Philosophy in Public Schools program introduces public school students to philosophy studies
By Angela Scionti | Tuesday, May 8, 2018
By Angela Scionti
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
On Wednesday, May 2 in South College, Philosophy Professor Louise Antony stood in front of more than 50 second graders from Springfield ready to introduce philosophical thought in the form of Dr. Seuss’s literature as part of the Philosophy in Public Schools program (PiPS@UMass). UMass Amherst Philosophy Professor Ned Markosian, and Mount Holyoke Philosophy Emeritus Professor Thomas Wartenberg, stood nearby as the children settled into their seats.
Antony led the second graders in discussion by intertwining the plot of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! into a digestible philosophical model. The book, an open invitation to the young students, engages vivid imagery and illustrations with the intention to provoke unlimited creative thought.
“What’s the the difference between thinking and daydreaming? What's the difference between thinking and memorizing something?” Antony asks the students. With neon cue cards Antony invited a few student volunteers to hold short sentences, cut them into phrases, and rearrange to create new meaning. One student’s card says “The eagle is in the grass.” while the other’s card says, “The snake is in the sky.”
“Now that’s a silly thing to say—right? But it is like Doctor Seuss—it is one of the things that you can say even though it is silly. Sometimes it is fun to say things that are silly. And sometimes when you say something silly it turns out to sound pretty interesting.”
PiPS@UMass introduces elementary, middle school, and public high school students in Western Massachusetts to philosophy studies. The program’s model is based on the idea that everyone can engage in philosophy and benefit from philosophical thinking.
The original model of this integrative teaching method was a creation of Professor Wartenberg’s while he was teaching at Mount Holyoke College. In addition to providing sample course syllabuses for educators to use on their own, Wartenberg visited classrooms himself. His methodology itinerary included an introduction to philosophy, a course in ethics, and a course in metaphysics and epistemology. Each segment in the syllabus included a children's book that coincided within the lesson to act as a model to be easily understood by students. In Spring 2019 the Philosophy Department will be offering its own version of this course for the first time. Watch out for it during spring enrollment in the fall.
Most of PiPS’s models can be adapted and molded into any age group from ranging from first to twelfth grade. The variety of different models have a runtime of 45 to 60 minutes each (when broken up). For more information about the PiPS program, please contact Ned Markosian at firstname.lastname@example.org.