A little Philosophy with children

Philosophy originates from from wondering, wandering and questioning. Not from seeking answers. Its is not slave of knowledge and procedure. May be children are best philosophers.

As she sat on a tree, a little bird heard a passerby ask another, “What is your philosophy of life? She was amused that she never asked this question to herself before. She asked the tree, “What is your philosophy of life?” “To grow” was a matter of fact reply. She asked the squirrel, who said, “To run around”, and ran away. She continued her research, getting responses like, ‘to collect honey’; ‘to eat grass whole day’; to swallow frogs; etc. She was disappointed. To her all these responses seemed like what each one liked to do or actually did the whole day. This cannot be philosophy. It had to be something more, something profound, something which questioned our actions, not defined them.

She searched out the good old donkey and asked him, “O wise Sir, I have been trying to find what is the philosophy of life is, please enlighten me.” The old donkey chuckled aloud, “So, so, so, we have a philosopher amidst us”. The little bird was not amused, “But Sir, I am not a philosopher. I do not know any philosophy.” “Oh ho no,”, the old donkey looked lovingly at the bird and replied, “The one who has a philosophy is not a philosopher. The one who wonders, who wanders, who Whys and Whats and Hows – she is a philosopher. The one who is confused and is humble enough to remain so, is a philosopher.”

The bird was quiet for a little while, thinking, then she asked, “But why philosophy, why philosopher?” The old Donkey smiled, “We’re a little bit of everything, “A little scientist, a little explorer, a little maker and a little breaker, a little dreamer and a little ….” Our little bird was persistent, “But why a little a philosopher?” “Dear, I too do not have an answer,”, the old donkey swayed his head side to side, “But I must say, it’s fun to wonder, it’s fun to search for meaning which isn’t necessarily out there, it’s fun to question – specially what most people think they know, but possibly they do not”. “To me it’s like education – it’s not something you get at the end. Rather it has no end. It is something like a journey. Just like you keep learning, you keep philosophizing – your whole life”.

“I see, but what do I wonder about?” Was the little bird’s next logical question. The old donkey had done his bit of talking, so he asked the little bird back, “What would you like to wonder about, what would you like to question?”. The little bird thought for some time and then said, “I guess I want to wonder about everything, much like how little children question anything and everything.” “Ah yes,”, nodded the old donkey in full agreement, “Children are a philosophy in themselves.”

The Little bird soon reached a school. She was excited. She asked the first teacher she met, “Ma’am, Do you teach philosophy in your class?” You can guess the kind of look the teacher gave the little bird. The teacher said, “Look I am a Geography teacher, I do not teach anything else.” The little bird’s enthusiasm persisted, “But Ma’am, Geography is full of philosophy and so are children.” The Geography teacher nonchalantly pointed to another teacher, “She is a Math teacher – she is the best teacher to talk about philosophy.”

The little bird was also getting smarter, so she asked the Math teacher, “Ma’am I am curious to know how as a Math teacher you include philosophy in your class.”

The Math teacher thought for some time and finally concluded, “You see, Math being a logical subject is far away from stuff like philosophy. So I see no reason to include it.” But the little bird was unfazed. She called both the teachers together and the Art teacher also joined them, “I have been wondering and questioning a lot recently and it has been insightful for me. In much the same way if we invited children too – would it not be interesting for them to do a little philosophy about whatever they are learning, how they are learning?”

Math teacher spoke first, “You mean to say children question – Why God created Math?” The Art teacher teacher joked in, “Or maybe Why God created a Math teacher?” They all laughed. The Art teacher continued, “Actually we are all philosophical – including children. Learning by its very nature is philosophical. Not only Art, every subject can be learned by what I call the philosophical approach – starting with some fundamental questions – not trying to answer them, but just, as the little bird said, wondering and wondering about them.”.

“I see your point,”, it was the geography teacher’s turn to jump in, “We tend to stick to information. But once when I started my chapter on landforms – a child asked this simple question, ‘Why would our earth have so many different kinds of nature?’ – and the class burst into so many amazing answers and then children had a completely different way of looking at the content of the chapter.”

The bird was, by now, hopping all over the place, “Tell me more examples, I am beginning to think all learning is philosophical.” Actually you are right, Birdie, “Learning is philosophical – entrenched not in answers, but in questioning. But alas I end up teaching children. I get too soon stuck into the procedures and knowledge and answers. Maybe I just need to offer children resources and tools to chart their own explorations.”

The bird flew a little up higher and chirped loudly, “Philosophy gives the bird’s eye view. Would this larger picture of why we are getting into learning something be is beneficial?” The teachers nodded and The Art teacher added, “I have seen children’s relating to Art at a totally different level when I let them loose themselves into thinking about it rather than just doing it. Sometimes one question, just one invitation to contemplate is enough.”

It was the geography teacher’s turn now, “Our focus on insignificant tests and results has to blur. I remember one of my professors in graduate college said, I will give everybody A+, so forget marks, now come let us spend time to fall in love with Geology and you bet we all loved that prof’s class the most.” Our little bird couldn’t contain herself and started singing,
Philosophy is like falling in love, Love is like falling in philosophy.”