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PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN: EMPIRICAL STUDIES OF ITS BENEFITS

(If I were more perfect at research, I'd have found these links well before now.  Gee, a little help with spreading this stuff, readers?)

Philosophy for children is, far and away, the biggest no-brainer of all-time.  Were the major Founding Fathers of the United States (e.g., Franklin, Jefferson, Washington), all of whom were members of the American Philosophical Society, brought back to life today, would they recommend philosophy for children, as opposed to fighting over crumbs as the clearly-oblivious-to-philosophy politicians and activists today are doing [see end of this post for just one example]?  Gee, ya think?

Now, for some SCIENTIFIC EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE OF THE BENEFITS OF PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN, as if the concept of it and all the available anecdotal evidence weren't enough (for many anecdotes see the bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry, linking here again in addition to the link above; as I've mentioned previously I've read Marietta McCarty's Little Big Minds, and that all by itself makes an excellent case for the concept).  And feel free to miss out on my digressions below. ^_^

In chronological order:

(1) (3/19/2016)

Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English


From the article:

Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study (pdf).

More than 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England participated in weekly discussions about concepts such as truth, justice, friendship, and knowledge, with time carved out for silent reflection, question making, question airing, and building on one another’s thoughts and ideas. 
Kids who took the course increased math and reading scores by the equivalent of two extra months of teaching, even though the course was not designed to improve literacy or numeracy. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds saw an even bigger leap in performance: reading skills increased by four months, math by three months, and writing by two months. Teachers also reported a beneficial impact on students’ confidence and ability to listen to others. 
The study was conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a non-profit group that wants to close the gap between family income and educational attainment. The EEF tested the effectiveness of the philosophy intervention through a randomized controlled trial, similar to the way many drugs are tested. 
Twenty-two schools acted as a control group, while students at the other 26 took the philosophy class (which met once a week for 40 minutes). The researchers tried to control for school quality: in each one, at least a quarter of students received free lunch and many had significant populations performing below grade level.
Only 40 minutes a week of philosophy did this?  Continuing:

The beneficial effects of philosophy lasted for two years, with the intervention group continuing to outperform the control group long after the classes had finished. “They had been given new ways of thinking and expressing themselves,”said Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF. “They had been thinking with more logic and more connected ideas.” 
England is not the first country to experiment with teaching kids philosophy. The program the EEF used, called P4C (philosophy for children), was designed by professor Matthew Lippman in New Jersey in the 1970s to teach thinking skills through philosophical dialog. In 1992, the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE) was set up in the UK to emulate that work. P4C has been adopted by schools in 60 countries. 
SAPERE’s program does not focus on reading the texts of Plato and Kant, but rather stories, poems, or film clips that prompt discussions about philosophical issues. The goal is to help children reason, formulate and ask questions, engage in constructive conversation, and develop arguments.
[Lengthy 'DIGRESSION' section moved from here to end of post]
Collins hopes the latest evidence will convince heads of schools, who have significantly more power in the UK than in the US, to make room for philosophy in their budgets. The program costs schools £16 ($23) per student to run. 
Programs like this “push you toward teaching up, not down, to disadvantaged children,” Collins told Quartz. “It’s not a reductionist, narrow curriculum, but an expansionist broad curriculum.” 
According to the EEF, 63% of British 15-year-olds achieve good results on exams, compared with 37% of disadvantaged students. The group hopes that by using evidence-based research and randomized controlled trials, schools will adopt the most effective policies to address the disparity.
Instead of throwing hundreds of billions of dollars down the drain with the current (Democrat-mindset-dominated) schooling and welfare-state set-up, we can improve outcomes on only $23 per student?  How is this not a no-brainer?


(2) (4/12/2017)

