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A slim, richly rewarding volume on exploring the ""naively profound questions of philosophy""with children--complementary to Philosophy and the Young Child (1980). Matthews conducted these dialogues with juniors at St. Mary's in Edinburgh, where he was transplanted (from U. Mass., Amherst) for a year pursuing research into conceptions of childhood and models of human development. Working with a class of gifted music students, he found that they could handle what is traditionally considered adult terrain with very little prodding--often just a little story to start them going. For a discussion of bravery, for example, incidents from Frog and Toad and The Wizard of Oz helped them focus on the subject, frequently as well as, and often even more freely than, the Boston schoolteachers Matthews worked with in a previous year. For other topics, Matthews generally made up his own story, using a set of child characters whose mild idiosyncracies continued from one week to the next--a playful teaching technique that reveals as much about his skills as theirs. Together they considered at some length such subjects as continuity or essence, sufficient conditions, language theory, and time travel; they eagerly tackled his questions (can dogs think about tomorrow?) and formulated some of their own (how many miles away is 1940?). Although Matthews as teacher consciously channeled the discussions by adding or changing details, this tactic served to clarify meanings or keep the discussion on course; for the most part, he managed to walk that fine line between facilitation and bold suggestion. Matthews maintains that developmental psychologists, and Piaget in particular, have overlooked this capacity among preadolescents. Although not spontaneously philosophical, some can contemplate philosophical questions, especially when posed in the English manner, which is more whimsical than the formal continental style. Anyone who has ever talked seriously with children in this age group will appreciate his perceptions here; anyone who plans to work with them can benefit from his principles.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0674202848
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press