Today, we think of philosophy as something reserved for higher education, if then. It has a reputation for being intimidating -- or even useless in the "real world." But, over in the UK at least, there's a growing trend to teach philosophy to kids as young as five.
A story from the Daily Mail relates the debate going on about whether teaching such deep issues to impressionable children is a good idea. Critics say that the school system is struggling enough, and philosophy shouldn't take time away from the much more important skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.
However, supporters of introducing philosophy to young children say that it only aids a student's progress in these other areas. For instance, a 2007 psychological study found that 10-year-olds who had studied philosophy did better in verbal, numerical and spatial ability tests.
The idea is that teachers use the Socratic method, asking the children questions such as whether it's always wrong to lie. Teachers evoke conversation and hope to open the kids' minds. One company, the Philosophy Shop, actually specializes in orchestrating philosophy lessons and discussions for young school children.
Ironically, Plato himself warned against teaching philosophy to the young. Robert Fisher points to some quotes in which Plato expresses his reservations. Basically, he worried kids would lose faith in the ideas of right and wrong. Obviously, if taught badly, philosophy can have some negative effects on impressionable children. If parents and teachers decide to teach philosophy (as I hope to do with my own kids one day), they should probably take note of Plato's warnings and do so with caution.
Take a look at this video that discusses a similar movement in Australia: