From ‘citizens-in-waiting’ to a true appreciation of the ‘now’ in the classroom

In the last week or so I have been trying to find some time to read Children as Philosophers: Learning through Enquiry and Dialogue in the Primary Classroom. What I have read so far is excellent – perhaps just a deeper, richer look at inquiry method rather than a whole new thing, but we shall see.

Something that struck a chord was Haynes' observation that “[c]hildren are not citizens-in-waiting, they are members of their
communities, with the capacity to actively participate” (p. 21). In a recent lecture, a point was made (Hi, Kate) about using the term 'students' rather than 'kids' (in contrast to much political discourse that is trying to sound 'of the people'). I agree that when discussing education, that kind of language helps us focus on facilitating quality learning rather than babysitting. The trade-off may be that we develop a one-dimensional view of the people in schools as purely students. Feel how oddly that word, 'people', sits in that last sentence. It's so much easier to think of them either as qualitatively different and lesser beings ('children'), or to think of them as a being transitioning into people-hood ('students').

A core part of engaging students (I will continue to use the term, but under erasure as Derrida would have it) in meaningful philosophical discussion is to stop seeing them as 'becomings' and start seeing them as 'beings', as Haynes puts it. "What is important is to preserve the value of childhood as a period that exists here and now in its own right, whatever the social and cultural expression, and not just as a period of preparation for the future." (p.14)

No doubt this is an occupational hazard for teachers, whose focus is generally on the transitional experience that is learning. I know my own thinking about schools (and the students in them) usually sees this as a step toward something rather than a worthwhile experience in and of itself. Going forward I will have to try to challenge myself to appreciate the 'now' of the classroom as well as considering the learned destination.

5 thoughts on “From ‘citizens-in-waiting’ to a true appreciation of the ‘now’ in the classroom

  1. Ben Rolfe

    Interesting. I like the idea of tossing out the word kids (in this context).
    I personally prefer the term “learners” to “students”. That probably reflects my interest in non-studious learning (by which I mean learning in situations where the primary motivation is something apart from learning) but I also feel that it better reflects the nature of learning as a lifelong activity, rather than the transitional experience you mentioned.

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  2. Brett Rolfe

    Oh, so now you’re all for tossing out and replacing words then? 😉
    I like ‘learners’ too (and I say that with the comfort of knowing that the a lot of the literature pretty much agrees here). As well as setting the tone for an ongoing process, it broadens the activity out beyond ‘study’ as you say – and hence (for teachers) provides the opportunity to open the classroom out.

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  3. Anannya mitra Singharay

    Thanks heaps for the post. We did challenge ourselves, while interacting with our 18 month old, as an individual, rather that “just our baby”, and it worked (and is working wonderfully).Her life-long journey of learning, painting her blank canvas has started the moment she was born (or even earlier)and the best results are, when we handle her with an individualistic approach, much in agreement with her egocentric stage of life.
    Your post re-confirmed our views!

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