The practice of P4C was developed in New Jersey schools around 40 years ago by Matthew Lipman. He showed that children as young as five or six can happily engage in discussions about ‘big issues’ when such discussion originates from within their own experience. Philosophy for children is now practiced in over fifty countries. In this country there are around 10,000 teachers trained as P4C facilitators.
A P4C session usually starts with a story or a picture which gets people thinking. Participants are invited to reflect, discuss and produce questions. These questions are considered by the group and one is chosen to be the focus for discussion. Apart from discussion, games and puzzles are used to get people moving around, mixing and to keep the atmosphere light. The main activity in P4C involves following enquiries arising from pupils’ own puzzlement.
Children’s literature is often used as a stimulus in P4C since selected examples address issues important to young people, such as: friendship, identity, relationships with others, place in the world, et cetera. Stories are very important and highly motivating to most people. Crucially P4C is not aimed at inculcating any particular moral teaching, what it does is assist participants to think and speak intelligently about issues that are important to them, thereby promoting critical and creative thought and the ability to make good judgements within a collaborative and caring environment.