philosophical dialogue with children about complex social issues: a debate about texts and practices




murris, chetty, race, history, dialogue


In this article, I report on my reading of a debate between two practitioners and scholars of philosophy with children – Karin Murris and Darren Chetty. The parts of their exchanges I have chosen to focus on relate to a children's book called Tusk Tusk by David McKee. Their respective arguments raise questions for me about the relationship between the starting text (or stimulus) and issues of importance in the wider world. Although Chetty sees benefits in using picture books, he appears to believe there is an over-reliance on fables and other magical tales and that alternative starting points could be more suitable for exploring complex social issues with historical dimensions. Murris, on the other hand, seems to appreciate the lack of historical perspective that is evident in many of her preferred picture books. She values their  ‘universal’ and ‘magical’ aspects because they stimulate ‘rhizomatic’ dialogues that are spontaneous and non-hierarchical. In this commentary I trace what, to me, are the most significant lines of argument put forward by Chetty and Murris. In response, I suggest some practical ideas for choosing texts and ‘reading against the text’ – a term both writers use. I also ask and answer the question: ‘In sessions of philosophical dialogue, should adults bring to children for consideration issues they regard as important or refrain from doing so?’

Author Biography

steve williams, P4C Co-operative and SAPERE

I taught English and Media Studies for 14 years in secondary schools and served for five years as head of an English department. I helped to found SAPERE, the Philosophy for Children network in the UK, and introduced P4C as a curriculum subject in my secondary school in 1992. Over the years, I has worked with children of all ages in a wide variety of schools and helped many teachers to start Philosophy for Children through courses and support. I worked for five years as the senior editor for an educational publishing company, editing books and magazines including ‘Teaching Thinking and Creativity’, I recently managed the training involved in a successful research project into the effects of philosophy for children for SAPERE and the Educational Endowment Foundation.


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How to Cite

williams, steve. (2020). philosophical dialogue with children about complex social issues: a debate about texts and practices. Childhood & Philosophy, 16(36), 01–28.