In Eugene and in many school districts throughout Oregon, the curriculum emphasizes content that can be measured through standardized assessments. Yet children also need to be challenged with big ideas that require multiple interpretations and connect to their personal experiences. As adults, their full engagement in community life will depend on the ability to think critically about complex issues. Philosophy lessons prompt children to support their opinions with reasons, to employ counter arguments and hypotheticals to test the validity of new ideas, and to be open to revising personal points-of-view as they hear the opinions of peers. In a time of polarized politics and hyper-emotional responses to important issues that affect everyone, it is particularly important to promote critical thinking, reasoned responses, collaboration, and empathy around topics that are deeply meaningful in our lives.
For years, Paul Bodin and Caroline Lundquist have been promoting philosophy for children, parents, and teachers in our community in a variety of places and formats.
Between 2013 and 2019, the UO departments of Philosophy and Education Studies collaborated with Eugene 4J schools to offer weekly philosophy lessons to more than 2,500 children, ages 7-12, at Camas Ridge, Edison, McCornack, Holt, Adams, Willagillespie, Edgewood, and Family Schools. Individuals and two-person teams of undergraduates who were enrolled in PHIL 372, “Teaching Children Philosophy,” led the discussions. They talked about ethics, environmental studies, epistemology, aesthetics, metaphysics, gender identity, and race. The curriculum behind this philosophy-for-children approach developed in a collaborations involving the course instructor, Paul Bodin, his graduate students in philosophy, original lessons prepared by the undergraduate students themselves, and ideas generated by leaders in an international children’s philosophy movement, including the Center for Philosophy for Children in Washington State, and the Philosophy Foundation in London, England.
Since moving to Eugene in 1975 Paul Bodin has worked in many capacities with children and youth in District 4J schools. He has taught music, folk and swing dancing, drama and storytelling to elementary and middle school students; worked with talented and gifted students as a Sheldon region specialist; and taught blended third-through-fifth grade classroom groups and sixth grade at Spencer Butte Middle School. After retiring in 2003, Paul worked as an instructor and supervisor for graduate students pursuing elementary certification and, most recently, brought philosophical discussions to elementary and middle school classrooms. He earned a BA in music composition at the University of California at Santa Barbara and an MEd in Music Education from the University of Oregon.
Caroline Lundquist earned her PhD in philosophy from the University of Oregon and decided to stay here in Eugene, her childhood home. She teaches philosophy courses for the Clark Honors College and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. She also co-directs Carnegie Global Oregon, an ethics-based undergraduate community at the UO. Before working for the UO, Caroline was an ethics instructor at Lane Community College for five years.
Carly Leavitt is a fifth grade teacher currently involved with her students in philosophy lessons at Camas Ridge Elementary. She has observed many different elementary classrooms engaged in philosophical discussions and will speak about critical thinking curriculum from a grassroots perspective.