FROM THE EDITOR
Philosophy is another of those subjects that many believe should be a vital part of the school curriculum but one that is implemented in a hit-or-miss fashion rather than as an intentional curriculum topic. The two main arguments against introducing it formally into the curriculum are: the claim that young children’s brains are not adequately developed cognitively for them to grasp sophisticated philosophic issues; and secondly, the curriculum is already overcrowded with the required courses covered on standardized tests used to evaluate schools.
These two arguments are discussed at greater length in the section devoted to resources (p. 38), but many of us working with gifted children know from experience that they not only can but do benefit from philosophic inquiry and debate. Pragmatically we recognize that philosophy must be made a part of the required subject matter courses rather than taught as a subject onto itself as occurs at higher levels of education. The important thing is to plan purposefully to include it rather than just letting it happen—because not much will happen when done the latter way.
Joan Franklin Smutny leads our feature section with an article devoted to infusing philosophy into the curriculum planned for very young children. Much like the program “Philosophy For Kids” developed by Professor Tom Wartenburg at Mt. Holyoke College, Smutny uses children’s literature as the basis for philosophical exploration with gifted children. And as she always does in her writing and speaking presentations, Smutny provides numerous specific, concrete examples and guidelines including book information, questioning strategies, and creative product suggestions. Her article is entitled “Philosophy for Young Gifted Learners: Stories for the Mind and Soul.”
Jennifer Hazelton is one of our young, bright teachers of gifted education bringing a freshness and enthusiasm to her work that is energizing and revitalizing. In “Examining the Philosopher’s Tool Belt,” Hazelton emphasizes “big ideas,” such as those found in quotes from philosophers, as classroom starting points. Then she uses the “tools” of depth and complexity and questioning strategies with young philosophers. She uses historical and moral dilemmas as example lessons. Her students are upper-elementary age, but the methods she presents can be used at any age level. In an article especially directed toward parents—though of interest to educators as well—Michelle Borba presents guidelines on “How
to Raise Kids Who Stand Up for Their Beliefs.” After outlining what she terms a “Decade of Moral Erosion,” Dr. Borba provides “seven tips to help kids stand up for their beliefs.” The tips are specific and clear, and parents are reminded that the role models they provide for their children are key in their development of personal moral standards.
Sandra Kaplan, who teaches at the University of Southern California, presents an article that does not relate to classroom teaching of philosophy per se, but it addresses a major philosophic issue for our times. “Keeping Gifted Education Alive in Contemporary Times” encourages educators to accept both the challenge and the responsibility for making sure that gifted students continue to be served appropriately even during the current fiscal crisis and while the usual supporters of gifted education no longer are providing that support—particularly local school districts and state governments. Dr. Kaplan states, “It is no longer a matter of educators of the gifted attending classes, conferences, and workshops to learn about gifted education; it is a matter of educators of the gifted becoming teacher-advocates of the gifted: those who teach colleagues and students about gifted education.” She urges educators to take advantage of opportune situations in their schools to advocate for and assist colleagues in providing for their gifted charges. Kaplan provides example situations where educators of the gifted can step in and help keep gifted education alive admidst budget cuts and survival-mode thinking.
The final issue of the year will focus on serving highly gifted learners, a sub population in our own field that is often misunderstood and under served. In the meantime, best wishes for a good start to the academic school year.
—Margaret Gosfield, Editor