We stopped by the CDC on a day when English major Edwin Davis ’18 led a session attended by Mount Holyoke College professor Thomas Wartenberg, a pioneer in teaching philosophy through children’s literature. Much of the course is based on principles outlined in Wartenberg’s book Big Ideas for Little Kids.
Davis and Kenyon planned a lesson based on building a model Hume House (the CDC’s new building that was completed February 2017) out of graham crackers, icing, and candy.
“The activity itself did not go entirely as planned,” admits Davis. “The children did not choose to build model Hume Houses or, honestly, even houses for that matter. Rather, each child worked individually to begin with, pursuing their own creations. One made a sandwich, another made a garage (or at least the roof of one), and one girl mostly ate icing off her fingers.
“Despite this, they still arrived at all of the teachable moments I could have hoped for. There were opportunities for sharing, working together, and building the house versus eating the candy it was made out of. The lesson was fun and lighthearted. The kids spoke freely and openly and, once again, exceeded my expectations with what they had to contribute.
“The little girl who was eating the icing ended the lesson by saying, ‘It's happy when everyone is happy!’ If John Stuart Mill had written his essay on utilitarianism as a 4-year-old, I think that's exactly what he would have to say.”