Today is World Philosophy Day (cue the “every day is philosophy day” jokes). I usually do some sort of love letter to philosophy for this occasion, a show of appreciation for this way of thinking, to the many ways it’s made my life better, and to the many more ways that it can potentially fix a whole lot of problems worldwide.
This year, my gratitude is directed somewhere else. I want to thank and show appreciation to children, in my community and beyond. The most wonderful and inspiring thinkers I’ve worked with this past year have been completely without degrees or titles. They’ve had no publishing history or accolades. In most cases, they’ve had no idea what philosophy was, let alone that they were doing it.
Over the course of the pandemic, children have had to eschew each other’s company and bounce back and forth between in-person and online learning. They’ve missed out on holidays, celebrations, rites of passage, and important milestones. They’ve been the last to have access to vaccines, but the first to be sent into risky environments. Mercifully, they haven’t been as vulnerable to this miserable virus as some, but a non-trivial number of kids have still had to struggle with it, some long-term. Let’s face it, kids haven’t really been able to fully be kids for a while now.
If that weren’t enough, they’ve had to put up with us big people and our bumbling around with important decisions. We’ve made common sense solutions into political head-butting matches. We’ve put off important changes because they were annoying or inconvenient. We’ve opted out of vital discussions. We’ve flipped out and lost our cool over dumb stuff. Adults have not been shining paragons of philosophical reason.
And yet, without fail, kids have kept learning, being curious, and asking questions. They’ve been sensible and open-minded, concerned about the state of the world around them and compassionate towards those who are suffering. Time and again, I’ve finished an online session or had a chat with a youngster and thought “God, I wish you were conducting things right now.”
They’re running circles around us in the thinking department.
So, to all of the little thinkers out there, I humbly bow. When the dust settles, you’ll have boo boos to take care of, just like all of us adults will. This past year and a half has been really, really hard, and it might not get easier anytime soon. But I want to tell you that I’m in awe of your resilience, your perceptiveness, your willingness to throw “Why” and “Why not” on the table, and to be serious about discussing them. You care about diversity and inclusion, about protecting the environment, about fairness and kindness and beauty. You don’t run from the big, difficult ideas, and you call people on their sloppy logic. You have philosophical grit the likes of which I’ve never seen in an adult.
You need to know that your thoughts are important. The fact that you don’t drive or vote doesn’t change that. There are questions, huge questions, that need to be asked, that are the key to fixing many of the things that are wrong with the world. In many ways, you’re better at asking them than anyone else.
It is my honour and my pleasure to create for, teach, and work with child thinkers. If I had one wish for you, it would be that you never grow out of being the kind of philosophers that you are, and that the world learns to celebrate your gifts.
Happy Philosophy Day!