Submit a Proposal to Host 2018 Meeting

This is the call for proposals for hosting SOPHIA Network Meeting in 2018. Deadline for proposals is noon on November 1st. Host country will be selected by the Executives and will be informed at the latest by January 3rd 2018.

Please send a completed proposal to:

President Peter Worley peter@philosophy-foundation.org

Treasurer Rob Bartels robbartels@xs4all.nl

Secretary Joos Vollebregt joosvollebregt81@gmail.com

Network Meeting Co-ordinator Emma Worley emma@philosophy-foundation.org

Proposals should follow the outline on the Proposal Form, and will be selected according to which proposal best fulfils the criteria below.

If you have any questions about the proposals or procedure, please contact emma@philosophy-foundation.org

SOPHIA Executive choose Host country/coordinator using the following criteria.

• Reliable contact (replies promptly to e-mails etc)

• Free venue

• National advertising of SOPHIA in Host country

• Should stimulate Philosophy with Children in Host country

• Should generate new members for SOPHIA

• Accessible for travel from through-out Europe

• Accommodation available near to venue

• Accommodation reasonably priced (members pay their own accommodation)

• Coffee, tea and water etc provided (not necessary to provide meals)

• Technical equipment provided (for videos power points etc.)

Please include the following information in your proposal:

1. HOST / S

2. MAIN CONTACT

3. VENUE & SUPPORT AVAILABLE

4. SUGGESTED DATES

5. PROPOSED PLAN

6. MARKETING / ADVERTISING OF MEETING WITHIN HOST COUNTRY

7. TRAVEL

8. ACCOMMODATION

9. ADDITIONAL MATERIAL / EVENT DETAILS

Ways into Philosophy

Introduction to SOPHIA Network Meeting 2014, Zagreb Peter Worley, President

“For many, philosophy is impenetrable. It is often thought to be, among other things, dense, difficult and dry. To these detractors the idea of taking something as abstract and difficult as philosophy to children must seem absurd.

One way around this is to redefine philosophy so that it is simply no longer dense, difficult and dry. Something broad like ‘an open-ended discussion’ might be an example of this kind of re-definition.

Alternatively, one may take the so-called ‘dense, difficult and dry’ literature (in other words, the philosophical canon) as the starting point and then attempt to find ‘ways in’ to it. This is my preferred way of tackling the problem of the impenetrability of philosophy and the doing of philosophy with children.

On a personal note, providing young people with a way into philosophy is not just about a way into philosophy but also a way (for me, back) into education. Becoming interested in the problem of the nature of numbers is also becoming interested in maths; becoming interested in the philosophy of religion can lead to an interest in the philosophy of science which can (and did me) spark an interest in science.

One reason why I set up The Philosophy Foundation, and also why I am honoured to take up the presidency of SOPHIA, is because I believe philosophy has the power to bring those who find themselves at a distance from education, or at its edges, back into it. After failing school and subsequently leaving education it was through an interest in literature and through exploring religious questions that I discovered philosophy. My interest in philosophy then brought me back into education and at the age of 24 I went to university to study philosophy.”

In our resources section for members you can read Peter’s full introduction to the weekend, which includes ideas about philosophical controversy, helping a class towards the controversy and assessing progress, as well as seeing the film mentioned in this blog. His workshop on different ways into philosophy includes narrative / storytelling; experience, exercises, games, sci-fi, interactive imagination, poetry, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic sessions, children’s literature (both novels and picture books) Shakespeare, physicalisation and drama which can also be found in this paper.

Our resources section also contains papers / workshops / presentations from workshop leaders in Zagreb. Workshops in Zagreb included:

  • Andy West (England) Kinaesthetic Learners
  • Tina Marasovic (Croatia) Graffiti: Philosophizing in Art
  • Mary Bovill (Scotland) Philosophy in the Secondary Curriculum
  • Laura Blažeti? Faller (Croatia) “Blind Bat” Game
  • Milosh Jeremic (Serbia) Wandering Test
  • Grace Robinson (England) Philosophical Enquiry in Role
  • Ed Weijers (Netherlands) Structure & Dynamics
  • Ilse Daems (Belgium) Philosophy Games
  • Renate Kroschel (Germany) What is a Soul?
  • Peter Worley (England) Many Ways into Philosophy
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Plato Not Playdoh: Peter Worley at TEDx Goodenough College

TES Comment Piece: Philosophy in Schools

Philosophy in SchoolsThe British Educational Newspaper, The TES, has a comment piece by President of SOPHIA, Peter Worley.

Peter argues why philosophy should be taught in schools, and there is a lively discussion afterwards about the role of philosophy, and RE in the development of well-being.

