philosophy with children (1)

I recently came across a paper by the Brazilian progressive critical educational philospher Walter O. Kohan (State University of Rio de Janeiro). The paper is called "Paulo Freire and Philosophy for Children: A Critical Dialogue" go to: Kohan2018_Article_PauloFreireAndPhilosophyForChi.pdf

He describes positively and critiques the "philosophy for children" (or P4C) movement [1] in education and philosophy that developed in the early 1970s (by Matthew Lipman et al.). He also brings Lipman's philosophy and pedagogy into distinct comparison with Paulo Freire's philosophy and critical pedagogy, where he concludes the former is too apolitical to be effectively emancipatory for children or society--while Freire offers so much more. Kohan goes even further to bring forth several other critiques, methodologies and critical perspectives to complement critical pedagogy (see below).

I'd suggest any of the philosophy of fearism scholars and practitioners take a good look at the P4C movement and Kohan's critique (along with others). Kohan's views are very similar to my own on several grounds and particularly his conviction (along with Freireans) that philosohizing with children is extremely important to their wholesome education and socialization process but that it is a relationship of 'peers'-- where teachers and learners co-create the unlearning and learning that will set them free (in my words, re-connect and correct their way along the path of fearlessness to liberation). Philosophizing with children is often done (via Lipman et al. and P4C) with the teacher(s) being in charge of the design of curriculum and delivery and with the emphasis on being 'neutral' as teachers and likewise the curriculum. From my view (and Kohan's) that is a faux neutrality (ideal) and not to do with what true education has always been about, which is a problematizing of everything including the economic-social-political order. At some point, every philosopher and educator has to decide what kind of society children live in (as curriculum context). Do we live in an oppressive society or not? The answer is rather obvious to me, as to Kohan, as to Freire. 

Role of Fear: Real vs. Ideal

My favorite part in the Kohan paper is when he is in dialogue with his mentor of his dissertation (Lipman himself). Kohan asks Lipman about the abuses of democracy and questioning capitalism in that relationship and how this topic has to be put on the table of philosophical inquiry with adults and children. Lipman says: "... in this country [USA] we are very confused. We respect the notion and the ideal of democracy but we are afraid to see it in its confrontation [relational context] with capitalism. There we just shrug and turn away, we don't want to talk about the fact that democracy and capitalism may be incompatible...". (Kohan, 2018, p. 625) [bold added for emphasis]

Kohan doesn't pick-up on the fear component that Lipman brings front and center, as I would have done so, from a fearanalysis viewpoint or a fearist lens. I agree with Lipman (as I am sure Kohan does here as well) that fear of critiquing the 'hand that feeds you' (i.e., Capitialism) in philosophical inquiry is typically such that philosophers and educators (educational philosophers) will shy away and talk about other things. The very basis of a philosophy of fearism (and method of dephilosophy of Desh Subba, [2]) is to make sure that when fear is involved in the construction of the ideas and realities of our texts and practices that we 'call out' the fear and name it and deal with it in some conscious and constructive (if not transformative) way rather than "just shrug and turn away" (as Lipman expresses). Note, even Lipman, in this interview, has no 'solution' to offer or re-frame the very problem of fear he raises and its power to 'dissociate' the real and the ideal in our societies and individual lives. It is disappointing the source leader of P4C comes up so short. The ethical importance of this ought not be overlooked.

