a fundamental concept for Matthew Lipman and the program itself.  A group of children gradually develop a sense of cooperation in trying to clarify and comprehend what they are working on.  They are pondering about whether the argument makes good sense, and are holding each other responsible as well.  Fourth, a trained adult facilitator is crucial.  The facilitator needs to be able to draw out the ideas of children without saying, ‘ I want you to pay attention to these ideas, these answers, and not those.’  A trained facilitator might say, ‘Those are interesting thoughts you are coming up with, and I wonder where they might lead.’  Fifth, a set of discussion plans and exercises offer guidance when the opportunity for philosophical dialogue presents itself.  The teacher or adult may wonder,’Gee, I never dealt with that question before.  How should I respond to that.’  The discussion plans and exercises represent people who have worked with the program before and offer helpful suggestions to teachers or adults.”

Over the years, the Philosophy for Children program has made its way into many schools as a means of encouraging thinking and promoting discussion.  However, the program does not limit itself to reasoning only.  It also seeks to encourage creativity and personal and interpersonal growth.  Dale Cannon explains in further detail.  “Creative writing is one method of developing creativity.  And there are questions of a philosophical nature that relate to personal/interpersonal growth.  Some examples:  ‘What am I?  How am I like other persons?  How am I different from other persons?  What is my relationship to my own body?  What is my mind?  What is my mind like?  What is imagination?  What is the relationship between imagination and thinking or mind or thought or dreams?’  All of these are philosophical questions that are returned to again and again throughout the Philosophy for Children program.”  Matthew Lipman was a true pioneer in legitimizing a relationship between philosophical concepts and children.

“How would you like your day to be?”: The C.H.I. revisited for children

Rod’s simple question:  “How would you like your day to be?”, helps you to focus your energy and desires.  Moreover, this question could be asked to children to help them clarify what they want in their day, and to help you as a parent gain cognition of their wants.  A simple question, and yet, not so simple.   To craft one’s day requires a special kind of building materials;  those of the mind and heart.  When we put this question to children, it shows them we give importance to their desires, and that we recognize their uniqueness as human beings.  How often children get lost in the hurried shuffle of everyday affairs.  To begin each day with this simple question is to give our children a feeling of power and direction, which is often lost in a world dominated by adults and their needs.  Let’s not forget that it was only in the 19th century that child psychology came into being.  Alice in Wonderland, published in England in 1865 was the first children’s novel to investigate a child’s mental world, and it also foresaw identity crises, denial, now commonplaces in the field of psychology.  Until then, the child was often an object of neglect, tyrannical abuse, work exploitation.  Rod’s simple question brings the child into focus, and gives it a dignity and respect, which it was denied for thousands of years.

Some thoughts and reflections during the Jewish New Year

“God gave us the gift of life.  We don’t need any more.”–Allan Sherman from The Rape of APE

Another year has passed.  To the Jews, the coming of the harvest during the closest new moon marks the beginning of another year.  It is not surprising that the festival, Rosh Hashanah(literally, the head of the year) is one of the most sacred to the Jews, and, indeed, has implications for all.  The Jewish New Year is more than the turning of the calendar, it is a time to reflect on what has been, and to recognize one’s actions.  For me the previous year was truly “laden with happiness and tears”.  I lost my Mom on June 21, one week after her 90th birthday.  But in the loss, my Dad and I formed a stronger bond.  “We will get through this together”.  Nevertheless, I was forced to face a new emptiness:   For the first time, I went to Oregon without either of my parents, surrounded by family portraits.  It wasn’t easy.  Towards the end of summer, I lost my dear friend, Don Donegan, who had been Chair of the Board of Directors of Medford Education International, and had taught me much of what I know about business.  His home was Black Oaks, located on a beautiful stretch of the Rogue River.  I made many a trip to visit him on Pine Gate Way amid a crowd of llamas.  Those visits are over.  However, there were also joys.   I made new friends through the Eagle Point Writer’s Critique Group.  I saw Warm Springs Falls for the first time, and walked down to the re-named T’lomikh Falls on the Rogue River.  Another year.

What follows are some miscellaneous and scattered thoughts that came from a troubled mind:

The term “religious” fanaticism is a strange one.  When we think about a Lewis Carroll fanatic, do we mean someone that takes joy in ripping up editions of Alice in Wonderland?  Hardly.  Does a Beethoven fanatic spend time recklessly destroying CDs of Beethoven’s symphonies?  Absolutely not.  Yet, the people we often call “religious” fanatics, go about gleefully destroying God’s creations.  Does that make any sense?  Wouldn’t a religious fanatic weep when a new child was born,  kiss the trees,  or bless the stars, rejoicing in God’s creations, not destroying them?  I think so.  My belief is that there is a fanatically-oriented personality that grasps “religion”, which is often a dark mask for the groping hands of power.  By calling such charlatans “religious'” fanatics, we are often elevating criminals to a higher level.  We are, in some sense, giving validation to their nefarious deeds.  We know the power of words.  Human history has choked on them.  “Words are no shoddier than what they peddle.”  Beckett.  But when I witness the current atrocities in the Middle East, I am reminded of lines from Waiting from Godot:

Pozzo:  I am Pozzo!  Pozzo!  Does that name mean nothing to you?  I said does that name mean nothing to you?

