Philosophy for Children, the UNCRC and Children's Voice in the Context of the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis


  • Susan Lyle


This paper is written in the context of my commitment to supporting children and young people's voices in education and the importance of global education at this time of climate and biodiversity crisis. Right now, a youth movement is growing across the world that is calling on adults to listen and take action for their futures. I argue that P4C has an important role to play in supporting teachers and children to consider the moral issues facing humankind now. I report on my personal journey into P4C and argue the case for P4C to support children's voices and classroom dialogic engagement. I provide an overview of my research and work in two areas. First, working in Wales, UK, I carried out research for the Welsh Government on their policy to make the 1989 UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) statutory in schools. This work identified barriers to the UNCRC in common discourses about children that could be summarized as "citizen in waiting" and the continued presence of historical narratives articulated by teachers that see the state of childhood as a deficit. These attitudes towards children and childhood impacted teacher capacity to support pupil voice, a central component of the UNCRC and P4C. Secondly, I report on evidence from the Philosophy for Children in Schools Project in schools in South Wales. Findings suggest P4C can be a catalyst for challenging asymmetrical relationships between teacher and student and can support pupil voice. The practice of P4C was instrumental in shifting teacher attitudes away from deficit models of the child towards positive models and valuing of pupil voice. Over 25 years engaging with P4C in classrooms has convinced me that P4C has the capacity to animate the voice of the child and in so doing can challenge deficit models of the child held by many teachers. At a time when it is the young who are leading the way in telling adults they have a moral imperative to address the existential threat of climate and ecological breakdown, our very survival may depend on our capacity to take the voice of the child seriously.