Dr. McCall, one of the founding members of SOPHIA, recalls the SOPHIA Board Meeting in 1996 (9 years before SOPHIA Network was set up to enable individual people to join SOPHIA). “At that time SOPHIA consisted of the Board members who were all Directors of PwC Centres in Europe. And there was one Centre for each nation in Europe,” she mentions.
Here is a piece of history of SOPHIA in Dr. Catherine McCall’s own words and a short video of the News coverage of the event:
“Our 1996 SOPHIA Board Meeting held at the EPIC International Conference with the SOPHIA Board meeting held in the very grand Board Room of Glasgow University, during which we had children involved from the inception of the Conference.
We organised with a class of children for groups of 2 children to write to each Philosophy with Children European Centre Director (and Board member of SOPHIA) as ‘pen pals’ before the conference, explaining to them who they were and what we were doing with CoPI in schools.
The children came from a very deprived area of Glasgow and had never been to the West End of Glasgow where the University is, even though they lived only a couple of miles from it.
None of the children had family members who ever went to a University and the idea of going to University was completely alien to them. (Half of that class of deprived children DID go on to Higher education – the first in their families ever to do so! and several wrote to Dr. Claire Cassidy when they were adults.)
So I wanted them to feel that Glasgow university was THEIR university. And so I organised for the children to come to Glasgow University and learn all about it, SO THAT they could be the local ‘experts’ showing the European Directors around the University.
So for the first time the whole class came to University to prepare for the Conference and their roles in looking after the adults who who be attending the conference.
The children also designed the posters and the T- shirts for the conference (you can see these in the film below), which I did again in 2006 at Strathclyde University for the 2nd EPIC International conference and SOPHIA Meeting.
The children were waiting to greet the Centre Directors as they arrived at Glasgow University, and having written to them prior to the conference, they knew a little about ‘THEIR’ adults who the children were charged with looking after.
The children then gave live demonstrations on stage for the conference with Dr. Claire Cassidy and also with Berrie Heesen.
And, the centre piece of the childrens’ involvement was for the children to FACILITATE philosophical discussions with the adults in the Hunterian Museum.
I practiced with the children before the conference, so that they would be confident in working with the adults, stressing all the time that these adults would need the children’s help.
I chose the visual stimulus of the Museum so as to help with the language barriers, as many of the Centre Directors were not fluent in English.
And here is a little news item about that Museum CoPI – it was very rare to get Philosophy into our national news in the 1990’s!