A Decade of European Thought

by Goedele De Swaef

As coordinator of the European Socrates-Comenius TAXI project (School Development Project forthe Advancement of Philosophy with Children) I think it would be interesting to present the history of our European Projects, viz. Thought Castle (1995-1998), the 100 Journal (1998-2001) and Taxi (2001-2004) and of course the history of the 100 Journal itself (i.e. the European Philosophy Journal of Children), a journal that was published during all those years.

  1. Sophia

In 1992, in Barcelona, people from different European Centres of Philosophy with Children set up SOPHIA, a European Foundation for Philosophical Inquiry with Children. This foundation was formally registered in Amsterdam in 1993, where it was connected to the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Amsterdam.

SOPHIA was set up to establish a network within Europe of organizations and persons committed to the implementation of philosophising inside educational institutes. Most of these centres started translating one or more of Lipman’s stories and manuals.

The 100-journal was meant to be one of the first concrete projects of SOPHIA, but it became an independent project called Thought Castle sponsored by the Socrates-Comenius action 1 for primary education.

  1. Socrates-Comenius

Socrates is a European programme for education. Its aim is to promote the European dimension and to improve the quality of education by encouraging cooperation between the participating countries.

The programme sets out to develop a Europe of knowledge and thus to better cater for the major challenges of this new century: to promote lifelong learning, to encourage access to education for everyone, to acquire qualifications and recognised skills.

The overall objectives of Comenius (one of the actions of Socrates) are to enhance the quality and reinforce the European dimension of school education, in particular by encouraging transnational cooperation between schools, by contributing to the improved professional development of staff directly involved in the school education sector, and by promoting the learning of languages and intercultural awareness.

Comenius seeks to help those learning and teaching in schools, to develop a sense of belonging to a broader and outward-looking European community – a community characterised by diverse traditions, cultures and regional identities, but nevertheless rooted in a common history of European development.

Comenius contributes to enhancing the quality of school education and to reinforcing its European dimension by:

  • promoting trans-national cooperation and exchanges between schools and teacher training programmes/institutions;
  • encouraging innovation in pedagogical methods and materials;
  • promoting the trans-national dissemination of “good practice” and innovation in school management;
  • developing and disseminating methods for combating educational exclusion and school failure, for promoting the integration of pupils with special educational needs, and for promoting equal opportunities in all sectors of education;
  • promoting the use of information and communication technology in school education and in the training of staff working in this sector.
  1. The 100 Journal

 The idea for a journal was born at the Sophia meeting in Barcelona. Berrie Heesen from the Dutch Centre of Philosophy with Children came up with the idea of a journal for children philosophising, as a continuation of a journal that once existed in Poland, i.e. the Little Review.

During the twenties this was a journal for children that was set up by Janusz Korczak, who was a Polish pedagogue and director of an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland. The journal, the Little Review, had an editorial board with children aged between 8 and 14. Children from all over Poland every month travelled by train to Warsaw (sometimes more than 500 km) to meet with the editorial board of the Little Review, which would appear every Friday as a supplement to a daily Jewish newsletter called Our Review.

The name ‘100’ was chosen because a number can function as a logo in the different languages. It was complicated to find a word, even a new word, that was acceptable in all these languages, so finally a number was chosen as title. Numbers are, at least in Europe, all written the same but pronounced differently. This seemed to be a good combination of what Europe is: unity in diversity. Of course, children are aware of the great quantity of numbers that exist, so why specifically the number 100? The explanation of the title was printed on the cover of the first issue:

“There is a beautiful story why this journal is called 100. The story is about a man who lived in Poland before World War Two. His name is Janusz Korczak.

Korczak was director of an orphanage in Poland. He was also editor and organizer of a weekly Polish journal for children with a real children’s editorial board. Korczak was convinced that children were not enough respected and appreciated. He was convinced they were not taken seriously. He did not like this. Therefore he started a children’s journal with writings of children themselves. There was a boy called Alexander Ramati, nine yers old, who travelled several times a year a few hundred kilometres by train to be present at the children’s editorial meetings.

But why number 100?

It’s like this. In the orphanage of Korczak existed a tribunal that had to judge about all the problems among children. This tribunal existed of five child judges who were chosen every month by all the children of the orphanage. Korczak said: ‘This tribunal is not justice, but it strives for justice.’ Everybody who thought he or she was treated unfair was able to lay down a charge. And about the judges said Korczak: ‘Judges can make mistakes. They may punish for acts they themselves are guilty of. But it is shameful if a judge consciously hands down an unjust verdict.’ The tribunal just pronounced an article from a list of a thousand articles. The first article said: ‘Charge is withdrawn.’ Article 100 was the dividing line between forgiveness and censure. Article 100 said: ‘Without granting pardon, the court states that you committed the act with which you are charged.’ Children charged even Korczak himself. The worst punishment Korzak ever got from this tribunal was article 100. To keep this story alive of a man who organized a children’s tribunal and a children’s journal, this journal is called: 100. It is a European Doing Philosophy With Children journal.

To download Goedele’s full paper on Ten Years of European Thought go to our Resources page.

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About Goedele De Swaef