Estragon:  I once knew a family called Gozzo.  The mother had “the clap”.

I will finish this post with lines from my dear friend, Sarah Seff Rolfe, taken from her poem, Quasars at Dacca:  “Earth, a tiny bead spinning in space, and still learning.”

May all of you enjoy a year of discovery, peace, understanding, and joy.

2014 Inner Tubing Season Ends

Cooler afternoons with lower river temps. ended the tubing season of 2014.  It was a season that saw few accidents;  I can’t recall any rescues.  And it was the first summer that no drownings occurred in many years.  The river was playful, but not dangerous.  Currents ranged from 1500-2000 cfs.  The latter, made for some large waves and swift water.  It was one of the best times I’ve enjoyed on the river in many a year, and  I’m quite grateful.  Lisa Burkett, my tubing partner, and I were able to squeeze in a last trip on Labor Day, thanks to temps. in the 80s.

The summer of 2014 was exceptionally warm, with almost two weeks of 100-100+ weather, and countless days in the 90s.  Sunscreen and hats were a must.  August had many days of threatening clouds, but little rain.  At 61, I can no longer endure direct extreme heat on subsequent days, so I often tubed every other day, and sometimes only once a week.  But feeling the river currents as they swirl around you, taking in the magnificent scenery that beckons, is an experience of a lifetime.  This was my 50th year of inner tubing the Rogue River, so it was a special time for me.  I hope it was a special time for you.  I can’t wait until the next season begins!

Lower water means more rocks and time to maneuver in an inner tube.

The Rogue River continues to drop, and more rocks are appearing, especially in bars.  There is one spot right above Dodge Bridge where any lower water might mean getting out on the left side of the right channel and walking.  The deepest water in the right channel is on the right, and heads into a tree.  The safe way to take this rapid is to pass to the left of a green tuft of island at the top of the right channel, and then make a sharp right turn, catching the eddy of the ensuing bar.  The eddy should hold you, so that you can float down the center, and avoid the bush at the bottom right.  This means going over a rock bar, so lift yourself up in your tube.  What follows are a series of playful, splashy waves, and one more bar before you reach the Dodge Bridge on ramp.  Always wear a flotation device.  Look out for trees and rocks.  And have fun on the river!

2014 Inner Tubing Season Begins Early

The 2014 inner tubing season began in the middle of June, then paused for some cooler weather, resurfacing towards the end of the month.  It is hard to believe that this will mark my 50th summer of inner tubing.  I have been fortunate to enjoy the waters of the Rogue River, an excellent river for inner tubing.  The flow now is about twice what it was before Lost Creek Dam(2200 cfs at TouVelle State Park), and somewhat warmer(53-54 at Casey State Park, instead of 51).  The test for low 50 temps. is to put your hand in the water.  If it begins to burn from cold, temp. is low 50s.  You can do the same thing with your feet.  I usually test the water at TouVelle State Park, and if it’s warm enough, and the outside temp. is in the 70s, time to float.  Incidentally,   when I was a kid, I usually encountered low 50 water, but now, at 61, I’d just as soon avoid it!

Note:  River has pushed to the right at TouVelle State Park, which means less water along the left bank.  The river took out part of the “children’s dam”, and cut a new channel over soft rock to drop into main rapid on the right.  Unfortunately, the two rocky channels below the bridge are still there, forcing tubers to the left, and then requiring them to cross two swift currents to get to shore.  Chances are strong that tubers will be pushed downstream to second put-out among some thick under brush.  My advice would be to get out just before the “children’s dam”.  The wave on the right isn’t worth the ensuing hassle.

Greetings to inner tubers everywhere!  It looks to be a wonderful season on the Rogue River.  People generally tube from Casey State Park to TouVelle State Park.  The run is exciting, but not dangerous, if you avoid strainers.  Mostly Class 1 and 2.  You could tube to below Gold Ray, but there is no easy put-out.  Below that, waves become too large and irregular for inner tubers, and there are a few falls.  However, you can tube from Gold Hill to Hog Creek(watch out for Twin Bridges Rapid Class 3, just before Valley of the Rogue State Park), if you have the desire, but much of the water from Grants Pass to Hog Creek is placid, and without action.  Happy tubing!

A Sad and Brief Note

I learned that Mom is in critical condition, and that it’s only a matter of days.  I have much to reflect on in the coming week, but I try to stay positive.  She has been ailing for some time, so the news is not unexpected.  However, it’s difficult to lose a family member.  I wish my family the best.

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