PLATO to Host Inaugural Institute at Teachers College, June 28-29

PLATO (Philosophical Learning and Teaching) was launched in 2010 by the Committee for Pre-College Instruction of Philosophy (CPIP) of the American Philosophical Association (APA) with the founding goal of creating and connecting the growing network of practitioners and scholars who are engaged in pre-college instruction of Philosophy.  This June 28-29 will mark PLATO’s first Institute, “Philosophy and Education:  Introducing Philosophy to Young People,” which will be held at Teacher’s College.

From Hawaii to Maine, scholars from across the country will be presenting, offering attendees both a truly national perspective and great networking opportunities.

The planning of this Institute, and even more broadly, the creation of PLATO, is a noteworthy accomplishment.  Steered by Roberta Israeloff, director of the Squire Family Foundation (supporter of PLATO) and Jana Mohr Lone of the CPIP, PLATO was born despite skepticism from some in the field over whether what kids were being taught was truly Philosophy.  Tim Ignaffo, Philosophy and Education Ph.D. student and Philosophy Outreach program coordinator, credits Israeloff and Mohn Lone’s careful, diplomatic creation of PLATO so that it that ultimately addressed and satisfied most everyone’s concerns:  the team took into account the educative implications as well as the philosophical implications and what PLATO had to offer to the tradition of the APA.  “There’s such a great balance there that we can put any controversy to rest,” Ignaffo states.

Ultimately, a national network of resources was created and can now be built upon.  College-level philosophy outreach programs and other pre-college philosophy initiatives exist on about a dozen campuses nationwide, but PLATO is the first organized attempt to connect these programs.  As Ignaffo comments, “It’s tremendous and exciting that PLATO will connect the dots and bring people together who might not otherwise come together at all…Collectively, the sum is going to be much greater and bigger than each individual part.”

Ignaffo further credits the continuing support of the Squire Family Foundation, the Office of the Provost and the Department of Arts & Humanities for advancing the singular vision of creating this network of scholars, as well as allowing TC’s Philosophy Outreach program and the Fellows Program at Columbia Secondary School to grow and flourish.

The institute session that Ignaffo will participate in (chaired by Maughn Gregory), “Social and Political Philosophy in the Classroom,” will provide a platform for him to share what he is most passionate about:  his experiences teaching students philosophical questions and the rightful, essential place of Philosophy in pre-college education.  “I never cease to be surprised.  These students really can handle very serious questions and very serious discussions.  They come alive when given the opportunity.”

Other outstanding sessions will include Mitchell Green (University of Virginia), Thomas Wartenberg (Mount Holyoke College), Maughn Gregory (Montclair State University), and Jana Mohr Lone (the Director of PLATO as well as the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children)—all trailblazers in the field and stand-outs even among an all-star line-up of institute participants.