My entire educational philosophy is pretty much now based on this dephilosophy (i.e., philosophy of fearism and/or fearlessness philosophy) I bring to all inquiry, philosophizing, and educational curriculum and pedagogy. My first principle of a fearlessness philosophy could be

(a) fearlessness at all cost is essential to the integrity and sustainability of Life (systems); and thus, fear ought not be used as an excuse to avoid/deny the Ideal(s) we hold dearly (sacredly); fear leading our lives tends to compromise the ideal for a real (via ideological realism-pragmatism) because the latter is functionally 'convenient,''comfortable' and 'conformist'

Other Means for Emancipatory Practices: New Rationalities

I'll close this article with the recommendations by Kohan (incomplete as they are) because they offer all of us involved in philosophy, and especially philosophy with children, other ways (beyond Freirean or Lipmanian P4C approaches) to emancipatory education. Kohan (2018, p. 625) wrote, 

... other paths to explore Freire's inspiration other than critical pedagogy. One is to follow the decolonial turn, opening, for example, a "mestiza rationality" [3] (Anzaldua 1999), one of the sensual body, "full of feelings, of emotions, of tastes" (Horton and Freire 1990:23). [4] [this alternative] It needs to be a rationality sensible to different forms of being of the "oppressed" (to use Freirean terms), which would also include LGBT, Indian [Indigenous], Black, and women and children: a rationality sensitive to contradiction and ambiguity. [5]

Various forms of "undoing of identity" (via queering), or feminisms, post-humanism, etc, are encouraged by Kohan and those authors he cites, as part of re-examining critically how we see the child and human nature itself. He calls for "deterritorial" approaches, deconstruction, etc. (part of postmodern philosohpies) to bring human and non-human into a closer relationship overall in valuation to resist the easy commodification and capitalization processes of oppression. Even different kinds of schools ought to be considered. And he then writes of how we ought to trouble the very notion of rational-linear "time" conceptualizations and the problem of only one notion of time that dominates a worldview and schooling and/or educational system. I particularly like this challenge and it is one that Luke Barnesmoore and I have brought forth in a few publications, because time-fear are very closely connected ontologically and need to be critically examined to set us free from fear-based worldviews in general [6]. 

In conclusion, Kohan argued well that philosophy and politics are not separate nor should be, they each contribute to an emancipatory project of which all authentic education (and philosophy) ought to strive for. Like Freire's notion, each educator (philosophy) and child ought to "build her own path" in how best to accomplish a wholesome education and critique of the status quo. That said, and I agree, there's essential need for firm and mature guidance in this building that we are as educators ethically responsible. The trick is to guide without imposing. I offer the path of fearlessness, I don't impose it, even when many through my decades of this work believe that I am imposing it. A similar criticism has been launched at Freirean critical pedagogy. Perhaps, the articulation of politics and philosophy on my part is just not sufficient or it is still incomplete--always a project in progress. I invite input and critique ongoing, as part of good dialogical learning and research. 

End Notes

1. Kohan sees himself part of the P4C movement in a cautious way, and told me he prefers PWC ("philosophy with children") as the articulating concept of this work.

2. E.g. See books and articles by Subba and Fisher (philosophy of fearism) and in particular his dephilosophy method--which, I call fearanalysis in my work. 

3. Usually this is translated in the literature as "mestiza consciousness"-- note, Kohan's mother tongue is Portuguese and this article has been translated into English.

4. I (and Barbara Bickel and others) would call this (in part) the arational domain.

5. What is being constructed by Kohan here is a pathway and/or 'container' of expansion beyond the fear-based egocentric and ethnocentric worldviews. It is a matured existential (and emotional) capacity he is calling for that moves from fear to fearlessness as its operative paradigm, beyond being oppressed by a dualism-centered philosophy in which fear breeds and predominatnly shapes everything. I believe Kohan would be better to bring in notions of transrationality at this point. That's a more complex nuanced discussion. You can see that fear however will be intimately involved in the rationality processes (alternatives) Kohan calls for (as do others)--but unfortunately, little do these theorists (including Kohan) adequately theorize fear/fearlessness in this expanding of worldview in their philosophies. 

6. For e.g., see Fisher, R. M., & Barnesmoore, L. (2018). Hierarchical security: Problem of fear of the eternal [Appendix 3]. In Fisher, R. M., Subba, D., & B. M. Kumar, Fear, law and criminology: Critical issues in applying the philosophy of fearism (pp. 125-48). Australia: Xlibris. 

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