It can be difficult to understand what philosophy is, indeed “what is philosophy?” is a profoundly philosophical question in itself! Probably the best way to understand it is a form of questioning that is general rather than specific. Rather than “is that true?” philosophy asks “what is truth?” Many parents will recognise that children are always asking these kinds of questions, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah says continuously asking “why?” (something every child does) is philosophy at its purest.
While philosophy is compulsory in many countries such as China, Brazil and France, not many schools in the UK offer specific philosophy classes. However in a group or individually philosophy is a great way for children to increase their understanding of the world and have a great time while they’re doing it.
It may seem odd to think of children studying philosophy (surely they’re too young to smoke a pipe and grow a beard!) yet many children’s books are full of philosophically provoking scenarios; is it right for house elves from Harry Potter to be enslaved, even if they do like it? Is Fantastic Mr. Fox right to steal for his family? Even though many don’t realise it, children are exposed to deep philosophical questions from a young age yet get little encouragement in school to enquire in this way.
What should you be thinking about to help you choose the right Philosophy teacher or class for your child?
There are three examination boards accredited by Ofqual. These are:
AQA –On of the leading provider of GCSEs and A Levels. Used by most secondary schools and colleges in the UK.
Edexcel – Considered the UK’s largest awarding organisation, they offer both academic and vocational qualifications and testing to schools and colleges.
OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations) – Over 13,000 centres choose OCR for their A Levels and GCSEs.
GCSE – while no examining bodies offer Philosophy GCSE the Religious Education GCSE features “Philosophy and Ethics” as a module.
A/AS Level Philosophy modules are available, mostly as an introduction to Philosophy with the particular focus being extremely varied. The RE paper will also have a Philosophy of religion module.
Philosophy can be taken as a standalone degree from many universities and also as a combined degree (e.g. Philosophy and History). Most subjects will also have a “Philosophy of…” module. For example science degrees often offer “Philosophy of Science” papers.
There is no minimum qualification required to tutor Philosophy at home in the UK at present, however we would recommend you ask to see copies of qualifications held.
“Thinking philosophically requires rigour, precision and creativity; qualities that can then be applied to any other problem. Although a Philosophy degree isn’t an essential qualification for any particular career, the analytical and critical skills developed through the study of philosophy prepare (you) for a variety of professions.”
Diogenes (born in Turkey in 412 BC) believed that all artificial creation gets in the way of happiness and so he threw away all his possessions away and lived in a barrel. He did own a bowl but when it was pointed out that a child was drinking with her cupped hands he threw that away too! When Alexander the Great offered Diogenes anything he asked for, Diogenes said “stand a little out of my sunlight.”
Greek philosopher Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC) was imprisoned for irritating the people of Athens by asking too many questions. When his friends broke in to rescue him he refused to escape from prison as a philosopher should not fear death and a citizen must obey even unjust laws.
More modern day fans of philosophy include: Bill Clinton, Harrison Ford, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bruce Lee.
Philosophy Club: Teaching primary school children to argue!
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