A study from 2010 cites Philosophy for Children among “teaching approaches that help build resilience to extremism among young people.” The study, commissioned by the UK government,
presents the findings from a large-scale, in-depth research study into teaching methods—knowledge, skills, teaching practices and behaviours—that help to build resilience to extremism. The focus is on teaching methods to be used in a general classroom setting rather than as part of interventions targeted at those deemed at risk of extremism. The research methods used were 10 in-depth case studies of relevant projects and interventions, including interviews with teachers, practitioners and students and classroom observation, a literature review conducted according to systematic principles, and close engagement with 20 academic and other experts in the field… The primary aim of the research was to provide a strong evidence base for schools and other education providers to help them adopt and commission the appropriate interventions to build resilience to extremism.
The report describes Philosophy for Children and some other programs, and their impact on students’ thinking and attitudes:
In the case of Philosophy for Children, the reported impacts of encouraging young people to question and interrogate ideas include:
- greater recognition that others are entitled to their point of view; that there are not necessarily any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, but instead a number of different perspectives and lines of inquiry
- an increased appetite among pupils and teachers to have conversations about potentially controversial issues (such as nationalism) in school settings
- more open-mindedness among pupils, e.g. in relation to current affairs
- improved academic performance of some pupils, due to their application of interrogatory and analytical approaches in their written work for other subjects.
For example, one teacher said of the ‘peer educators’ involved in Philosophy for Children: ‘You can see them using the sentence starters and questioning each others’ ideas in their other subjects as well. And in some of their essay-writing, so they’re starting to use things like ‘On the other hand, people might believe …’ or ‘We can question this idea… ’. So they’re learning to be critical, but in a non-aggressive way with each other … academically, it’s had that impact.’ (Teacher, Philosophy for Children)
These impacts have the potential to increase young people’s resilience to extremism by equipping them with the ability to think critically and independently.
It would have been nice to have this line of thinking ready at hand a few weeks ago when politicians were attacking philosophy. Since extremism (in various religions and ideologies) plays a role in causing terrorism and violence, a new political slogan suggests itself: “Against philosophy? You must love terrorism!” Maybe not as catchy as most other political slogans, but about as sensible.
UPDATE: John Turri (Waterloo) contributes some further marketing materials: