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P4C Stimulus: Chance or Choice?

This week, another episode of “Teacher Soap”. Download it here, or read below. This time, the conversation behind the closed door of the staffroom is about elections for the school council. Is it better to vote for representatives, or, Ancient Athenian style, trust to chance? You could ask that question and explore the nature and purpose of democracy. Other themes on offer in the dialogue are:
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  • Do schools reflect real life or improve upon it? Which should they do?
  • Is childhood a preparation for adulthood?
  • Are the things that matter to children as important as the things that matter to adults?​​​​​​​

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Doing the Hokey-Kokey
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The more general question that underlies this discussion is, “When is deciding by chance fairer than choice?” During a discussion, children will often move between different worlds – the world of the stimulus, their own world, other examples, and the world of general ideas. Skilful facilitation can help them to go back and forth between these worlds (see The Enquiry Chauffeur), or look up this excellent blog post by Peter Worley of The Philosophy Foundation on what he calls “The Hokey-Kokey Method”, in which you switch explicitly between the specific and the general question.
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Philosophy Wranglers Live Online Workshops
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On 11th June, Jason (wearing his GIFT hat) is running some online seminars for philosophically-minded youngsters. There are separate sessions for 6-8 years old, 9-12 and teenagers, and the cost is just £7 per person. You can read more and book here. There are also still a few spaces left on the GIFT Summer School for secondary age students, details here.
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Best wishes,
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Jason and Tom
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TEACHER 1        No, Timmy. You can’t borrow a scalpel. And when you’ve finished plucking the pigeon, throw it away and wash your hands.

She closes the door and sits down with the others.

TEACHER 1        Timmy’s standing for election for the school council.

TEACHER 2        Do you think he’ll win?

TEACHER 1        I doubt it. The Johnson twins are standing too and they’re holding a hot-tub party the weekend before the poll. Everyone’s invited.

TEACHER 3        Poor Timmy doesn’t stand a chance.

TEACHER 2        Mind you, isn’t it preparation for real life? Politicians buy votes by promising things to people.

TEACHER 3        That’s a bit cynical. Lots of people vote for what they think is best for everyone, not just for them.

TEACHER 4        Maybe it would be better to do it by chance, like the Ancient Greeks. Put the names in a hat and draw one out at random.

TEACHER 1        Two. There’s always one boy and one girl.

TEACHER 3        Shouldn’t it be the two best people? That might be two of the same gender. What’s wrong with that?

 

TEACHER 4        Didn’t the Ancient Greeks stop anyone who wanted to have power from having power? You could take out the names of anybody who wanted to stand!

TEACHER 1        Timmy wouldn’t like that. Nor would the Johnson twins. And Zeb would hate it if he got picked.

TEACHER 2        Aren’t you taking it a bit too seriously? It’s just a bit of fun, and they enjoy it. It’s not that important.

TEACHER 3        It’s important to them. The things in their lives matter as much to them as the things in ours do to us. Their lives are real life to them.

TEACHER 2        But then shouldn’t it be like real life is for adults? Sometimes life sucks. That’s how it is.

TEACHER 3        I don’t see why schools should only be like real life is. I think they should be better than real life – how real life ought to be.

TEACHER 4        When you think about it, schools aren’t much like real life anyway. Most people don’t wear a uniform, and who uses “Mr” and “Miss” and surnames outside of school?

TEACHER 3        Maybe real life should be more like schools.

The bell rings.

TEACHER 2        Maybe not.

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