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  • Thanks Dr. Kizel for posting this 2016 article. Much of its contents are things I too have grappled with re: education, development of intelligence in children etc., although I see your speciality, unlike mine, is in nurturing philosophy in children's informal and formal education. I too am very critical of "education systems", that, as you say, and I agree, have become rivetted and controlled by a "pedagogy of fear." OR, a Paradigm of Fear, is my way of saying too.

    Your view is a good one, revolving around the question: How can children (as young as 3 yrs of age) be philosophical and thus supply "freshness" to perspectives on reality, on existential issues and a meaningfull and conscious life of the good, the true, the beautiful? Yes, I agree, children ought to be important contributing (philosophical) members of society, even when they are children (and youth). I too am critical of over-dominating adult(ism) privilege and power relative to children and youth in all kinds of societies. Dr. Kizel's paper has many things to discuss, of which I will here only touch on a few things that stood out. 

    Although I would have liked to see this paper by Kizel address the vast literature on "pedagogy of fear" and "fear-based education" (including my work for 30+ years on this topic), the paper presents a good introduction to the major problems in educational systems today (and, have been problematic for a long time). Yes, we are generalizing these critiques, and there are some exceptional schooling systems that don't fall so prey to this "dominant hegemony" (e.g., Steiner schools, Free schools). Unfortunately, Kizel doesn't give those exemplars any real attention specifically in this paper. 

    My first point to draw out is the problem of Adultism (cf. Ageism); although Kizel doesn't use that concept or theory or phrase. There is a long tradition of critical thinking educators and others also pointing to how adults think (assume) too often that they are the only legitimate "right" thinking and "right" (mature) valued believers (and philosophers) who really count in matters of relevance to survival, well-being, and to achievements of meaning, like being "successful" in the world (typically, that means by default that one is economically successful and has status). Kizel, like many others, including myself, have vehemently challenged what comes down to a chronic and toxic (i.e., unreasonable) "adult fear" (p. 38), often excessive beyond simple provision of 'safety' for children, which is at the basis of all Adultism, which is at the basis of a deep "fear of children" as thinkers and questioners, and a "fear of philosophy" itself--these all get mixed together in a fear-accumulation or conglomeration and ultimately, Kizel is showing their negative impact on children, adults, and societies--especially, it produces 'poor' pedagogy (i.e., educational systems and their architectures of socialization). The whole schema of Adultism + Fearism (I have written about; [1]) ends up as a "culture of fear" complex--or Fear Problematique that goes unresolved. Educational systems are often adding to the Fear Problem not helping it. That's a long topic. Kizel gives good arguments on this too, using slightly different language than I do. But he ends up saying "fear of philosophy" itself is far too common (in America, in Israel) etc. Philosophy nourishes doubt, questioning and non-conformity in free thought processes, and that scares most people--adults especially who are confronted by freshly and passionate challenging children and youth asking "why is that?" Adults typically skirt around the problems posed by the younger children and youth who are not so "fixed" on "right" answers or questions (for the time being). Adults often answer too much, says Kizel, and/or ignore or demean the questioning of children and youth. Not helpful to growing creative free-minds. It rather produces fear in children and youth--and that reinforces a 'normalizaiton' of fear--and adults via Adultism-Fearism become terrorists of a particular kind, even when they are trying to 'help' children grow up and be realistic. Let me quote from Kizel: 

    "In such a structured world [i.e., pedagogy of fear] in which the architecture of learning has already been implemented and leaves no room for discovery, the adult's accumulated experience is regarded as preferable [e.g., by society, by schools, by power-elites] to the [so-called] childish [idealistic] questions of the young person. I would like to argue that legitimizing philosophical inquiry for the very young in fact gives children strength. Rather than empowering, however, this force intimidates the adult, who fears that questions--even the most basic [e.g., existential questions of children or teens]--may undermine the child's world, confuse him/her, offer him/her untraditional answers, of (God forbid) lead him/her to a world where s/he has no financial success or social integration [acceptance in the norm]. Mohr Lone (2012b) observes, 'The most common response to young children's deeper questions is to treat them dismissively or condescendingly.' (p. 3)" (Kizel, 2016, p. 38). Creating too much safety and security for children, to protect them (so-called), is often a guise for out and out oppression of children, due to fear of children, says Kizel (i.e., via Adultism-Fearism [2]). 

    Kizel doesn't address a spectrum of development, as I would recommend is useful to understand and teach to children and youth (and everyone), where there are five major stages of life (according to Sam Keen's model based on his critical pedagogical and philosophical assessment): (1) child, (2) rebel, (3) adult ---> (4) outlaw, (5) lover. [3]. The problems Kizel points out re: what adults have become in our socieites (especially in the West) is due to not having a vision for a spectrum of maturation that goes into post-adult stages. I have dedicated my own work to this post-adult emancipatory education. Children and youth would have a good time, I think, studying such models that show that "adulthood" is not everything it is made to sound like (as the 'goal' of development, over the supposed lack of being a child or youth)--rather, Keen's model shows 'adults' have a lack themselves they don't like to tell about--that is, they are typically immature and conformist and fear-based. In my theorizing, adapted from Keen and other developmental (post-formal, post-adult, post-humanism) models, there is an argument to be made that yes, typically "adults" are more fear-based than children and youth. I really think Kizel is trying to point to this, and that's why it is so important for him, for educators, and parents to support children and youth and their philosophical development, for they may provide us "adults" with insights that are more or less 'fearless' relative to adults. Adult society (via Adultism) is definitely going to have a tough time swalling that hypothesis (and/or that phenomenon). Adults like to think they are the lesser afraid and thus privilege themselves as superior. Rare is it an adult matures beyond stage 3 of Keen's model and thus nearly most all adults (educators) are not operating outside the pedagogy of fear, the Fear Paradigm--and thus, they are not operating from a Fearlessness Paradigm. 

    Okay, that's enough for now. I highly recommend reading Kizel's work. I believe Kizel's paper could be greatly improved, as could the field of teaching philosophy to children and youth, letting them evolve their 'philosopher'--IF a "culture of fear" conceptualization was added to the critique of the psychologization of Education pointed to by Kizel and his colleagues. With a meta-context of living in a "culture of fear"--even the field of Philosophy will be corrupted and Kizel and his colleagues don't seem to problematize or theorize that problem itself. What happens in a culture of fear, among other things, is that "fear of fear itself" becomes an organizing principle and that corrupts all knowledge, reasoning, questioning, thinking--more or less--skewing it all into a Paradigm of Fear, rather than Fearlessness. That's my point of departure, and critique of all philosophy of Education (typically, as I have learned it in the West). Big topic. 


    1. Fearism, used in this context as the toxic form, is also fearism-t, see Fisher, R. M., & Subba, D. (2016). Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue. Xlibris. 

    2. Adultism-Fearism in combination is what I have seen as the core of all other 'oppressions' and how they spread (e.g., sexism, classism, racism)--at least, from the point of view of a relationality and interiority of the internalization of wounding-violence-trauma--in toxic fear ('fear') patterning. See for e.g., Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield. 

    3. See Keen, S. (1983). The passionate life: Stages of loving. Harper & Row. 



    • Thanks for your great comment. 

      I'm working now on developing the concept of Pedagogy of Fear  and asking everyone here to assist in any way.


      As a president of the International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children (ICPIC) I'm trying with my colleagues to cultivate free thinking of children.


      Our website: 


      Don't hesitate to write to me: 


      Looking forward, 

      Prof. Arie Kizel
      Dept. of Learning, Instruction & Teacher Education
      Faculty of Education
      University of Haifa

      President, ICPIC
      International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children

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