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Encouraging and supporting children's voices

Conrad, Sarah-Jane and Cassidy, Claire and Mathis, Christian (2015) Encouraging and supporting children's voices. In: Youth Quotas and Other Efficient Forms of Youth Participation in Ageing Societies. Springer, Cham, pp. 109-124. ISBN 9783319383125

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Abstract

Children are considered not to be full members of society and that their participation should be limited. Further, that this limitation is imposed by adults. In order to counter these views it is key to afford space for children’s voices and that these are facilitated in some way. Philosophy with Children, in all its variety of approaches and practices, lays claim to being a tool that allows children to develop the skills necessary for citizenship such as participation and airing their views. The chapter focuses on the role of Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CoPI), a specific method of practical philosophy with children, to empower children and give them a voice. CoPI has a series of distinctive features that make it especially apt in meeting this goal. Children are able articulate their views on a particular topic and this is supported by the structure of the dialogue itself. In addition, though, their statements must build on previous statements by demonstrating dis/agreement and the participants must provide reasons to justify that dis/agreement. The method also emphasises the primacy of the children’s thinking and the facilitator works to juxtapose speakers in order to drive the dialogue further philosophically. In this chapter, these features of CoPI are illustrated by examples from dialogues on the Good Life, stimulated by the question "What kind of society would you like to live in?" CoPI is shown to give children voice with a view to promoting their participation in society while also eschewing the imbalance in the adult/child power relationship. Here, we see what is important to children in the lives they want to live, for themselves and for those around them. What is of particular interest is the manner in which the children appear to collude with the adult/child power divide in how they talk about the kind of society in which they’d like to live.