Can you be brave if you’re afraid? Why do we “know better” and do things anyway? What makes a family? Philosophers have wrestled with such questions for centuries. They are also the stuff of playground debates. Ethics for the Very Young uses the perplexities of young children’s lives to spark philosophical dialogue. Its lessons scaffold discussion through executive function games (Telephone, Red Light Green Light), dialogic reading of picture books and Reggio Emilia’s art-based inquiry. In the process, children develop skills of dialogue and critical thinking through increased selective attention, self-control, cognitive flexibility and perspective taking. While the elements of this method are familiar, they are here fused into an organic whole grounded in the history of philosophy and defended by current work in developmental psychology. Building on Wartenberg’s Big Ideas for Little Kids, the present curriculum uses a series of 23 picture books to frame discussions of character, bravery, self-control, friendship, the greater good, respect and care. Its goal is not to “teach morals” but to help children articulate and develop their own perspectives through dialogue with each other. Each lesson presents teachers’ reflections on how this exploration of life's enduring questions transformed their school’s culture.
About the Author
Erik Kenyon PhD is author of Augustine and the Dialogue (Cambridge 2018) which explores the intersection of literary form and philosophy of education in Augustine’s earliest works. He has taught at Rollins College since 2012 and partnered with 5 Orlando-area schools through Philosophy for Children courses.
Diane Doyle MA has worked in early childhood for 30 years always with an emphasis on social emotional development, inclusive early educational experiences and Positive Behavior Supports with a focus on art as the vehicle for children’s expression of understanding and documentation in the Reggio Emilia tradition.
Sharon Carnahan PhD is an applied developmental psychologist who studies young children and their caregiving environments. She is a professor of psychology and has served Rollins College and the Hume House Child Development and Student Research Center since 1992.
Table of Contents
Part I: Integrating Philosophy into Early Education
Chapter 1 – Origin of the Project & Acknowledgements
Chapter 2 – A Case for Integrating Philosophy into Early Education
Chapter 3 – Theory into Practice: Bringing Philosophy into Early Education
Part II: Teaching Ancient Ethics
Chapter 4 – Lesson 1 – Character
Chapter 5 – Lesson 2 – Bravery
Chapter 6 – Lesson 3 – Moderation & Self-Control
Chapter 7 – Lesson 4 – Friendship
Part III: Teaching Modern Ethics
Chapter 8 – Lesson 5 – Pleasure & the Greater Good
Chapter 9 – Lesson 6 – Rules & Respect
Chapter 10 – Lesson 7 – Care
Postscript: “Education as Growth”
Appendix: Overview of Lessons