Keeping Philosophy real
“Our Philosophy lessons are like tools I can use to make to make my life full of happiness. Overall I think Philosophy will help me through the trickiest times of my life.” Anna W, 4S
“Philosophy is the study of human existence. It’s a reasoned pursuit of fundamental truths and principles of conduct. It questions your understanding of the world from the perspective of other individuals and cultures. When I leave the class, I feel at peace because I can understand my classmates better and ready to deal with the challenges ahead.” Victoria M, 4S
“I love Philosophy because it makes me think about my world and how I can be one with it, so that I can be the best person I can be.” Lexi W, 4K
“I have learnt that if you put your mind to it you can do amazing things because you have the elements in your heart.” Cassie G, 4S
“What I’ve learnt in Philosophy is our school values (Stillness, Truthfulness, Courage, Service and Respect) and how to put them into practice." Marta D, 4K
John Colet School teacher Jean Kearney says Philosophy requires self-reflection, honest discussion, and an exploration of how to stay true to oneself in a 21st century world.
Her weekly philosophy lessons for Year 4 girls explore a wide range of texts, ancient and modern, religious and secular, and use a variety of contemporary role models to illustrate admirable and aspirational qualities.
For example, while exploring human potential, the children look at texts from the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra.
Mrs Kearney says coupling critical thinking skills with a real life example can often enliven a previously indecipherable reading. So the life of Anne Frank could provide a discussion point when studying a section of the Upanishads. Cathy Freeman provides an example of realising potential. The YouTube video “Run like a Girl” adds further context.
“We change the quote from Hamlet a little, to consider “What piece of work is a Girl? And we wonder how that changes the meaning, and if it does at all. We consider the work of Michelle Obama, and the Australian founders of Orange Sky Laundry. Then the girls reflect on their own brilliant qualities, and research and present a fact file on a great woman in their own world.
She says polarised debates, poster making, and contributing personal reflections on Post-it notes are all ways to get everyone fully involved in challenging themselves.
"Creative and critical thinking play an increasingly central role in education today, and Philosophy provides an ideal forum to exercise these skills," says Mrs Kearney.
“Of course, these skills are not limited to Philosophy lessons alone. Whenever the children engage in a see-think-wonder, or think-puzzle-explore routine, they are developing their critical thinking skills, and they do so several times a week. But it is in Philosophy lessons that they have the ideal environment to fully exercise and display their proficiency.”
Headmaster Julian Wilcock takes the Year 4 Philosophy boys class, following a similar curriculum but with slightly different texts and role models.
“Philosophy has always been an essential component of the John Colet school curriculum, and we strive to keep it both dynamic and relevant to the children today,” he says.