The students in the University of Washington class in which I did a Philosophy for Children demonstration today were all pretty much half-asleep when I arrived. One girl was checking her cell phone messages; the rest of the class, seated in that unfortunate lecture hall configuration were basically just waiting to be bored by whatever I had to lecture them about.
I crossed them up, though, and began by asking them to introduce themselves and tell me what schools they were volunteering at (this being a class of students who all tutor in some local K-12 classrooms.) I then let them know—quite sincerely—how much I admire them for doing so; I think they were pretty surprised to discover that I wasn’t going to make my time with them all about me.
Eventually, I launched into my standard introductory philosophy for kids lesson, in which I interactively present a three-part argument for the conclusion that they are all philosophers. When we got to the part where they have to (get to) work together in groups, the room was lively and energized.
The students were having fun and, I think, learning something. We ended up having a vibrant discussion about personal identity in which nearly everyone participated.
Now, if only we could have gotten out of the lecture hall.