“The child does not become social by learning. He must be social in order to learn” George Herbert Mead INTRODUCTION – LETTING THE ARGUMENT LEAD The guiding principle of Lipman’s Community of Inquiry process is ‘letting the argument lead’. Althoughthe facilitator of the inquiry has a responsibility to guide the discussion procedurally, this is at a level of co-inquirer and he or she should not lead the inquiry down a predetermined path. This paper will address how this process of letting the dialogue unfold through the participants’ own contributions leads to engagement. This engagement according to Lipman is critical, creative and caring.Letting the argument lead is a process of engaging with all three of Lipman’s criteria, however I argue in this paper that it is in fact care that leads children to genuinely engage rather than just enlisting critical and creative skills. By caring for the process, they do in fact become critical and creative. Engagement in dialogue comes from a discussion that is not simply a conversation - it isin every sense, engaging. By engaging in philosophical dialogue, children are taken to a level beyond their average classroom participation. But what sets a philosophical dialogue and a mere conversation apart? 1 According to Susan Gardner (1995), the search for truth motivates participants in a dialogue, and is the whole purpose of the Community of Inquiry, and I would argue, of philosophicalinquiry in general. There is, as Gardner points out, an obvious, although relatively superficial sense in which progress toward truth is vital to the practice of inquiry and that if such progress is not made, the term community of inquiry becomes a misnomer. Properly speaking, in order to “inquire”, one must not only inquire about something … one must also make some progress – at least if suchprogress is possible. (p.38) Gardner notes that if a dialogue is to be productive, then the participants must in fact produce something of substance, which, in turn, would make that dialogue substantive. This product is truth, and without the necessity of trying to reach it, a dialogue would have no direction and there would be no motivation for its participants. It should be reiterated that truth maynot in fact result at the conclusion of the dialogue. However, as Gardner points out, having this as a goal gives the inquiry purpose. Justus Buchler also identifies that the conclusion of the dialogue is not as important as the process itself.
For the difference between dialogue and conversation, see also Amir (2001).
Although we may not come to a conclusion (or find ‘truth’ in thePlatonic sense of the word) he argues that “a product is inevitably established in any given hour of discussion” (Lipman 1991, p.231). He says “(s)tudents may have no right to demand final answers, but they certainly have the right to expect some sense of intellectual motion or some feeling of discernment” (p.231). So how does engagement occur through this process? We are not trying to identify whatengagement is in this paper, moreover, we will identify how it occurs through the process of critical, creative and caring thinking. Undertaking a conceptual analysis to find a conclusive definition of the term ‘engagement’ will bring us no closer to understanding how children engage through philosophical inquiry. However, perhaps Gardner offers some definition by way of claiming that the progresstowards truth makes the dialogue substantive. Because the dialogue has a particular purpose rather than being unstructured talk, the substantive nature of dialogue and its meaningfulness leads to engagement. Perhaps the ‘substantiveness’ of inquiry is what we mean when we refer to engagement – connecting with substantive ideas. Perhaps if we look towards the commonsense use of the word engagement...