This one is in interview format:
Schools are places where children can learn behaviour, skills and attitudes that have lifelong relevance, in addition to subjects on the formal curriculum. Dr Nadia Siddiqui from the School of Education has looked at the contribution philosophy discussions can make to children’s ‘soft’ skills. 
What was the focus of the research? 
We looked at a programme called Philosophy for Children (P4C) for primary schools in the UK which is aimed at development of children’s critical thinking abilities and other non-cognitive skills such as communication skills, self-confidence, sense of fairness and empathy. These skills are deemed to have a strong association with outcomes such as attainment and success in later life. 
What did you find out? 
We found that Philosophy for Children has some promising effects in improving children’s social and communication skills, team work, resilience and ability to empathise with others. Interestingly, these positive effects are more profound in children from disadvantaged groups. 
In a previous study, we looked specifically at the impact of Philosophy for Children on children’s maths and reading results which showed that the programme can lead to progress of two extra months on average. 
How does Philosophy for Children work? 
Philosophy for Children, which is operated by a charity called SAPERE, is designed to help children become more willing and able to question, reason, construct arguments and collaborate. Dialogues are based around concepts such as ‘truth’, ‘fairness’ or ‘bullying’.
In a typical lesson, pupils and teachers sit together in a circle and the teacher begins by presenting a stimulus such as a video clip, image or newspaper article to provoke pupils’ interest. This is generally followed by some silent thinking time before the class splits into groups to think of questions that interest them. A certain question with philosophical potential is then selected by the group to stimulate a whole-class discussion. These discussions are supported by activities to develop children’s skills in reasoning and their understanding of concepts. 
Example questions might be ‘What is kindness?’, ‘Is it OK to deprive someone of their freedom?’, and ‘Are people’s physical looks more important than their actions?’. 
How did you carry out the study? 
We used a number of UK schools from our previous large randomised controlled trial and extended the study as a quasi-experiment involving 42 schools, nearly 3,000 students, in which half were used for comparison with P4C schools but without random allocation.
The non-cognitive outcomes were assessed before and after the intervention for both groups using a specific survey instrument developed for the purpose and used across a number of previous studies. It was designed to assess changes in self-reported ‘social and communication skills’, ‘team work and resilience’ and ‘empathy’ and a number of similar concepts. 
What do the findings mean for schools and policymakers? 
This research suggests that there is value in developing space in the school curriculum for developing pupils’ character and values but through example and process rather than traditional pedagogy. 
However, P4C has to be a whole-class approach to be effective, so that all individuals concerned are aware of the objective of cultivating empathy, respect and appropriate or acceptable behaviour. For example, to teach children fairness, teachers themselves have to be seen to be fair. To teach children to be polite, teachers and other (older) pupils have to practise it. And so on. 
If interventions aimed at improving non-cognitive skills can also yield better academic outcomes, then there is scope for integrating such interventions in the national curriculum and, most importantly, using the pupil premium funds in implementing them. However, there is still a gap in the research evidence to establish a causal link between non-cognitive skills and academic outcomes. 
But in their own right, these types of programmes may improve behaviour, co-operation, self-confidence, empathy and tolerance for others. And they may be feasible for practitioners facing the demand that they tackle extremism and radicalisation, and enhance so-called ‘British values’.

So P4C helps develop both math and language skills as well as "soft" social skills. I can't say I'm among anyone who'd be surprised by this, considering the love of wisdom's all-inclusive focus on the skills of life. At this point, the question is: Why is it taking so long for a no-brainer like P4C to catch on like wildfire? The task of answering this question - one of identifying causes of idea-dissemination - is one for philosophy itself (at least I think; isn't there social-scientific study of this stuff, and if so, why aren't we hearing all about it?).  (Another item added to my research pile.  What takes priority, the accumulation of my more strictly philosophical research to improve its quality, or the research on how to spread the philosophical-research findings?  I'd ask what Aristotle would do, but perhaps Aristotle would counsel figuring this one out for myself, comprehensive-first-hand-research-like.  Because I don't know what Aristotle would do, and I guess that's the very point.  Actually, I think I do know that if Aristotle had the internet at his disposal, he'd be spreading the philosophy-for-children idea in addition to whatever else he'd be propagating.)  Evidently such causation-investigation is not an easy task, but the more people involved doing the necessary research, the faster such causal studies can get done.....

And how about philosophy for adults as well, while we're at it?  FFS already, over here we've got the pearls of wisdom from Aristotle, Kant, et al, and over there is the swine-level "wisdom" that goes viral on twitter.  Now there's an obvious condition of culture-wide dialectical tension or alienation if there ever was one.  The kids can engage with philosophy, so what excuse do the "adults" (intellectual toddlers) on twitter have?

(DIGRESSION: Not that I wish to badmouth swine; it's a common expression.  Speaking literally, swine aren't as indecent and idiotic as much of the viral twitting; speaking literally, Kathy Griffin's twitter activities are beneath swine-level.  There's the gutter, and beneath that is the sewer.  My advice, remove Griffin from your field of attention and replace by, oh I'unno, Ed Feser.  Repeat down the line with every other viral twitter-nitwit until you've got a good blog-roll to consult whenever you get the urge for online content.  It'll be tons less toxic/detrimental to your mental/intellectual health.  Note that I'd be on twitter if that's where the philosophers hung out, but they don't [and it sure shows, huh?], perhaps the reason being that "wisdom" doesn't get dispensed 280 characters at a time; ya think?  [Edit: It appears that some philosophers do hang out there, but - I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but give me time - the way the discussion transpires there just doesn't raise my hopes that formats like twitter are the way to go.  Something about how the discussions get formatted there just really rubs me the wrong way.  I can't be alone in this, can I?  Maybe it's this but probably not limited to it: the goddamn "likes" function endemic to social media.  It may well spell the ruin of what discourse is supposed to be.  Is there anything that makes social media more toxic than "likes"?  Ya think?  To bloody hell with "likes" on the internet.  Someday there will be a study demonstrating a causal relation between how much a format emphasizes "likes" and levels of toxicity, I just have this hunch.  Griffin's "I want names/doxxing" tweet was fucking evil as hell, but boy did it sure get "likes."  There's no effort in "liking" something.  Relating this to the school environment for kids: a toxic social environment there comes in good part from its own versions of "likes."  Philosophy doesn't give a goddamn about "likes".  Socrates wasn't "liked," and it cost him his life.  Aristotle gets fewer "likes" than toxic entities like Trump or AOC.  "Likes" are anti-intellectual bullshit, and a better day it will be when social media companies make money only from their own products being "liked," not from "likes" of content propagated (or not, due to lack of "likes") on their platforms.  Intellectually serious people should focus on, e.g., blogging instead.  A philosophically-educated populace will gravitate toward more intellectually-demanding social media and then such better media will be profitable.  Leftists keep doubling down and blaming capitalism for this sort of problem - and get internet "likes" when doing so - when it's a matter of education.])


