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Philosophy for Children Will Be the Focus of Conference Sept. 11th and 12th at the U of M University News
For release: September 4, 2009

For press information, contact Deborah Tollefsen, 901-678-2535

Philosophy is often thought to be an arcane subject, suitable only for adults. There is a growing consensus among philosophers and educators, though, that children are natural philosophers. Their abundant curiosity, their penchant for asking questions, and their flexible minds prompt them toward philosophical discussions. With enough encouragement and a student-centered curriculum, they can develop the critical thinking skills characteristic of philosophic thought and move from being consumers of information to reflective, independent thinkers.

These ideas will be explored in “Keeping the Child in Mind: A Conference About Philosophy for Children” at the University of Memphis on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11th and 12th. The goal of the conference is to stimulate discussion of the theory and practice of philosophy for children and to develop effective ways to introduce philosophy into pre-college classrooms in Memphis. The conference is free and open to the public.

A demonstration class will take place Friday at 11 a.m. at the Barbara K. Lipman Early Childhood School and Research Institute, 3771 Poplar Avenue.

At 4:30 p.m. Friday, in the Mitchell Hall Auditorium, Gareth Matthews, professor emeritus of the University of Massachusetts, will deliver the conference’s keynote address, “Just Think About That: Growing Up Philosophically.”

Saturday’s sessions will be held in the U of M’s Panhellenic Building, 384 Patterson Street. They will include:

“Moral Philosophy in Middle and High School: Indifference, Resistance, and Bystanders,” by Jana Mohr Lone of the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children at the University of Washington;

“Philosophical Dialogue Across the Curriculum: Integrating P4C into the School Content Areas” by David Kennedy of Montclair State University;

“Doing Philosophy With Children” by Thomas Wartenberg of Mount Holyoke College;

“Reconsidering the Examined Life: Philosophy with Children” by Michael Burroughs of the University of Memphis; and

“The Importance of Philosophy in the Moral Formation of Children” by Rafael Rondon, principal of Sacred Heart Catholic School in Fort Worth, Texas.

More information is available from conference organizer Dr. Deborah Tollefsen at 901-678-2535 or

Information also is available online at

The conference is sponsored by the U of M Department of Philosophy, the University’s Marcus Orr Center for the Humanities, the Squire Family Foundation, and an Access and Diversity Grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents.

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