The UMass Center for Philosophy and Children
The UMass Center for Philosophy and Children has three main goals.
- Outreach: The Center works 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. The Center also hosts summer philosophy programs for high school students at UMass. These summer programs serve as bridge-to-college experiences for participants. The pilot summer program ran in 2022; it is entirely free of charge to participants, and targets low-income students from Holyoke and Springfield.
- Training: The Center trains K–12 teachers to do philosophy with their students in the classroom. The main forms of training consist in summer philosophy institutes and professional development offerings.
- 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.
In addition, the Center sometimes facilitates research in the field of Philosophy with Children.
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 UMass Center for Philosophy and Children enables many children to let that natural ability flourish.
This view is in line with the work of 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.