Thinking philosophically

Published 11:51 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It has stumped philosophers for years, and now some Suffolk students are stretching their minds to answer the age-old question: “What is mightier: the pen or the sword?”

The question is this year’s 2010 Kids Philosophy Slam challenge, which students from all across the nation — and at Mt. Zion and Creekside Elementary schools — tried to answer.

“Philosophy is something lacking in most American educations, but is often taught in other countries,” said Barbara Patterson, gifted resource teacher. “The program gives the kids an opportunity to think about their world and use their talents — whether it’s words or art — to compete in a national competition.”


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This year, Patterson will submit 27 entries from students at both schools ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade. Results will be released in May.

Students submitted answers in the form of poems, essays and art. Many students emphasized the importance of the peace of the pen or the power of the sword, while others balanced the two.

“Violence and words are like bread and butter,” stated a submission by Abigail, fifth grader at Mt. Zion. “Without one it just doesn’t feel the same, like a heartbreak without tears. For, they are powerful in their own way and equally the same. Like two peas in a pod, neither can live without the other.”

Kids Philosophy Slam “give[s] kids a voice, and inspire[s] them to think by unlocking their intellectual and creative potential through a unique yet powerful philosophical forum,” according to its mission statement.

The program challenges students so think outside the box and evaluate the world and value system. For two weeks students also received a “philosophical thought of the day” – which included quotes from notable figures and philosophers — each day at school.

“A lot of adults and students don’t think twice about what their views of the world are,” Patterson said. “But, we should be thinking about what our value systems are. It makes better thinkers, and better thinkers make better decisions.”

The competition this year has caused students to thoughtfully consider whether words or physical force are more effective at eliciting a response or action.

“Students really had to pull away from which is nicer and which is more influential,” Patterson said. “It has opened their eyes to look at things in a broader spectrum.”