Philosophy for Children
‘Philosophy for children’ (P4C) began with the work of Professor Matthew Lipman, who founded the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University, USA in 1974. Inspired and informed by Dewey’s developments of Pierce’s Community of Inquiry ideas (Pierce’s was a ‘community of scientific inquiry’ while Dewey’s was a ‘community of philosophical inquiry’), Lipman believed that young children possess the tools needed to think rationally, and through his method of reading philosophically stimulating narratives, he believed that children could be encouraged to respond philosophically.
This dialogue-driven method would go on to influence other subsequent approaches to doing philosophy in the classroom. For some, ‘P4C’ refers only to the original work of Lipman and those that continue to promote and practice Lipman’s work using the curriculum that he and his colleague Ann Sharp developed for teachers.
For others ‘P4C’ refers also to those approaches and practices that have developed since, from – and independently from – Lipman/Sharp’s approach (some distinguish, for this reason, between ‘P4C’ and ‘PwC’, using ‘P4/wC’ to capture both or all practices). The Philosophy Foundation use P4C in the latter sense for the reason that this is how many teachers use it, and because we have developed independently from Lipman yet have also received inevitable influence from luminaries such as Lipman/Sharp, McCall, Van der Leeuw/Mostert, Brenifier, Haynes/Murris, Cam, Sapere and many other approaches to doing philosophy with, for and by children.
P4C, in its many guises, is now practiced in over 60 countries across the World, many of them linked via the International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children (ICPIC) and in Europe via the SOPHIA Network. The Philosophy Foundation is a member organisation of ICPIC and our co-founders are Board Members of SOPHIA.
TPF and P4C
Some P4C practitioners (though not all) clearly distinguish 'Philosophy for Children' and philosophy as an academic subject. TPF's interest is in doing philosophy. When we do philosophy with children it is 'P4C', but when we do philosophy with adults it is 'P4A' and so on. For TPF, methodologically there is very little difference between P4C and P4A. In this respect TPF practices 'P4X' - philosophy for anyone.