You can read the full article here: TES Comment

The Socratic Method In Teaching

group-239251_640During my years as a college student, I was lucky enough to be encouraged to ask questions by many of my esteemed professors. But instead of me simply answering the questions the way I believed they wanted them to be answered, they created a classroom environment where I as well as my classmates could seek out multiple plausible answers through open discussions and the sharing of ideas. Creating and maintaining such an environment is the essence of the Socratic Method and is what my teaching philosophy is founded on. My teaching philosophy revolves around the notion that while students will be provided with the knowledge that was promised them in the course syllabus, they will be encouraged to go further and to explore beyond the boundaries of the coursework. This experience is fostered through careful encouragement, facilitated by creating and maintaining a learning environment where knowing “the answer” takes a back seat to the process of arriving at multiple answers/solutions to the same issue.

The students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, which is why it is so important that they develop the critical thinking necessary for arriving at multiple answers/solutions for the complex problems, challenges, or situations that are facing our ever-changing world. This can only occur if they embrace the notion that living in the inquiry is not only okay, but is the only way they can keep continuously coming up with new ideas and innovations to address real world issues.

A college education can do much more than provide a stable lifestyle. It can expand an individual’s thinking, which can expand that individual’s worldview. Armed with an expanded worldview, that individual can have a positive influence on the lives of those that he/she meets. This aspect of education is what I focus on. This is why I work hard to create and maintaining supportive learning environments where students are encouraged to go deeper into the course material by being inquisitive and seeking out answers/solutions on their own. I encourage students to express differences in opinions (as long as they can back up their arguments). I encourage questions, debates, innovative thinking, and learning for the sake of simply learning, just as Socrates did in his day.

In my classroom, students quickly learn that I am not impressed with hearing them simply recite what they read or what was taught to them. They realize that I want and expect a deeper level of critical thinking and open discussion, where new ideas emerge. By holding students to this standard, they come to realize that they are getting much more out of the class than what they signed up for, and that getting a college education is more than simply getting a college degree.

In order to have students explore beyond the course material, they have to be carefully pushed without intimidation. This is achieved by teaching them that having the “correct” answer is not always the most important thing, instead asking the right questions and seeking the answers to those questions is usually how new and more innovative answers/solutions for today’s more complex issues are arrived at. Armed with this contextual change in educational philosophy, students begin to dig deeper, because their curiosity is encouraged and awakened. There becomes a greater interest in the coursework by students, a willingness to take on more responsibilities when it comes time for group projects, and an openness and fearlessness when it comes to sharing new and sometimes radical ideas. Facilitated by the Socratic Method, students learn how to think critically as well as respect the thinking of others by developing their natural curiosity for learning and listening (which is how we receive the knowledge of the world around us).

Education can be a liberating experience for the mind, body, and soul depending on how it is contextualized for the student by his/her teacher(s). I use the Socratic Method so that I can develop their minds by encouraging their natural curiosity. Once that curiosity and inquisitive nature is unleashing, it is almost impossible to bottle them back up, making my students willing and able to go out into the world and address the complex challenges of the ever-changing world. My students are prepared to do more than just get a good job, as they can ask thought provoking questions, think critically, seek out multiple answers/solutions for the same issue, respectfully debate the validity of their arguments, and be open enough to listen to the views and ideas of others. My students are prepared to be leaders.

Dr. Barrett has an earned PhD in applied management and decision sciences, with a specialization in leadership and organizational change. He also holds a MS in organizational leadership and a BS in organizational management. In addition to these degrees, Dr. Barrett has completed several executive certificates focusing on various areas of management and leadership development.

Dr. Barrett is proud of his academic accomplishments, as they are the product of his long and sometimes difficult journey out of poverty. Along his journey, Dr. Barrett served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, participating in several vital overseas operations in the Middle East and Europe. He has also taught organizational leadership courses at the graduate degree level at Mercy College. This desire to develop leadership whether it be in myself or others is what drives Dr. Barrett. Dr. Barrett currently lives in NYC, where he runs The Barrett Center for Leadership Development, LLC (http://www.TheBarrettCenter.com) and produces The Barrett Leadership Blog (http://www.TheBarrettCenter.blogspot.com).

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Philosophy As The Missing Link

Philosophy In The CurriculumPhilosophy can play an important role in our schools’ curriculum. The question might be asked, “Why would anyone want to teach philosophy to pre-adolescent children?” but there are very good reasons why one might want to take on such a lofty task. I am not suggesting that the history of philosophy would be particularly pertinent for a young child to learn, but there is substantial evidence to support the development of an already natural tendency towards philosophical thought. Some may think that the pre-adolescents haven’t got the cognitive developmental ability to wrap their minds around such an elusive and subjective study as philosophy. However, developing this skill has shown long term positive effects. These effects range from developing critical thinking skills and cognitive ability to raising emotional maturity and encouraging the child’s sense of security within his or her world.

