The Matthews Center for Philosophy and Children
The Matthews Center will have four main goals.
- Outreach: The Center will work with the existing Philosophy in Public Schools program (PiPS) to send Five College students, UMass graduate students, and professors into public K–12 schools in Western Massachusetts to do philosophy with children. Beginning in the summer of 2021 the Center will also host 2-week summer philosophy programs for high school students at UMass. These summer programs will serve as bridge-to-college experiences for participants. The pilot summer program is scheduled for July 2021; it will be entirely free of charge to participants, and will target low-income students from Holyoke and Springfield.
- Training: The Center will train K–12 teachers to do philosophy with their students in the classroom. The main forms of training will consist in summer philosophy institutes and professional development offerings.
- Research: The Center will be a hub for premier research in the field of Philosophy with Children, in collaboration with the UMass College of Education. We will organize conferences as venues for scholars interested in philosophy pedagogy and philosophy outreach to share their work. We will also work with the College of Education to develop assessment instruments and measure the impact of our outreach programs.
- Equipping: The Center will create curricula for doing philosophy in K–12 classrooms and for philosophy summer programs. It will also create modules for schools interested in starting philosophy programs.
A range of studies suggest that doing philosophy with children (grades K–12) has a measurable positive academic and social impact. In addition, we think children are naturally inclined to do philosophy and that they are also naturally good at it. The Matthews Center will enable many children to let that natural ability flourish.
This view is in line with the work of the Center’s namesake, the late Gareth Matthews (1929–2011). Dr. Matthews taught in the UMass Department of Philosophy from 1969–2005 and was a pioneering scholar in the field of philosophy with children, writing several influential scholarly articles and books on the topic that have been translated into a dozen languages. A major contribution of his work was to show that even very young children were capable of doing philosophy just as well as (and in some ways better than) adults.