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Keeping the Child in Mind

Conference Overview

Philosophy is often thought to be an arcane subject, suitable only for adults. The idea that children can engage in philosophical reflection conflicts with a long-standing view that children are "emotional," "appetitive," and "irrational." There is a growing consensus among philosophers and educators, however, that children are natural philosophers. Their abundant curiosity, their propensity for asking questions, and their flexible minds, predispose them toward philosophical questions. With adequate encouragement and a student centered curriculum, they can develop the critical thinking skills characteristic of philosophic thought and move from mere consumers of information to reflective and autonomous thinkers.

The goal of Keeping the Child in Mind: A Conference About Philosophy for Children is to stimulate discussion of the theory and practice of Philosophy for Children and, in turn, to develop effective ways to introduce philosophy into pre-college classrooms in Memphis.

Members of the public are welcome to attend. Inquiries should be directed to the conference organizer, Prof. Deborah Tollefsen.

This conference is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, the Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities at the University of Memphis, the Squire Family Foundation, and an Access and Diversity Grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents.


Friday, September 11, 2009
11:00 am Demonstration Class, directed by Jana Mohr Lone

Barbara K. Lipman Early Childhood School and Research Institute, University of Memphis

Location: Lipman School
1:00 pm Lunch with Lipman School teachers, parents, and graduate students
4:00 pm Opening Remarks

Speaker: Ralph Faudree, Provost, University of Memphis
Speaker: Jonathan Judaken, Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities, University of Memphis
4:30 pm Keynote Address: Just Think About That! Growing Up Philosophically

Speaker: Gareth Matthews, University of Massachusetts
Chair: Deborah Tollefsen, University of Memphis

Location: Mitchell Hall Auditorium
Saturday, September 12, 2009
8:30 am Coffee and pastries
9:00 am Moral Philosophy in Middle and High School: Indifference, Resistance, and Bystanders

Speaker: Jana Mohr Lone, Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children, University of Washington
Chair: Claire Katz, Texas A & M University
10:30 am Philosophical Dialogue Across the Curriculum: Integrating P4C into the School Content Areas

Speaker: David Kennedy, Montclair State University
Chair: Steven Becton, Facing History and Ourselves
11:45 am Lunch
2:00 pm Doing Philosophy with Children

Speaker: Thomas Wartenberg, Mount Holyoke College
Chair: Dan Pozmanter, Education to Empower
3:15 pm Reconsidering the Examined Life: Philosophy with Children

Speaker: Michael Burroughs, University of Memphis
Chair: Carol Cordeau Young, Barbara K. Lipman Early Childhood School and Research Institute
4:30 pm The Importance of Philosophy in the Moral Formation of Children

Speaker: Rafael Rondon, Sacred Heart Catholic School
Chair: Matthew Lexow, University of Memphis
Friday's Demonstration Class will take place at the Lipman School, after which the Opening Remarks and Keynote Address will be held in Mitchell Hall Auditorium. All events on Saturday will be held in the Pan-Hellenic Building.


Michael Burroughs earned his BA in philosophy from Salisbury University and is currently a PhD. candidate in the Department of Philosophy at The University of Memphis. His areas of philosophical interest include philosophy for children, ancient philosophy, social epistemology, and ethics. Prior to arriving in Memphis, Burroughs taught philosophy to high school students in Salisbury, MD and Belize, Central America. Burroughs also led philosophy discussion groups for two years at Eastern Correctional Institution in Princess Anne, MD. Burroughs is co-founder of Philosophical Horizons, a community outreach program designed to introduce philosophy to students in Memphis City Schools, and currently teaches a high school philosophy course at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, TN.

David Kennedy is Professor of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University, and a Fellow of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. He has published two books in the area of philosophy of childhood, and numerous papers on the theory and practice of community of philosophical inquiry. He has conducted numerous workshops for teachers in philosophy for children, and practices regularly in local schools. His current research interest is in the development of P4C curricula in school content areas.

Jana Mohr Lone is the director and founder of the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children which is part of the University of Washington Department of Philosophy. It brings philosophers and college students trained in philosophy into K-12 public school classrooms. Since 1995 Dr. Mohr-Lone has facilitated philosophy classes in pre-college classrooms from preschool to college, as well as taught college students and others about ways to bring philosophy into K-12 classrooms. For the past five years, she has taught annual philosophy classes to fifth and eighth grade students. Dr. Mohr-Lone is a frequent writer and speaker about pre-college philosophy, and the author of the blog, Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People. She is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Questions: Philosophy for Young People and remains on the journal's editorial board, and she is the incoming chair of the American Philosophical Association Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy.

Gareth B. Matthews is Professor of Philosophy (emeritus) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of many articles and several books on ancient, medieval, and early modern philosophy, including Socratic Perplexity and the Nature of Philosophy (Oxford, 1999) and Augustine (Blackwell, 2005). He is also the author of many articles and three books on philosophy and childhood: Philosophy and the Young Child (1980), Dialogues with Children (1984), and The Philosophy of Childhood (1994). Those books are all published by Harvard University Press and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He also maintains the Philosophy for Kids website.

