Monday, September 19, 2011

John Dewey and the Child as Philosopher

Call for Papers: “John Dewey and the Child as Philosopher”
2011 American Philosophical Association
Eastern Division Annual Meeting
December 27-30, 2011, at the Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, D.C.

Joint Session of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children
and John Dewey Society (session date and time to be determined).

Overview: John Dewey was not a philosopher of education in the now- traditional sense of a doctor of philosophy who examines educational ends, means and controversies through the disciplinary lenses of epistemology, ethics and political theory, or of agenda-driven schools such as existentialism, feminism and critical theory. Rather, Dewey was an educator and a philosopher, who saw in each discipline reconstructive possibilities for the other, and who famously characterized “philosophy … as the general theory of education” ([1916] 1985, p. 338). Dewey wanted both disciplines to overcome their narrow preoccupations with acquiring information-as-knowledge and to adopt new self-understandings as enterprises aimed at personal and collective wellbeing.

Dewey’s recommendations for the reconstruction of philosophy and of education were shaped by his theory of experience: of the purposive organism inquiring, experimenting, collaborating and otherwise working toward consummate experience in its current situation – and (only) in that process, becoming “educated,” i.e., better able to solve problems in future situations. Dewey saw philosophers, scientists, teachers and school children, all, as agents of self-corrective growth, attempting to extract the most meaning from novel experiences through intelligent thought, feeling and action. In that regard, philosophers should know the serious playfulness that comes from direct engagement with the world, and children (especially in school settings), should experience the exhilaration of having their immediate desires and concerns expanded and mediated by disciplinary knowledge and know-how.

The John Dewey Society and the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) join in calling for papers that explore the notion of “the child as philosopher,” as informed by Dewey’s life and writings, to be presented at the IAPC group session of the 2011 American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Annual Meeting, December 27-30, in Washington, D.C. Presented papers will also be considered for publication in a special issue of Education and Culture, the Journal of the John Dewey Society.

Possible topics include:

• What philosophical practices (e.g. analytic thinking, argumentation, dialogue, soma-aesthetics, reflective autobiography) do children and adolescents demonstrate?
• What are the relative merits of various and divergent approaches to pre-college philosophy education?
• What philosophies of education and what meta-philosophies support and detract from the notion of pre-college philosophy education?
• Why didn’t Dewey recommend children’s philosophical practice (Lipman 2004)?
• To what extent is Nussbaum’s recent critique, that Dewey “never addressed systematically the question of how Socratic critical reasoning might be taught to children of various ages,” (2010, 73) correct or incorrect?
• What reconstructive possibilities emerge from the mutual encounter of the disciplines of philosophy and education?

Submissions: Electronic submissions are required and should be sent to Papers must be in MS Word (.doc) or Rich Text Format (.rtf). Papers may not exceed 3000 words in length. Submissions should include a word count and 150 word abstract (not counted in total word count) on the title page. Papers should not contain any information identifying the author of the submission. In a separate title page document, please submit the following: title of the paper, abstract of the paper, author’s name, affiliation, email address and phone number. Submission deadline: Papers must be received by Monday, 3 October 2011.

Notification & Presentation. Authors of accepted papers will be notified by Monday, 31 October 2011. As requested by the APA, all papers will be posted on the IAPC website prior to the conference ( Presenters will be required to pay the conference registration fee, and APA members are encouraged to maintain their APA memberships. APA members are also encouraged to submit papers to the main program, in addition to participating in this group session. At the group session, a laptop and projector will be provided. Presenters who wish to use PowerPoint slides must submit them to no later than 5 December 2011.

Questions or comments: Maughn Gregory, Montclair State University,


John Dewey: The Middle Works of John Dewey, Volume 9, 1899-1924: Democracy and Education, 1916 (Jo Ann Boydston and Edwardsville, eds.; Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985).

Matthew Lipman: “Philosophy for Children’s Debt to Dewey,” Critical & Creative Thinking Vol. 12, No. 1 (May 2004), 1-8.

Martha Nussbaum: Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton University Press, 2010).

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