Little Big Minds
Little Big Minds
by Marietta McCarty
Tarcher / Penguin
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About the Book
Little Big Minds is a guide for any adult to take a child into the world of wonder and awe that is at the heart of philosophy. Children are natural philosophers, and Marietta McCarty discovered through her philosophy program for kids from kindergarten through eighth grade just how eager they are to explore ideas and to use clear thinking to understand and to improve their lives. The book draws on McCarty’s background both as a college professor of philosophy as well as over twenty years sitting in her circles with inquisitive, bouncing child philosophers. It gives the reader the desire and tools to engage in dialogue with kids about nature, justice, courage, time, and death, for example. The book quickly makes clear the positive effects of philosophizing as it sharpens critical thinking skills, and the practice of philosophy fosters empathy that leads to community involvement regardless of age.
Each chapter is laid out in an accessible and inviting way. First, the author explores the topic under investigation and gives new “grownup” philosophers some idea of what to expect, with the voices of her child philosophers lending insights sprinkled with endearing humor. Next, the theories of two philosophers who are especially relevant to the topic at hand are set forth clearly so that readers can share, if they choose, these ideas with their little big minds. McCarty then offers two specific approaches for delving into the topic more deeply in ways that have proven especially relevant to her child philosophers. For example, in the friendship chapter, the importance of listening and the threat posed by bullying are detailed, drawing on children’s voices and the two philosophers, bell hooks and Karl Jaspers. Dignity and children’s rights promise fertile dialogue in the chapter on justice. The joy of spontaneity and possibility of creating a future expand the analysis of freedom. Sprinkled throughout each chapter are teaching tips, just at the point that the reader may be wondering “what if?”! Questions for conversation abound: what about the astonishment that comes from discovering resemblances in the natural world; the peace that follows philosophizing; the healing that can take place from the wounds of prejudice?
In addition, scattered throughout the chapter are exercises designed to increase children’s appreciation of the topic, using art, service activities, poetry, music, and prose works: practicing calligraphy improves concentration; making lunches for children at the Salvation Army gives the concept of responsibility new meaning; writing poems based on John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” brings a positive perspective to conversations about death; listening to Haydn’s Symphony #22, “The Philosopher,” marks an intriguing way to begin the philosophical journey; and sharing a book of dialogues between children and Rosa Parks provides an intimate look at the value of freedom. How to make the best use of these resources is explained, drawn from McCarty’s journey, and adults should feel free to use any and all resources and exercises that they find pertinent to the daily lives of their budding philosophers. If you have a favorite poem or piece of music, use it!
Little Big Minds examines philosophy from a multicultural perspective, broadening children’s appreciation of a big world while encouraging their curiosity and delight in asking good questions and indulging in rich conversation. How much the author learns from her young student/teachers is obvious, and their wise voices ring out with passion and intelligence on every page. As an adult using this book with kids, you’re in for a good time together.
On the left is the Italian translation, Tutti i Bambini sono Filosofi, available through Fabbri Bompiani.
On the right is the Traditional Chinese translation.