Rafael Rondon (PhD, University of Oklahoma) is the Principal of Sacred Heart Catholic School in the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas. Prior to his present appointment, Dr. Rondon served as Principal of Resurrection Catholic School located in the Hickory Hill area of Memphis, Tennessee. He also served as the Assistant Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis. His research and teaching interests are in pragmatism and philosophy of religion. More specifically, his current research is focused on educating children living in poverty. Recent studies suggesting a strong correlation between the social deprivations associated with poverty and the inhibited development of the brains of children reared in poverty demand the development of new and more comprehensive approaches to address the achievement gap that exists between the children of the poor and those of the affluent. His work is also focused on developing a new model for ecumenical pragmatism whose aim is to facilitate the dialogue between different communities of faith serving disadvantaged communities. Dr. Rondon has served as the chair for the American Philosophical Association’s Committee for the Pre-college Instruction of Philosophy for the last three years.

Thomas E. Wartenberg is professor of philosophy at Mount Holyoke College where he teaches a course in which his students teach philosophy to local elementary school children. His recent publications include Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy (Routledge) and Existentialism: A Beginner’s Guide (Oneworld). He has received grants from the American Philosophical Association and the Squire Family Foundation to support his work on introducing philosophy through children’s literature. He has published articles on his work in this area in such journals as Teaching Philosophy and Theory and Research in Education. His forthcoming book, tentatively titled Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy through Children’s Literature, will appear from Rowman and Littlefield in 2010. His widely visited Teaching Children Philosophy website has recently been upgraded. He is a member of the APA Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy and serves on the Advisory Board for the Squire Family Foundation. In addition to philosophy for children, his central research areas are philosophy of film and aesthetics.

Paper Abstracts

Just Think About That! Growing Up Philosophically
Gareth Matthews

Our parents and teachers try to help us grow up. But what is the goal of growing up? Is it just to become another conventional and boring adult? Maybe growing up should include asking and trying to answer questions about oneself, about others, and about the world that most adults have never really thought much about. Where does a pain go when it goes away? Is perfect happiness just enjoying yourself so much that at the moment you don’t want anything else? Thinking about how best to answer hard, but fun, questions like those may help us become more grown up than many grown-ups.

Moral Philosophy in Middle and High School: Indifference, Resistance and Bystanders
Jana Mohr Lone

For the past five years Dr. Jana Mohr Lone, the director of the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children in Seattle, has taught a unit on Moral Philosophy and Genocide to public middle and high school students. The unit utilizes readings, films, and discussion to explore such questions as:

- What is a community? What shapes its identity?
- Is it morally permissible to resist authority in certain situations? Is it ever morally obligatory to resist?
- Why are some people silent in the face of moral wrongs?
- What is courage?
- What is indifference? Is it always wrong?
- What are the moral costs of being a bystander?
- Are we morally obligated to help others?

The questions examined in this unit go to the heart of moral issues with which teenage students struggle on a daily basis, including issues related to identity, cliques and bullying, understanding differences, and standing up for others. Central to the skills students need in order to grapple successfully with these issues are the ability to think critically and the confidence to ask relevant questions. Philosophy is the oldest and most effective discipline for cultivating these skills. This session will demonstrate how to conduct moral philosophy discussions with middle and high school students about the questions raised in this unit.

Philosophical Dialogue Across the Curriculum: Integrating P4C into the School Content Areas
David Kennedy

A major hindrance to the introduction of P4C into the curriculum of American schools has been teachers' and administrators' unwillingness to add a "new subject" to an already overloaded set of mandated disciplinary areas. But if we understand a set of common, central and contestable concepts--for example “life,” “organism,” “measurement,” “justice,” “progress,” “infinity”--to be at the base of every subject area, we can develop emergent, dialogical philosophical curriculum in each one by identifying those concepts and constructing materials designed to problematize them, thereby opening “philosophical windows” across the curriculum. I will offer a rationale for this project, and suggest four possible models for its implementation in schools.

Doing Philosophy with Children
Thomas E. Wartenberg

My talk describes the course I teach in which undergraduate philosophy and education majors learn how to lead philosophy discussions among elementary school students using children’s books and then practice what they have learned by facilitating philosophy discussion in elementary-school classrooms. It also gives an overview of the history of my own involvement in discussing philosophy with young children as well as an explanation for why I think doing so is crucial to both the children and our society as a whole. There is an illustration of the method we use for facilitating philosophical discussions in elementary schools as well as an example of the insightful discussions that the school children have had under the guidance of my students. Finally, I will give an overview of my website,, that is designed to assist people in leading philosophical discussion with young children.

Reconsidering the Examined Life: Philosophy with Children
Michael Burroughs

Can children be philosophers? In this paper I consider the child’s eligibility for living “the examined life.” In discussing my work with children at Hickory Ridge Middle School in Memphis, Tennessee I focus on what it has meant to treat the child as philosopher. Such engagement with the child is largely absent in the history of philosophy and even today Philosophy for Children and Philosophy of Childhood face questions within the Academy. In doing philosophy with children we move toward rectifying the absence of the child’s voice in the canon and create a more inclusive notion of philosophy itself.

The Importance of Philosophy in the Moral Formation of Children
Rafael Rondon

While most children are not capable of functioning as moral agents as often and to the same extent as most adults, the data from various studies over long periods of time and across cultures suggests that the capacity for moral agency can be cultivated and enhanced in children by developing their critical thinking skills. In this paper it is argued that teaching children philosophy from an early age is an efficient way of developing their critical thinking skills, thus increasing the likelihood that they will more frequently interact with the world around them as moral agents. This approach to the moral development of children is especially important at a time when so many children around the world (yes, even in the United States) are living in poverty and the constant violence that accompanies it.

Conference Information
Paper Abstracts
Philosophical Horizons
Conference Poster
Conference Sponsors
Department of Philosophy
Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities
Squire Family Foundation
Tennessee Board of Regents
Further Information
University of Memphis
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