Hobbs says, “The questioning and good reasoning fostered by philosophy are not just defences against specific attempts at indoctrination.” What matters for children’s education is this approach supports children in developing the critical thinking skills of assessment and reasoning. Hobbs adds, “it is vital that schools do all they can to help young people analyse and reflect on what they hear.”
In a world where we are deluged with ‘alternative facts’, ‘fake news’ and where there is a growing dismissal of the role of the ‘expert’ we believe that only by encouraging children to think for themselves, to find their own voices, can we teach them to face a world of overwhelming information.
This is especially important when it comes to understanding other cultures, religions and practices. The BBC recently reported that over a quarter of secondary schools are not teaching religious education – for many students one of the only times that they are enabled to investigate essential questions like what happens when we die and what makes us us.
Teacher Joe Kinnaird was quoted as saying, “"RE and philosophy provide students the chance to explore fundamental questions such as what happens after we die, does God exist, how do we cope with the problem of evil? These questions are both philosophical and ethical and the RE classroom is where we can explore these issues."
One of the students quoted said that better religious education could help cut the number of racially and culturally motivated crimes saying, "Religion affects politics, so you have to think of it that way. It's really important to know the diverse cultural traditions of other people because it's really relevant today."
It’s important that subjects, opinions and bias should be explored with clarity and precision, encouraging young people to make decisions based on rigorous arguments and examined evidence – and it’s never too young to start. Given young children’s focus on what is ‘fair’, they already have an inbuilt interest in ethical questions, even if they’re not sure what ethical means.
This year, as part of 2017’s marking of the UN’s International Day for Tolerance, Learn2Think has built on its materials regarding diversity and religious tolerance with the development of a workshop that will encourage children to question what they’re told, and give them the tools to become ‘Truth Detectives’.
Being truth detectives means developing the ability to piece together the 'truth' from different sources of opinion, fact and information. It means learning to develop the most complete picture possible. All information is valuable. How well that information serves us is dependent on developing thinking and questioning skills - intellectual humility; flexibility of thought; empathy; critical thinking; and, of course, understanding the limits of knowledge.
We not only want to find out what matters to children today, but also to encourage them to think critically and ask themselves why, what, where, when, who and how?
Find out more about how the Truth Detectives can help children learn to do that every day @ http://www.toleranceday.org/2017-truth-detectives.html