Philosophy with Teenagers

Author(s) Patricia Hannam and Eugenio Echeverria
Publisher Continuum
Published 2009
Pages 208
Price £19.99
ISBN 9781855394667
Reviewed by Mr Robert Bowie
Canterbury Christ Church University-Education
Review published 25 February 2010

The foreward, by Ann Margaret Sharp, Professor of Education at Montclair State University, articulates an ambition of philosophy for children as a focus on understanding rather than knowledge, and in particular, the skills for understanding, be they cognitive, social or emotional. She reviews a number of currents of philosophy for children including Hannah Arendt’s idea of "going visiting" in the community of philosophical enquiry, "trying on ideas" and engaging with dialogue with others, "story telling" and evaluating ones own story. The Forward provides a picture of some of the important themes of the developments within what is now described as philosophy for children. Patricia Hannam and Eugenio Echeverria seek in this volume to make their contribution to, with a focus on developing skills for, living in the global community with adolescents in mind.

The book is divided into three parts. The first explores the history of the community of philosophical enquiry and the development of identity among adolescents. It is the latter section here which begins to develop the distinctive approach of this book focussing on different dimensions of identity and different ways in which identity among adolescents develop. The argument expressed here is that the moral development of adolescents should be informed by regular engagement with the community of philosophical enquiry.
Part two focuses on hearing and responding to the experiences of young people. Chapters explore the impact of globalization on adolescents and the impact on emotional wellbeing. Here the emotional dimension of this approach is developed and an argument is made for the importance of the community of philosophical enquiry on emotional education and wellbeing. Another chapter explores how a contemporary curriculum might be developed by embracing philosophical strategies with examples of how teachers would use such approaches in the classroom. The final chapter of this section further explores how philosophical strategies are important in the development of moral imagination and equip children to better handle the uncertainty of the modern world.

Part three focuses in much more detail on classroom strategies and schemes of work. The first chapter begins by identifying aspects of current UK education policy which are seen by the authors as supporting and supported by the community of philosophical enquiry, the role of conceptual clarification and a concept driven scheme of work. It then looks in general terms at the application of philosophy of enquiry to subjects including citizenship, design and technology, English, geography, history and religious education. Further chapters look at cross curricula projects, the use of philosophy club, international projects and the final two chapters look at implications for facilitators and three student case studies.

The book has an appendix with further examples of applications through units of work and then a good list of references and suggested further readings and web links, as well as an index. The book will be of value to any school or teacher looking to develop the community of philosophical enquiry in their context and the book has many features which can be easily translated into practical settings and many other pointers for further developmental work. The section on different subjects raises further questions on how the approach could come to characterise the approach to study in that subject area. Arguably the strengths of such an approach would be amplified by embracing a whole school approach and a more radically restructured curriculum. The book seeks to walk a line between a theoretically developed approach, a practical guide for teachers, with examples from students. In that sense it is a compromise but the book succeeds, in only 180 pages, in whetting the appetite and providing clear ways forward for the practitioner as well as thought through rationales. The combination of the two authors, one an experienced UK practitioner who is familiar with English school systems, the other a Latin American Director of a Centre for P4C, provides a welcome breadth which ranges from English policy to UN education developments. While it is written with the English curriculum in mind, it will have wider application.