Philosophy is an important part of education that comes to us in subtle ways. Those of us who pick up the dusty tomes of long-dead thinkers may feel a bit nihilistic about the future, but philosphy actually exists everywhere. The good news is that philosphy is not only found in the absurdist (and unsettling) play by Samuel Becket or Nietzche’s extremely hard to comprehend writing.
One of my favorite ways to find philosophical concepts comes from the most innocent source of knowledge: children’s books. We all have at least one book that influenced the way we thought as a kid. To be exposed to high concepts such as ethics, morality, justice, and truth can be incredibly influential to the young mind.
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Some books are notorious for forcing us to think. Take The Giving Tree, for example. We recently wrote about how dark Shel Silverstein’s story actually is and the significance it can have on the way we think. The story brings up so many ethical questions! Was the main character wrong for constantly taking from the tree? Is the story about selfishness or is it about unconditional love?
When a young reader experiences this story, they are forced to come to some kind of decision. Whether they realize it or not, the final page will inspire a sense of disgust or a sense of beauty. That moment places the reader on an intellectual journey that may not resurface again for many years.
The Little Prince is another great example of philosophy finding its way into the minds of children. A constant theme in the book is how knowledge is discovered and spread. In the book, a Turkish astronomer presents his discover of an asteroid and is not taken seriously. It is not until he dresses in European clothing that he is taken seriously by the scientific community. This story argues that the presentation of truth is almost as important as truth itself.
The beauty here is the subtly of the lesson. Kids are often under a lot of pressure to read, comprehend, and regurgitate the knowledge they learn in the classroom. When the reader chooses to pick up a book, and not because they are told to, their ability to empathize with the material increases.
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Understanding basic philosophic concepts can give kids a huge advantage while making decisions in their youth. Sometimes we don’t even think if are actions are right and wrong, we just act. No matter how many times we tell the youth to behave correctly, nothing will ever sink in more than a good book with a plot that makes you think.
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