[Lengthy 'DIGRESSION' section moved from middle of post:

This was accomplished without reading the texts of Plato and Kant (much less the Babe Ruth of Philosophy, good ol' Aristotle, the third major figure of philosophy's Big Three conspicuously absent from the "Plato and Kant" mention above)?

(DIGRESSION: Aristotle ffs, amiright? It's like saying "Willie Mays and Ted Williams" and leaving out Ruth. But we do need to adjust for era since it was easier to stand head and shoulders above the competition "back then." Unlike Williams no one hits .400 and no one slugs .700 for a full season with a batting-neutral home park without illegal performance enhancers anymore [.390 and .690, respectively, are about the legit upper limits in recent times].)

Can you imagine what the kids in the later grade levels might accomplish reading the canonical texts and talking about them? Can you just imagine them then doing the epistemically responsible task of assessing the merits of the highly-culturally-influential-and-controversial Ayn Rand's work, something the philosophical establishment hasn't been doing?

DIGRESSION: (I've got a series in the works preparing all the necessary materials for a full assessment of Rand-as-philosopher, the first lengthy post of which I have sitting in draft format including a timeline of all the key events and players (e.g. Hospers) in the history of the study of Rand.) MORE DIGRESSION: (Me, I'm more like the Barry Bonds of philosophy, using possibly illegal [depending on jurisdiction] performance-enhancing substances. Still, can you argue with the results? See this blog, and my book, and my current book project. [Heck, my one journal article, published nearly as first-drafted, was written half-drunk in about a couple hours. Low standards at the journal, or ... ?] But the essential is, I'm just trying to emulate Aristotle's MO, i.e., learning the f*ck of out stuff, or at least the most philosophically-fundamental stuff.) AND MORE DIGRESSION: (Did Rand use performance-enhancing substances, and much like Rand didn't Bonds get unfairly underrated and hated on a ton before his suspected 'roids use period, i.e., before advanced performance metrics like Wins Above Replacement Player - where Bonds blew away his contemporaries even in the '90s, even before Bonds' bulked-up and "Ruthian-numbers" period - became all the rage? On that note, who would be the Bill James of philosophy? The comparison may fall apart there given that James wasn't a ballplayer himself and we can't really expect a non-philosopher or mere casual philosopher to do top-notch historical philosophy research. So when it comes to doing the history of ethics, say, the name T.H. Irwin comes right to mind, but given his commentary there he comes off as a pretty solid ethical philosopher in his own right. He's also a major Aristotle scholar, although Ackrill says Ross is the best of the bunch. I guess we'll have to rest content with such lesser Aristotle scholars as Gotthelf, Lennox, Miller, or Salmieri to study Aristotle-Rand links with the usual expected Aristotelian thoroughness.) MORE DIGRESSION STILL: (For thoroughness' sake I thought I'd mention that the Oxford Handbooks for Plato, Aristote, Aquinas and Hume have comprehensive bibliography/further reading sections at the end, while the Handbooks for Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, Nietzsche and Witggenstein don't have them. Why? The Handbooks are supposed to be the leading go-to thorough research items in their genre in every respect. Will the soon-forthcoming and perhaps-ironically-exorbitantly-priced Marx one have a comprehensive bibliography/further reading section? And when are the Handbooks for Descartes, Locke, and Kant being published ffs? Guess I gotta stick with the Cambridge and Blackwell Companions and SEP entries for now. And why on earth would I be spending my time inductively surveying such state-of-the-art secondary literature investigating how the most influential philosophers applied their craft? Where does even thoroughly conducted induction ever get us, anyway, assuming it ever even generates any certainty?) But enough about my Rand-as-Aristotelian agenda.
/DIGRESSION]


[Example of fighting over what are crumbs in the grand scheme: Politician Votes Against Access to Pads and Tampons in Prison Because It’s Not ‘a Country Club’How much lower would the prison population be in a generation if P4C spreads like wildfire?  How small-minded can these political "leaders" be?]

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