The Maroon

Opinion: It’s never too early to learn philosophy

Lawrence+D.+Crocker+College+Prep+School+students+participate+in+Philosophy+for+Kids%2C+a+community+outreach+program+run+by+Loyola%27s+Philosophy+Department%2C+in+a+classroom+at+the+prep+school+October+1%2C+2017%2C+in+New+Orleans.+OANH+NGUYEN%2FCourtesy.
Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep School students participate in Philosophy for Kids, a community outreach program run by Loyola's Philosophy Department, in a classroom at the prep school October 1, 2017, in New Orleans. OANH NGUYEN/Courtesy.

Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep School students participate in Philosophy for Kids, a community outreach program run by Loyola's Philosophy Department, in a classroom at the prep school October 1, 2017, in New Orleans. OANH NGUYEN/Courtesy.

Oanh Nguyen

Oanh Nguyen

Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep School students participate in Philosophy for Kids, a community outreach program run by Loyola's Philosophy Department, in a classroom at the prep school October 1, 2017, in New Orleans. OANH NGUYEN/Courtesy.


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Catherine Grace Rice

Philosophy Senior

[email protected]

Every Monday or Tuesday afternoon, a group of Loyola students, led by either Dr. Constance Mui or Dr. Joel MacClellan, can be found pondering some tough questions with a group of eager third graders. Welcome to Philosopher Kids, a community outreach program run by Loyola’s philosophy department, in which student volunteers spend the afternoon with third graders from Crocker College Prep, a local charter school, once a week. After a game of “Simon Says,” “red light, green light” or some other way to shake some post-school energy, we read a children’s book with the students and engage them in a discussion about philosophical themes it contains. In previous weeks we have read “The Giving Tree” (altruism, our relationship to nature), “The Stinky Cheese Man” (marginalization, loneliness), “Sneetches” (prejudice) and “The Ugly Duckling” (beauty).

It has been such a joy to see these kids open up to us over the last few months. Their reading has improved exponentially, as well as their critical thinking skills and hopefully their level of compassion. There have been some ups and downs, mostly behavioral, but it is also very apparent that, at the end of the day, the children do indeed appreciate our efforts to teach them basic philosophical concepts and to invite them to think abstractly about big questions.

I find it so important to start incorporating basic philosophical ideas into early childhood education. Although many of these children come from challenging backgrounds, they are curious about big questions, and they are interested in learning. The couple of hours each week that we spend with the students, encouraging them to discuss ethical questions and showing them the importance of thinking and using their minds, will hopefully be a gift that keeps on giving. The children are all so unique and smart and seeing their faces light up when they answer a question correctly or understand a challenging concept is incomparable.

As much as it is good for the children, however, I have found it to be equally rewarding for myself. Getting to know these precious kids who have already seen so much in their seven or eight years has opened my eyes to the universality of childhood wonder. There is not a single child that should be kept from his or her full educational potential. Each and every one of these children has something special to offer the world, and hopefully, in its own small way, Philosopher Kids is helping them all see that.

It has been my pleasure to be a Philosopher Kids facilitator, and it will continue to be one of my most cherished memories while a student at Loyola. Engaging with New Orleans youth about a subject so important to me has definitely shaped me as a person. I hope to see some of these children become leaders in their community someday, and I am confident that they will. Each and every one of these third graders is overflowing with potential to be great human beings, and it becomes apparent when they are engaged and learning about the world around them with eager eyes and an open mind.

 

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “Opinion: It’s never too early to learn philosophy”

  1. Billy Talty on February 3rd, 2018 1:06 pm

    I was signed up to help two years ago with Dr. Altschul. I ended up not being able to commit the time as a law student, and of course, with the loss of Dr. Jon, I was unsure of what would become of the program. It makes my heart happy to see that the program is still in full swing; the value of teaching kids to think for themselves is a lifetime of blessings. Hopefully your work will bring that to these children and I hope and pray the program will continue and expand in the years to come.

    Thank you for sharing!

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Opinion: It’s never too early to learn philosophy