peter pan: the leader and his followers an experience of philosophy with children

esther charabati


Philosophy and literature are linked by strong ties that are evident in both disciplines: there are numerous literary and philosophical works in which reciprocal influences can be traced. This philosophical experience with children started from a classic work, Peter Pan, to motivate elementary school students. The goals were a) to develop critical thinking skills and ethical problematization around school issues; b) to develop analysis, synthesis, inferring, debate, questioning, and creative thinking skills; and c) for students to make connections between their daily experiences and the situations discussed in the story. Peter Pan portrays a popular kind of character of our times: the leader. Peter is smart and friendly, possesses enough courage and charisma to entice lost children, the Red Skins, and Wendy and her siblings. His imagination and passion for adventure make him even more appealing. Peter also embodies flaws commonly seen in numerous leaders: vanity, selfishness, and lack of responsibility. To exert control he relies on the submission of lost children. While both behaviors may seem natural to us in the story, in real life at school we would label them with words like bullying, abuse, aggression, victims... This experience showed that literary works can trigger deep thinking and debate in students that apply to dilemmas in both school and everyday life; it prompted questioning regarding relationships and points of view; it was also possible to appreciate the possibilities that this space opened to encourage imagination. Educators could witness and see evidence of the power of questioning even though only a few of them had learned these skills. Limited background in critical thinking reduces the ability to implement strategies that contribute to the growth of the above mentioned skills.


education; ethics; bullying; literature


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