I finished my last classes in the schools for the summer earlier this month, and was presented with a beautiful booklet in which some of the children wrote to me about how they felt and thought about philosophy this year. It was particularly interesting to me that so many students wrote about the impact of being listened to, saying similar things to this student’s statement: “You always listen to what we have to say.”

A ten-year-old some time ago made a similar comment, when talking about philosophy: “I like having my voice valued.”

But the words that moved me most came from a nine-year-old boy, who wrote: “This has been a giant experience because I now feel that I am actually somebody.” 

This led me to think about the power of being heard, of coming to believe that your thoughts and ideas and perspectives are important and can affect other people’s understanding and thinking, of being recognized as a knower. Acknowledging children as philosophical thinkers gives them the opportunity to see themselves as people with valuable ideas and thoughts to contribute.

For me, this is at the core of why this work matters, of its purpose. Having rich and rigorous philosophical conversations, yes. Helping students to think critically and carefully, to gain reasoning skills, and to learn how to present their ideas persuasively, yes. Encouraging young people to listen to each other and to appreciate the many points of view in the world, yes. Helping to make young people’s lives philosophically richer, of course.

But at its heart this work is about helping students to recognize the power and uniqueness of their own perspectives and ideas, and to gain the skill and confidence to ask questions fearlessly, to think deeply, and to find authentic and distinctive ways to flourish. To see themselves as “actually somebody.”

This will be my last post for the summer, picking up again in September. Hoping to work on a couple of writing projects and spend lots of time outdoors!

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