On November 25, 2020, Thomas Wartenberg, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Mount Holyoke College, USA, gave a lecture entitled "Picture Book, Philosophy and Children" on zoom, held by HZNU-CIPSH Chair Collaboration Office. The lecture was presided over and translated by Professor Gao Zhenyu of the College of Education, HZNU, and Professor Liu Xiaodong, East China Normal University, and principal Yu Wei at the Primary School Attached to Northeast Normal University were invited as discussants.
At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Wartenberg introduced a case study of The Buranda State School in Australia in 2012, where the integration of Philosophy into its system changed its failing status and made positive impacts on its students, whereby professor Wartenberg pointed out the importance of teaching child philosophy. Then, he introduced his own experience from how he first got acquainted with children's philosophy to his later devotion to the theoretical and practical research of using picture books to teach children's philosophy.
Unlike Lipman's method of using novels to teach students logic, professor Wartenberg advocates leading his students to schools with relatively scarce resources and using picture books to teach children's philosophy. He contended that philosophy is not a subject that only children with superior intelligence can study, but that every child should be exposed to philosophy. A series of practices show that using picture books has the following advantages:
1. Stimulate children's love for books
2. Contribute to the organization and expression of children's self-thoughts and opinions
3. Help children develop their listening ability
4. Contribute to the cultivation and development of children's self-confidence
In this regard, Professor Wartenberg also pointed out that the focus of lectures should be placed on children's communication and respect, and the development of children's turn-taking skills should be synchronized. This method can effectively engage children in discussions to interact with and inspire each other, and promote children's learning epistemology. These are also the basic elements of effective teaching and learning. Besides, Professor Wartenberg pointed out that children enjoy being asked questions and expressing their opinions. Teachers and parents can improve their children's sense of self-worth by asking their children about their ideas. During the lecture, Professor Gao Zhenyu also shared that this method is also empowerment for children.
Regarding the picture book teaching method of children's philosophy, professor Wartenberg proposed the SLAW method, namely:
1. Say-say what you think
2. L- listen to what others say
3. A-agree or disagree with what has been said
4.W-why do you think what you think, find reasons for your beliefs
He revealed that in terms of listening, not only do children need to listen to each other, but teachers also need to be trained to listen to children. In terms of reasoning, children's logical thinking can be developed under appropriate guidance.
In the conclusion, Professor Wartenberg summed up the five advantages of using picture books to teach children's philosophy, namely:
1. Picture books can effectively create immersive situations for children
2. Philosophical problems can be integrated into picture books, and these problems are of concern to children
3. Cultivate children's awareness of loving literary works
4. Improve the development of children's vocabulary and reading
5. Picture books provide children with a common experience and lay the foundation for the subsequent development of student-student dialogue and teacher-student dialogue
During the lecture, professor Wartenberg vividly demonstrated the teaching practice of using picture books by taking the book Frederick as an example, deepened the reflections on the shown activities, and promoted the discussion on how using picture books can promote the cultivation of children's ability of dialogue, communication, thinking and creation.
At the end of the lecture, Professor Wartenberg shared the teaching resources of children's philosophy picture books.
During the discussion session, Principal Yu Wei shared his experience in the development of philosophy teaching and research in the affiliated elementary school and introduced the achievements of the affiliated elementary school in the teaching of children's philosophy in the past five years. In recent years, the attached elementary school has put forward the concept of spontaneous education under the philosophical trend of children, constructs spontaneous education theory system, actively develops situational teaching and induction teaching, etc., and uses teaching methods appropriate to children's cognitive development to promote children's capacity of abstract thinking, classification and induction. Principal Yu also contended that children are pure philosophical individuals. The development of philosophy courses can not only develop children but also develop teachers' and parents' cognition of children.
Professor Liu Xiaodong commented on the Chinese translations of children's philosophy in China and argued that P4C was best understood as children's philosophical inquiry course, and Child Philosophy was a more appropriate translation, and he indicated that the current national practice mainly focused on adults' guidance of children's philosophical thinking development, and how to promote adults' learning from children in philosophy class needed more attention and discussion. He later further revealed that the concepts of "pure heart" and "pure children" in ancient Chinese literature are cross-cultural echoes of western children's philosophical thoughts. He argued that the other end of Heidegger's philosophy, for him, describes children's philosophy, which promotes the interpretation of children's philosophy as an important sub-fields and aligns with Heraclitus's theory of "children's rule." Professor Wartenberg responded to the use of language in the field of children's philosophy using his own practical experience and revealed that the expression of "Philosophy with Children" is more emphasized in his practical projects at present. Using "Philosophy with Children" also fundamentally acknowledges children's philosophical thinking, rather than simply attending to the categorizations falling within a variety of cognitive-developmental theories.