Hero: Matthew Lipman (1922-2010)

A lesser-known hero died in December: Matthew Lipman was the founder of Philosophy for Children and passed away on December 26, 2010. Lipman’s creativity and innovation in opening children’s minds to philosophical concepts is an inspiration and an excellent example of what educators can be.

Lipman’s greatest innovation was the idea that if children were encouraged to discuss and think about big philosophical questions, it would help them develop reasoning skills later in life. Children were encouraged to ponder things like what it means to be alive, what is “good”, and what is “bad”. This idea of Lipman’s, that children are capable of such abstract thought, ran counter to more famous child psychologists like Jean Piaget. Lipman’s studies yielded different results. Not only did children come up with interesting philosophical questions on their own, but many people who had this opportunity as a young child demonstrated excellent reasoning and inquiry later in life.

Encouraging young children to think critically and abstractly about their lives and surroundings is an excellent idea. The importance of teaching children critical thinking cannot be overstated. It is clearly about treating children as intelligent beings, at any age.

The ability to reason has important implications for personal enlightenment and negotiating the challenges of life and work.

The above tribute is in memory of Matthew Lipman.


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