For years there has been an emphasis on cognitive and physical aspects of children’s development, but recently more attention is being placed on both the social and emotional aspects of a child’s development. It is becoming recognized that a child’s emotional maturity has a big impact on their ability to learn and process information. While that, at first blush, may seem an obvious conclusion there is a little more to the story. A child’s emotional maturity and self esteem has a significant impact on his or her behavior as well. An increasing number of children are being identified as needing additional learning strategies and showing challenging behaviors. Education systems are struggling to find creative methods to address these needs before the problems arise.

It is recognized that a child’s ability to learn depends on how advanced they are at managing personal and social tasks. Their work suffers when they are incapable of coping effectively with important skills such as the ability to be aware of other’s feelings, manage relationships and be part of a social community. Encouraging philosophical thought and developing critical thinking skills in pre-adolescent children provides a foundation for cognitive, social and emotional skills to flourish.

Children continually ask philosophical questions without prompting, such as: “If I squeeze my eyes shut really tightly and I can’t see where I am, does that make where I am become somewhere else?” As adults used to navigating the world in our current understanding of reality we answer these types of questions following the strict rules of our present view, but it might be far more useful to the child to encourage examination of the question. For example an appropriate response might be, “What do you think about that?” Further discussion can take place when the child has had a chance to explore their own opinions and ideas about their physical reality, for example.

A pre-adolescent child may not move as fast and furiously through this type of metaphysical analysis as a college student but they certainly do have the cognitive ability to use this type of critical thinking to expand their thinking processes. So what is meant by ‘critical thinking’ exactly? The American Philosophical Association’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy describes it as “…purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based…” (Facione 1989)

But for those of us looking for a simpler explanation it is essentially the ability to use reasonably reflective, focused thinking to decide what to believe and do. Children need to be encouraged to reflect carefully on their own beliefs and be encouraged to explore other points of view. Philosophy encourages children to learn to think independently as well as think and discuss with others. In order to gain the most advantage children need to be able to engage in open classroom discussions on an ongoing basis. By mastering this type of thinking the child develops deeper emotional literacy and learns to create a more thoughtful and purposeful life.

On another level philosophical discussion can be used to develop a deeper understanding of ethics. Dr. Stephen Law, a senior lecturer in Philosophy at Heathrop College, University of London explains the skills that are cultivated in such discussions as the following:

“* reveal and question underlying assumptions

* figure out the perhaps unforeseen consequences of a moral decision or point of view

* spot and diagnose faulty reasoning

* weigh up evidence fairly and impartially

* make a point clearly and concisely

* take turns in a debate, and listen attentively without interrupting

* argue without personalizing a dispute

* look at issues from the point of view of others

* question the appropriateness, or the appropriateness of acting on, one’s own feelings”

He goes on to say, “Acquiring these skills involves developing, not just a level of intellectual maturity, but a fair degree of emotional maturity too. For example, turn-taking requires patience and self-control. Judging impartially involves identifying and taking account of your own emotional biases. By thinking critically and carefully about your own beliefs and attitudes, you may develop insights into your own character. By stepping outside of your own viewpoint and looking at issues from the standpoint of another, you can develop a greater empathy with and understanding of others. So by engaging in this kind of philosophical, critical activity, you are likely to develop, not only the ability to reason cogently, but also what now tends to be called “emotional intelligence.” (Law 2007)

In order to gain the most advantage, children need to be able to engage in open classroom discussions on an ongoing basis. As a teacher of pre-adolescent children I have had the opportunity to witness these discussions taking place spontaneously. In most instances I have been able to set aside the particular lesson that might have been planned for the time and let the free-wheeling philosophical discussion go on with minimal but well-timed guidance. Although it would have been ideal to have had time set aside on a daily basis for such discussion there is a fair amount of pressure from the already demanding curriculum, thereby restricting the frequency of these critically important discussions.

As a writer of philosophy for children, I give examples within my stories of my characters exploring deep philosophical questions in an alternate school setting as well as in every day events. It is my hope that when children read my stories they will have a sparked interest in exploring the deeper questions of life with their families and perhaps even instigate such discussions within their classrooms. I also have great hope that the educational systems currently in place will take a closer look at the benefit of adding philosophical discussions to their curriculums. This would provide an opportunity to advance the world’s development by populating it with emotionally intelligent and critically inquisitive minds.

Kimberly Wickham is the author of Angels and Horses and Summer of Magic Horses. Information available at her web address http://www.kimberlywickham.com

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Teaching Logic To Children

Teaching LogicMost schools don’t teach logic because they don’t know what it is. They may have some vague idea about it, but basically they’re in the dark.

Logic was first written about, in the West, 2400 years ago. Plato and Aristotle were its fathers. It’s a magnificent legacy of Western Civilization.

