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“Is It Desirable to Do Philosophy With Students in Their Second Language?”

April Capili


Advocates of philosophizing with children report the benefits of the practice: tapping into a natural sense of wonder, cultivating the willingness to listen to others, developing critical reasoning, etc. A mother tongue shared by both students and teacher would go a long way in facilitating these learning processes. However, given that in many classrooms the language of instruction is not necessarily the students’ mother tongue, the question of the desirability of practicing philosophy with them arises. This paper considers some arguments in support of the negative response to this question: (a) children learning in a second language have limited vocabulary and their ways of expressing themselves are still undergoing development; (b) since young people do not yet have sufficient language skills, we cannot expect them to philosophize in a serious way; (c) linguistic deficiencies have led to the diminishing quality of education; making linguistically weak students engage in philosophy would be pedagogically disastrous. Counterarguments to each of these claims are then developed, pointing out that these operate on (a) a widespread misconception about children, (b) a possibly limited view of philosophy, and (c) an underestimation of the potential of philosophizing with children.


P4wC; philosophizing with children and the youth; learning in a second language

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