13 SES 14 A, The concept of childhood, P4C and competing ideas about play
Feminist philosopher and educator Ann Margaret Sharp co-founded Philosophy for Children (P4C) and collaborated with Matthew Lipman, between the early 1970s and 2010. Together, they established a trans-disciplinary field of scholarship in philosophy of education, childhood and pedagogy, sparking a broad international movement (Gregory, Haynes & Murris, 2017; Haynes, 2018). Lipman is well known, and he is often given sole credit for the methods of P4C, while Sharp’s educational activism and scholarship in philosophy, education and P4C have rarely been given the recognition they deserve within and beyond the field (Gregory & Laverty, 2018).
Although critical of compensatory education, Matthew Lipman endorsed the view that experimentation with P4C must be shown to work, “in the sense of producing measurable educational improvement….in ways that are publicly verifiable” (Lipman et al., 1977, p.5). An emphasis on academic achievement, schooled behaviour and ‘gap closing’ features strongly in P4C research, sitting well with discourses of development and progress, as opposed to Sharp’s preoccupation with growth and love. Comparison of test scores, analysis of student dialogue and measurements of self-esteem are allowable research currencies, whereas discernment of atmosphere, ethos, or changing relationships is fuzzy. Arguably, it is the promise of academic impact that makes P4C attractive in the context of neo-liberal education policies and might partly explain the prominence given to Lipman over Sharp.
Sharp is associated with a politicised relational theory, ethics of care and the emancipatory scope of the community of philosophical enquiry (De La Garza, 2018; Oliverio, 2018), for Sharp conditions for P4C, but given far less attention than the ‘thinking skills’ associated with philosophical enquiry. Sharp’s enlivened, subversive sense of the community of enquiry emerged through her experience of residential work with excluded and marginalised teenagers, her college teaching, her feminist life, and reading of literature and philosophers that shaped her thinking, including Nietzsche, Arendt, Dewey and Weil. Sharp saw it as a democratic practice of engaged philosophy and integral part of her teaching and personal life; making for intergenerational connections through shared philosophical enquiry fed by imagination and experience, pointing to action for the good (Sharp & Laverty, 2018).
For many in the P4C movement, Sharp’s feminism (Sharp 1994; 1997) and attention to the social and political aspects of this engaged, embodied philosophy of education have provided a source of inspiration, creativity and hope. Sharp’s P4C was a movement of social liberation (1995; 2018).The method exemplifies philosophy as a theory of education for an intragenerational art of living, and not only among humans, but also concerned with global ecological consciousness (Sharp, 2018:237). Commenting on Sharp’s beliefs, Splitter (2018:104) describes a triangular model of personhood, based on self-awareness/awareness of others; sensitivity to context; and shared awareness of the common world. This praxis, and the commitment and freedom it seems to arouse, is generative, just as Sharp thought and lived it. Philosopher practitioners in the field have continued to problematize, diversify and creatively enliven the method in professional development, teaching and research (see, for example, JoPE 45 (2) 2011; Murris & Haynes, 2019).
This paper explores the community of philosophical enquiry, working with the concept ‘more than a pedagogy’. Jen Glaser argues that Sharp’s vision ‘stretched the movement’s thinking about the community of inquiry from that of a pedagogy, to a form of life (2018:217). The paper interweaves conversations with teachers about P4C practice, selected writings of Sharp and my insider experience of the P4C movement. Guiding questions are:
- What characterises Sharp’s vision of the community of philosophical enquiry?
- How do these characteristics harmonise philosophy and education?
- What emerges while reading conversations with teachers through Sharp’s writings?
- What matters here for education?
Sharp’s ideas have been brought together in a rich collection of her writing along with appreciative commentaries by other philosophers of education in the field (Gregory & Laverty, 2018). Warmly welcoming this timely collection that I was invited to review, this paper seeks to celebrate Sharp’s philosophy of education expressed through the community of philosophical enquiry, with the hope that her contribution can become more widely valued. The methodology of this project therefore is to re-view and respond to Sharp’s ideas, putting them to work in other contexts, and to be led by her approach to such activity into further enquiry. Sharp drew on her reading, everyday experiences and material generated in philosophical enquiries with teachers (through her training role) and with students of all ages. All could be admitted if it had a bearing on the enquiry. Between 2015-2018, with a grant from the Philosophy of Education Society (PESGB) and ethical approval from my university research ethics committee, I engaged in conversations with teachers in East London primary and secondary schools, about their perspectives on Philosophy for Children. There is a paucity of studies that focus on how teaching P4C influences teacher thinking and practice, let alone teachers’ deeper understandings of philosophical facilitation or their struggles and disagreements with it, particularly when introduced with an element of compulsion, in the context of whole school development and policy. Coordinated introduction of P4C in a London neighbourhood created a unique opportunity for contextualised exploration of teachers’ experiences, based on direct investigation of issues that they identified, arising from practices of P4C in their particular schools. The conversations with teachers were orientated towards their understanding of P4C and experience of putting it into practice in their settings, their reservations and preoccupations. I do not attempt to codify, create themes, give voice or let data speak. Rather I take the opportunity of reviewing Sharp’s work to re-call conversations and re-read transcripts response-ably (Murris & Bozalek, 2019). Inspired by Sharp’s feminist practice, in every sense this is a slow project, interwoven with other professional work and, with significant life activities such as caring intensively for my very elderly father. I do not offer a representative, final analysis but rather overlay these various texts, my life and entangled activities. The inclination is towards the ‘more than a pedagogy’ in the spirit of community of enquiry, through diffraction and slow scholarship (Ulmer 2017).