Today, as the public school system is crumbling, we are in the age of information. In other words, when we need logic the most-because information is an unending flood that attempts to persuade and sway us-we’re missing vital tools.

Logic is a compass. It’s a system for navigating. We can use it to separate good information from bad.

Articles in the press, books, public-relations pronouncements, network news, political speech, scientific claims, internet journalism-it’s a huge stream that keeps on going. And at the root, it’s an attempt to argue for certain ideas and positions.

Information is a “battle” waged for our minds, and the minds of our children.

Do we want to outfit the young so they can have a way to judge and evaluate information, or do we want to abandon them and let them drift on the open sea?

In my 30 years as a free-lance journalist, I’ve seen “the permissive society” take the latter course.

It’s one thing to gift children with the heritage of freedom; it’s quite another thing to fail to give them the tools to be strong, rational, capable people.

As an investigative reporter, I’ve had to dig into intentional efforts to deceive the American people-in science, in politics, and in education. I’ve been able to do it because, many years ago, I studied logic with a wonderful college professor. He taught his classes how to separate the wheat from the chaff. He drilled us on the basic rules of logic.

Every high school student should be able to read an article and find the logical flaws in it.

Every student should be able to describe those flaws in detail.

Every student should be able to articulate the overall point the article is trying to make-and analyze whether the point is justified or not.

This is strength. This is power. This is independence.

The Founders of this country didn’t risk their lives to establish a nation based on freedom of the individual, only to see it go down the drain because children are denied the tools to gain true independence.

As I say, logic is a magnificent legacy of Western civilization. Our schools are casting that legacy aside without a second thought.

If you were to read some of the vital American political debates that occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries-for example, the Lincoln-Douglas debates-you would see that these politicians were expecting their audiences to follow a logical train of thought.

Logic used to be taught in American schools. It was an important part of the curriculum. Not so, anymore. Now, we rely on slogans and social engineering and “group-think.”

We need to reverse this trend. The place to do it is in home schools.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response to my series of articles on home-schooling and logic. Parents keep contacting me to say they’ve been waiting for a real course on logic and analysis. They’ve been hoping for material that would engage their children in a real way, so these children would be able to face up to the flood of non-stop information coming in their direction.

Why all this interest? It’s because many home schoolers want to escape the herd mentality that has become more and more prevalent in our society.

Here is a quote from a note a parent sent me:

“I want my son and daughter to be able to think for themselves, instead of going along with the group. However, I don’t want them to become mindless rebels. They should be able to stand strong and take a rational approach to the PR and propaganda that is being doled out 24/7 in the media and on the internet. Simple rote learning in the classroom is important, but it’s not enough.”

I have looked at passages of text that are used in public schools, to educate students in so-called “critical thinking.” What I’ve found is very sad. These passages are sanitized. They are carefully tailored to be politically correct, for fear of offending some group or special interest. In no way do they resemble information that’s found in the real world.

Way back when, in high school, I had a history teacher who presented us with passages written by various socialists. He said, “The only way you’re going to understand socialism is by reading its ideas. I’m going to give you that opportunity, and then I’m going to demand that you analyze those ideas to within an inch of your life. I’m going to make you think. I’m not going to shield you from that philosophy or protect you from it. If I did that, I’d be shortchanging you and your parents, who are paying for your education.”

And we read passages written by socialists, and by the time the teacher was through with us, we understood a great deal about that philosophy. We understood the hidden ideas in it. We could write about the kind of perverse society that would take over if socialists won the war of ideas.

It was a very bracing experience, and it was my introduction to logic. That teacher knew logic. He showed us a list of traditional logical fallacies, and he made us compare that list to what socialists were enunciating. We saw how socialists were manipulating and twisting logic to secure their goals.

It was my first glimpse of the power inherent in real logical analysis, and when I went on to college and studied logic on a deeper level, I gained even more ability to take information apart and put it back together again.

This year, when I wrote my own logic course for home schools, I decided to include passages of text that approximated the material a young student would find on the internet, on television news, in newspaper articles and political press releases.

I rejected the idea of presenting a fantasy world to the student.

Logic and the founding of America have a great deal in common. They both prepare a young person for adulthood in a free and open society. Today that society is sinking further into passive collectivism and group-think. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that we give children tools they can use to dismantle and dissect false information-with strength, insight, and sharp minds.

Jon Rappoport has been working as an investigative reporter for 30 years. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize early in his career, he has published articles in LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, CBS Healthwatch, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. He has taught in several private schools in New York and Los Angeles, and has tutored extensively in remedial English at Santa Monica College. At Amherst College, where he graduated with a BA in philosophy, he studied formal logic under Joseph Epstein, a revered professor of philosophy. Mr. Rappoport can be reached at qjrconsulting@gmail.com

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