Primary schools add philosophy to timetable
Susanna Wilkey I THINK therefore I am is the new mantra of Camden primary schoolchildren – who are now being taught philosophy. Youngsters at Fleet primary in Hampstead and Kentish Town s Eleanor Palmer primary have been contemplating the meaning of lif
"I THINK therefore I am" is the new mantra of Camden primary schoolchildren - who are now being taught philosophy.
Youngsters at Fleet primary in Hampstead and Kentish Town's Eleanor Palmer primary have been contemplating the meaning of life as part of a new education project.
Philosophy is being taught alongside the national curriculum to encourage mental and character development as well as scholastic excellence.
The children contemplate moral questions as well as questions about personal identity, external reality and dreaming.
Fleet's chairman of governors Janek Toporowski said: "There is no doubt that philosophy could add quite a lot to children's education because they have to evaluate critically their own work and what other people are telling them.
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"It fits rather well with the Fleet ethos which emphasises the finding of information and assessing what that information means.
"I do not imagine they will get them reading Sartre but as a generic thing philosophy is very good.
"There is a lot of philosophy which does not have an answer but the process of finding out that there is not an answer extends your range and awareness of what kind of answers you can get."
The innovative Philosophy in Primary Schools programme is provided by educational service provider The Philosophy Shop, which offers trained professionals with the skills needed to open the minds of primary schoolchildren.
The youngsters are encouraged to think critically and ethically about issues like responsibility, how we know things and the nature of life through to the challenges of Western philosophical thought.
Philosophy Shop-trained primary school philosopher-in-residence Miriam Cohen Christofidis is working with Years 3 to 6 at Eleanor Palmer and Years 1 to 3 at Fleet. The former UCL tutor, from Hampstead, completed her undergraduate and postgraduates degrees in philosophy at UCL.
She said: "The children really develop confidence and a capacity to think and it is really important that they are given an environment to do this while being supported.
"They learn the skills of thinking which really helps them throughout their education and the grasp they have is amazing.
"I find thinking about how philosophy can be applied and used by children to help them engage in ideas and have clearer thoughts both challenging and rewarding."
For more information about the Philosophy Shop, visit www.the