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Thursday, March 26, 2015

'Teach philosophy in primary schools,' says academic

Follow on Twitter as @nomiackerman
Naomi Ackerman summarizes, "Professor Angie Hobbs believes just one philosophy class a week would benefit children’s intellectual and social development."

“If we leave questioning the models children have been taught until later in life, it could be too late," warns Professor Angie Hobbs. "That is why we need to start teaching philosophy in primary school.”

By this the professor means that children should be taught from a young age that there are other ways of seeing the world to the one they are exposed to by their family and social circle.

It's a pertinent and timely point to make, especially considering the current debate around the risk of 'radicalisation' facing young people.

Hobbs is currently the only professor of public understanding of philosophy in the world. She believes that just one philosophy class a week could benefit children’s intellectual and social development.

Her department at the University of Sheffield – along with organisations such as The Philosophy Foundation – are currently pioneering the teaching of ancient Greek philosophy in UK primary schools.

Hobbs has taught Plato and Heraclitus to classes of seven-year-olds and says that "children respond very well to fundamental questions, such as 'What makes me, me? What is time? Does nothing exist?”.

She tells me that, in her experience, children love Zeno's paradox 'the moving arrow is motionless' or the Cretan liar paradox. "I tell them ‘I always lie’, and then ask ‘am I lying now?’” she says.

Learning ancient Greek philosophy at a young age taps into children’s “natural curiosity, their imaginative and intellectual zest”. Hobbs says that the natural ability children have to imagine other worlds and leap through time – the reason for their love of books such as Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings – is the same ability needed to grasp Plato.

Hobbs has taught Plato to classes of seven-year-olds

Hobbs thinks philosophy is “a greatly underused resource in the UK” and is critical of the government’s education policy.

“Some of those in Government – and not just Michael Gove in his former role – have said that primary education should mainly be about the acquisition of facts and knowledge, and that children can ask questions later. I think this is wrong.” 

Additional resources
Plato (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Angie Hobbs

Follow on Twitter as @drangiehobbs

Angie Hobbs (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)  
Angela Hobbs. AH. MA, PhD (Cambridge), FRSA. Department of Philosophy.