Teaching Philosophy in Primary Schools


A misleading randomised trial

Last week’s press was full of the news that teaching philosophy to primary school kids helped with their maths and reading. The BBC led with, “Philosophy sessions ‘boost primary school results'” (here). The Mirror, “Want to boost your child’s maths and reading skills? Then teach them about trust and kindness” (here), and specialists implied they’d known it all along, “It stands to reason that philosophy benefits learning” Times Education Supplement (here). Only the Guardian, put even a coded doubt into the final two words of its headline,”Philosophical discussions boost pupils’ maths and literacy progress, study finds” (here).

Sceptics need to take this seriously because, unusually for an education intervention, the evidence comes from a randomised controlled trial (RCT). In this case a trial of “Philosophy for Children” (P4C) a programme of weekly lessons. An outfit called the Society for the Advancement of…

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