Friday, May 6, 2011

Same, but Different

I did another Philosophy for Children demonstration lesson in a fourth grade class today; this group, in contrast to Tuesdays, was somewhat less interested in telling stories about themselves and more willing to engage in what I’d tend to consider philosophy. They were particularly interested in wondering about what makes a person who he or she is, and in general, seemed to conclude that it was a combination of mind and body, although one kid maintained eloquently that it was neither, that what made a person who he or she is is the soul. Interestingly enough, when I pursued his definition of that term, he said “personality,” so his position may be a bit circular, something to explore in future classes to be sure.

One of the interesting learning moments for me was when I asked students to contrast their thought of something with their thought of the thought of it, an activity that I often do. The thing they were thinking of was a meatball, and so when I asked them to contrast the meatball with the thought of it, they took me to mean what the meatball is thinking. This led to an interesting discussion of whether meatballs can think and if they do think, what they’d be thinking. One girl suggested that a meatball’s main thought would be “Please don’t eat me.” Seems reasonable.

The prospect of doing essentially the same lesson that I’ve already done three times this week with three other groups of students was a bit off-putting; I was feeling like a kind of wind-up doll, but once I got into the classroom and began to appreciate how every single group of students is different every time you work with them, all was well. I was surprised and charmed by the kids’ responses time and again; shades of Heraclitus: you can never step in the same river twice.

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