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

steve williams

Abstract


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?’


Keywords


murris; chetty; race; history; dialogue

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12957/childphilo.2020.37827

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