Philosophy for Children in Russia: Guest Post by Larisa Retyunskikh

Larisa Retyunskikh, Doctor of Philosophy and professor of Moscow State University discusses the approaches taken to teaching vital 21st Century skills to thinkers of all ages. 

Tell us about the programs that you run.  What inspired you to become involved in them?

The program I constructed for children in philosophy is entitled "Philosophical Games for Children and Adults."  I wrote it in 1992 for children and parents as a curriculum for a club which we entitled “The Socrates School”, founded on certain principles of play and creative thinking.  People from age 8 to 80 + were invited to participate.  Children often came with their parents or grandparent and showed much enthusiasm forphilosophizing together.   They were encouraged to reflect on a variety of philosophical concepts such as goodness, forgiveness, happiness, friendship, love, and many other philosophical concepts that are important to children and adults.  In time, the program was adopted in more than 20 schools and various cultural centers in Russia.


My second program, entitled "Looking For Wisdom" was designed for children 8-10 years old, to be  implemented in the elementary school.   The idea of teaching philosophy in elementary school is new for the Russian system of education. My program is the first Russian, systematic course of philosophy for elementary school. The book was designed for reading at home and philosophizing with one’s classmates and teacher in the classroom.

Both programs are not based on M.Lipman’s curriculum, but there are many common points with it. They are: common sense, aims, skills etc.

A very interesting project that we created in 2009 is "Family Philosophical Camp".  We invite children and adults to participate in it, and we live together for days at a time and organize lessons and some other kinds of activities for children and adults.

What kinds of skills (academic or personal) do you see your participants developing?

Play, as a method of philosophical inquiry, forms the basis of my methodology.  The program was designed originally for families, and affords an opportunity for adults and children to philosophize together with the hope of creating a harmonious understanding between people of different generations. I use also Socratic dialog, and constrictive and hermeneutic principles of doing philosophy 

How do you get parents, teachers and the community involved in doing philosophy with children?

Including parents in a community of inquiry has good results.  My experience shows that philosophizing together and philosophizing in play is way to understanding ourselves, to and to think better.

What would you like to see happen with your program in the next few years?  What's on your "wish list"?

I want to involve as many teachers as possible, who could use philosophizing in their pedagogic practice.