More on the Benefits of Philosophy for Kids

An increasing number of American children from low-income backgrounds are coming to kindergarten lagging in both academic and non-cognitive skills critical to educational success…. Fortunately, there’s a growing — yet under-appreciated and therefore under-reported — method of teaching that’s been showing tangible progress in student academic achievement, including for kids from disadvantaged groups. It’s the Philosophy for Children movement, also known as P4C….

Unlike other philosophy classes in public schools, the focus in a P4C classroom is on the thoughts, ideas, and questions of the students themselves, rather than any traditional philosophical topic. The teacher’s role is to help foster a climate of critical thinking, guiding and informing student inquiries, helping them pay attention to the quality of their reasoning, and making sure they realize that they’re meeting on terms of equality and mutual respect — all with an underlying commitment to rational thinking as the mechanism for making better judgments.

That’s Steve Neumann, in a guest post at The Washington Post’s “Answer Sheet” blog.

He references the Durham University study (previously) and another one conducted in Texas:

A study just published in the Journal of Philosophy in Schools bolsters Gregory’s claims for the power of P4C. Several faculty members from Sam Houston State University in Texas decided to replicate a 2007 study conducted in Scotland on the effects of a P4C program. The original study was one of few randomized, controlled clinical trials assessing the impact of a P4C program. It also showed significant gains in cognitive abilities by children who participated in weekly philosophical group discussions.

This new study found that the seventh-grade students who had experienced the P4C program showed significant gains relative to those in the seventh-grade control group, providing evidence for the main contentions of the original 2007 study — namely, that “regular, one hour per week, structured community of inquiry P4C sessions are a relatively powerful educational intervention which boosts students’ cognitive abilities significantly while doing so at a very small cost both in materials needed and in instructional time.”

I think I need to add a “pre-college” section to the Value of Philosophy pages.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

People interested in Philosophy for / with Children can visit the websites of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC,, the world’s oldest organization devoted to children’s philosophical practice; the International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children (ICPIC;, and the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO;

Eddy Nahmias
Eddy Nahmias
8 years ago

This is an exciting movement that I hope to work my way into. I plan to develop a course for philosophy undergrads and MA students at GSU in which we learn together how to teach philosophy to children, and then go to local schools to teach lessons (and hopefully inspire the teachers to incorporate them into their own classes). Here’s a description, but I look forward to learning more from the people discussed here at DN and elsewhere about what works best (the resources are more developed and impressive than I had presumed).

Philosophy for Children: In this experimental course we will learn how to teach philosophy to children and teenagers. And then we will do it. Students will read various research and curricula designed for teaching philosophy and critical thinking to children, and in groups they will develop lesson plans to teach classes in metro Atlanta schools (chosen from kindergarten to high school). These lessons will build on class readings of important philosophical texts (and perhaps literature and movies) that will be discussed and ‘translated’ into ideas and activities with which children can productively engage (and which teachers could adopt to use in their classrooms). Because we best (only?) understand philosophy when we teach it to others, and because (the best?) philosophical ideas can be reformulated as answers to questions children ponder, this course will improve students’ own philosophical thinking and writing, especially their ability to convey complex ideas in ways that are clear and comprehensible (to adults as well as children).

Justin, please do start a resources page! Here’s the websites I’ve collected so far to get you started:

8 years ago

I agree that P4C or however it`s called is a rather interesting development andI really hope that philosophy finds its way into the curriculum of elementary/high schools. Still, I`m a bit reluctant about the results of these studies as the proclaimed positive effects on the cognitive abilities and the prosocial attitudes of the children seem to be a bit too good to be true, given that the children get taught only one hour philosophy per week and typically those studies last only a couple of months. I certainly do not want to claim that any of these studies did unsound work but rather I think it`s important to not fall into the trap of “romanticising” P4C too much. So I really hope that more studies are conducted in this field, in order to get a more solid picture.
@Eddy Nahmias: Maybe it would be also useful to include some literature on moral and cognitive development into such a resources page. I think having a decent grasp of those areas might help in the preperation of the philosophy lessons as e.g. 6 year old kids might have more difficulties in very abstract thinking than 10 year olds. In case you are interested, I could look for some suitable literature.

Derek Bowman
8 years ago

There’s also which includes a syllabus for a course much like the one Eddy is planning:

Dan Dennis
Dan Dennis
8 years ago

The Philosophy Foundation in London runs training courses for those wishing to teach philosophy to children
Here is their page with recommended reading, including their own publications and others’:
They have a lot of experience of teaching philosophy to children, so there is plenty which can be learnt from them.

I have heard the book ‘The If Odessey’ recommended for younger children. It is amazing that even 8, 9, 10 year olds manage to coherently philosophize…

I have taught Philosophy to bright 16-18 year olds and it is very enjoyable and stimulating. They are very open minded and objective, so ask good questions.

BTW P4C is an organisation which promotes a particular methodology for teaching philosophy to children.

8 years ago

There is a wide range of interesting research on philosophy with/for children outcomes ranging from cognitive and social-emotional benefits to positive self-concept in childhood. And these benefits are shown across a wide range of child populations, including early childhood which connects this work quite nicely with parallel research on the benefits of dialogue based education, experiential learning, and constructivist approaches to pedagogy more generally. The quality of the research (in terms of design and methodology) is improving greatly as more philosophers work on this and team with other researchers in the social and developmental sciences and education. So, as a professional philosopher and researcher and practitioner of philosophy with/for children for many years I’ve become increasingly optimistic about this work and our ability to form collaborations with researchers from developmental psychology, human development, and education. I urge anyone interested to look into and join the organizations cited above, including PLATO, ICPIC, and IAPC. We are all working, and often volunteering, to develop this work, to benefit education, children, and our discipline. The PLATO biennial conference was just this past June ( as was ICPIC’s,

For a few useful surveys on relevant studies see Trickey and Topping, “Philosophy for Children – A Systematic Review” and Cebas and Garcia Moriyon, “What We Know About Research in Philosophy for Children,” along with a number of comprehensive reports on philosophy with/for children by UNESCO. And there is much more available in several journals in education as well as others such as Childhood and Philosophy and Analytic Teaching and Philosophical Praxis.