A school in east London has hit upon a novel way to reign in the young'uns and keep them from that common bugbear, anti-social behaviour: get them pondering philosophical questions about life, the universe and everything.
Gallions Primary School in Warsall, Beckton, introduced a course called Philosophy for Children in 2004, and in just a few years it has reaped great rewards. Behaviour at the school has dramatically improved so much that they've launched a DVD, Thinking Allowed, highlighting the effectiveness of such methods.
In a school where many of the pupils were regularly in the doghouse over behavioural problems, the change in attitudes toward learning is immense. The kids now "challenge each other's ideas in an assertive and non-aggressive way" and demonstrate "judgements based on reason". Said one tyke:
Philosophy's changed my lifestyle. Now I know that I can listen to other people's opinions, and I can say what I believe.
Wonderful, but presumably such inspiring words come from one yet to encounter the Hobbesian description of life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". And surely the fiendish scheming of Machiavelli has plenty of applications in the modern urban school system, not all of them benign.
While the results are certainly impressive, we're not entirely convinced that philosophy is the true path towards serenity. Some of the great philosophers weren't short of getting aggro if the situation demanded it - Ludwig Wittgenstein once brandished a poker at the snout of Karl Popper during a heated debate at Cambridge. Act like that these days and you're hankering for a shanking.
Image from chriswatkins' Flickrstream