philosophy for children as a teaching movement in an era of too much learning

charles bingham


In this article, I contextualize the community of inquiry approach, and Philosophy for Children, within the current milieu of education.  Specifically, I argue that whereas former scholarship on Philosophy for Children had a tendency to critique the problems of teacher authority and knowledge transmission, we must now consider subtler, learner-centered scenarios of education as a threat to Philosophy for Children.  I begin by offering a personal anecdote about my own experience attending a ‘reverse-integrated’ elementary school in 1968. I use this anecdote to show the detrimental aspects of the turn to learning—and the concomitant turn away from teaching—over past five decades.  I go on to detail what I call “the logic of learning.” The logic of learning has five components: 1) That learning has a theory, or ‘logic,’ in other words, that learners can be figured out. 2) That learning is instrumental, that people need to learn things in order to acquire something that will be obtained after the learning is complete. 3) That learning concerns normation, or, some people get learning ‘right’ while others do not. 4) That teaching is the same as instruction, so that teaching always means delivering knowledge to students. 5) That authority should reside as a possession of the learner, and thus authority is understood as a thing rather than a relation. I show that these elements of the logic of learning stand in the way of the goals of Philosophy for Children, and that opponents of Philosophy for Children have used these elements to assail the Philosophy for Children project. I continue by describing a relational understanding of authority. I demonstrate the importance of relational authority and relational teaching as key components of Philosophy for Children. In conclusion, I argue that Philosophy for Children needs to spearhead a movement of relational teaching.


Relationality; Learnification; Authority; Philosophy for Children

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e-issn 1984-5987 | p-issn 2525-5061