Through attention to ‘what comes up’ through the interweaving of re-view and re-call, alongside my experience of conversations with teachers and within the P4C movement, my paper seeks to flesh out the ‘more than’ of the community of philosophical enquiry. On the one hand, in P4C training and training materials, the community of enquiry is often described as a cycle of particular sequential elements and a form of classroom organisation, a discrete and distinctive lesson to be timetabled (see for example, SAPERE Level One Handbook). It is contrasted with teaching-as-usual, in relation to the teacher’s role and student participation. On the other hand, as people become deeply involved in philosophical enquiry, there is often an atmosphere of creative intensity. The ‘reduced’ accounting for the process is in such marked contrast with enlivened stories of meaningful philosophical encounters told by participants. Such events, embodying ideals of democratic and poetic engagement, take place in classrooms when there is a sense of epistemic trust, when teachers are sensitive to dynamics of power, position and authority (Chetty and Suissa, 2017; Reed-Sandoval and Carmen-Sykes, 2017), when anyone can initiate a question for philosophical enquiry and when everyone listens with heightened attention. The atmosphere and effort of philosophical enquiry are evident: written on faces, audible in voices, felt through affects, gestures and pauses, visible in the arrangements of spaces, bodies and chairs. The qualities of such material events, experienced through chronological and kaironic time/lessness (Sharp and Gregory, 2018), seem to create a sense of movement. However brief or fleeting, they provide a means by which to get to know one another, to figure things out together. On such occasions, and cumulatively as similar moments accrue, a space of possibility is constituted, one that calls into question what school is, and what it could be.
Gregory, M.R., Haynes, J. & Murris K. (2017) (Eds) The Routledge International Handbook on Philosophy for Children. London and New York: Routledge. Chetty, D. & Suissa, J. ‘No Go Areas’: Racism and discomfort in the community of inquiry. Chapter 2. Reed-Sandoval, A. & Carmen-Sykes, A. Who talks? Who listens? Taking ‘positionality’ seriously in Philosophy for Children. Chapter 25. Gregory, M. R. and Laverty, M.J. (2018) (Eds) In Community of Inquiry with Ann Margaret Sharp. Childhood, Philosophy and Education. London and New York: Routledge. De La Garza, M. T. Education for Liberation. Chapter 10 Glaser, J. Social-political dimensions of the community of philosophical inquiry in an age of globalisation. Chapter 17 Oliverio, S. The teacher as liberator: Ann Margaret Sharp between philosophy of education and teacher education. Chapter 4 Sharp, A. M & Gregory, M.R. Towards a feminist philosophy of education: Simone Weil on force, goodness, work, method and time. Chapter 11. Sharp, A.M. What is the community of inquiry? Chapter 2. (Originally published in the Journal of Moral Education 16:1, (1987) pp37-45). Sharp, A.M. The community of inquiry: education for democracy. Chapter 19 (Originally published in Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children 9:2 (1991) 31-7. Splitter, L. Living in, and with, our relationships to others. Chapter 7 Haynes, J. (2018) ‘The Movement of Philosophy with Children: Beyond Learning as Usual’ in Sonia París Albert and Sofía Herrero Rico (Eds.), Pensamiento Creativo. Una herramienta con future. Madrid: Dykinson, S.L., publishers. Haynes, J. (2020) Teachers’ Perspectives on Philosophy for Children in East London Schools. Research Report. Journal of Philosophy of Education Special Issue (2011) 45 (2) Philosophy for Children in Transition: Problems and Prospects edited by Nancy Vansieleghem and David Kennedy. Lipman, M., Sharp, A.M. and. Oscanyan, F.S. (1977). Philosophy in the Classroom. Upper Montclair, N.J.: The Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children, Montclair State College. Murris, K. & Haynes, J. (2018) (Eds.) Literature, Literacy and Learning: Reading Classrooms Differently. London and New York: Routledge. Sharp A.M. (Ed) (1994) Thinking, Journal of Philosophy for Children. Special Issue on Philosophy for Children and Feminist Philosophy and Philosophy for Children in Formerly Authoritarian Societies. (11): 3 and 4. Sharp A.M. (Ed) (1997) Thinking, Journal of Philosophy for Children. Special Issue Devoted to Women, Feminism and Philosophy for Children. (13):1.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.