TH!NKTH!NK is a program designed by the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine (with the support of Humanities Commons) to introduce fifth-grade students to philosophical thought and discourse. Philosophy is a skill rather than a subject matter (so it is more like reading or riding a bike than American history or psychology). Philosophy is critical thinking, it is the skill of examining presuppositions, recognizing connections, seeking justification – all towards the end of providing insight into something of interest. Although many students will have heard the term ‘philosophy,’ it is likely that most will have no idea what philosophy is. Not only is philosophy a most natural skill–one for which every person has the capacity–it is of the greatest practical importance. Critical thinking is of significance to each thinker at a personal level, seemingly instrumental to a well-balanced life, and it is of great societal significance, as both the impetus to change and the guide to improvement.
The primary goal of TH!NK is to help young thinkers grow as both students and persons by helping prepare them for future learning and reflective careers. The program is designed to develop these skills in as simple and direct a way as possible, with no need for props or preparation. Each philosopher participating in TH!NK meets with the same group of students for a 45-60 minute session, once a week for four consecutive weeks. He or she reads aloud to the group a short story or a passage from a longer work. Texts with quite different themes, tones and subjects are used over the course of the program. After reading, questions are raised to enable students to engage carefully the text. The reader guides discussion, based on these questions, in order to maximize participation and fruitfulness. The questions are intended to illustrate the crucial difference between obtaining information in some situation and critically engaging that situation. It is the latter that is the hallmark of philosophical thought.
Link to Budding Philosophers feature by UCI Communications:
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