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British primary school children are using the fruits of Philosophy to learn how to be more active citizens, engage with democracy – and get equipped for the modern world

London, 25 September 2008: Classes of British inner city ten year olds are taking on the lofty thoughts of Plato, Hume and Kant as key tools in their struggle to make sense of our increasingly complex world.

Educational service provider The Philosophy Shop – the front-line deliverer of the fruits of Western philosophical breakthroughs in the primary school – says it is only by an early engagement with the problems of ethics and what makes a just society that kids can cope with a post 9/11 world.

In one such session, 5-11 year olds are challenged to put on a school play and agree the best selection procedure for choosing a cast. How should they distribute those roles? It's by working out if the basis for choice should be teacher diktat, their own choice, ballot or audition that children can grapple with key themes around the basis of equality, democracy, rights and duties.

“Philosophy at primary school level is an excellent way to turn on skills that can be used in any context – political, religious or other,” says The Philosophy Shop’s Director, Peter Worley.

Such exercises may be the best way to make Citizenship – a key part of the National Curriculum – more than just a talking shop, say philosophers. “New issues face us as individuals and voters... which the moral apparatus developed by our religious and moral traditions do not fully equip us to deal with,” thinks one eminent philosopher of education, Harry Brighouse¹.

Early exposure to philosophy could mean more than just getting a handle on the essence of politics – discussions about fairness leads on to general ethical debates on what things like rights and responsibilities in general are.

“In today's complex world it may only be philosophy that can help our youngsters find the intellectual tools to deal with the issues they face,” believes Worley.

Philosophy in education expert Michael Hand comments, “To be able to think intelligently and responsibly about the difficult issues we must collectively resolve in our democratic society, young people need to learn some philosophy in schools. Organisations like The Philosophy Shop are doing crucial and groundbreaking work here.”

The Philosophy Shop provides training for qualified philosophers (graduates and postgraduates) on how to deliver philosophical insights to a classroom. For more information about the ‘Philosophy in Primary Schools’ programme, its services across the UK, and to participate in its UK-wide training for qualified philosophers, visit http://www.thephilosophyshop.co.uk

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Notes for Editors:

¹ Harry Brighouse, ‘The Role of Philosophical Thinking in Teaching Controversial Issues’, 2008 http://www.continuumbooks.com/Books/detail.aspx?ReturnURL=/S...

• The Philosophy Shop's approach to teaching philosophy involves structuring and guiding discussion, not just facilitating it. Children are shown how to break problems down into components, then work through the components step-by-step, in a logical and rigorous way. This taught versus facilitated approach is defended in a recently published essay by Michael Hand ('Can children be taught philosophy?', 2008) http://www.continuumbooks.com/Books/detail.aspx?ReturnURL=/S...

• A study by Dundee University (2007) suggests that confronting such key philosophical debates as the nature of existence, ethics and knowledge can raise children's IQ by up to 6.5 points and improve emotional intelligence. The research also found that philosophy in schools promotes certain speaking and listening skills as well as sustained reasoning skills over time. http://www.clacksweb.org.uk/site/documents/psychologicalserv...

• Finally, UNESCO (2007) recently published a study looking at teaching philosophy at pre-school and primary levels: the report concluded that, "If there is a message to be conveyed by this study, it would certainly be that of exhorting us to consider the teaching of philosophy o be necessary and something to be reckoned with." http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/ev.php-URL_ID=11575&URL_DO=D...

• The Philosophy Shop promotes the practical application of philosophy in the community. It supports and promotes the teaching of philosophy in primary school children, as well as philosophy summer schools, philosophy groups and philosophical counselling. The Philosophy Shop is committed to the fact that through the rational investigation of existence, ethics and knowledge children are able to realise lots of benefits, including raised IQ, raised self-confidence and improved emotional intelligence. The company provides training for qualified philosophers on how to practically employ philosophical methods in a classroom situation. The programme brings philosophy to bear on the national curriculum and teaches classes of primary school children to think critically and ethically about themes raised there. The Philosophy Shop also offers teachers training in how to enhance their teaching methods through philosophical techniques. http://www.thephilosophyshop.co.uk

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