Democracy Cafe

Fran Brethel is a longtime and beloved elementary school teacher at PS 115Q, a Glen Oaks School which is right on the border of Queens and Nassau County on Long Island.  She wrote me a good while back out of the blue to say:  

“I am a fourth grade GT [Gifted & Talented] teacher in the NYC school system and … discovered your book The Philosopher’ Club …started using it in my classroom to stimulate conversation, accountable talk, and critical thinking skills.  My class loves it! And so do I!”

We began a rich correspondence and after I asked her specific impact Philosophers’ Club dialogues have on her charges, Fran responded with this glowing encomium:

“Chris, Here are my thoughts quickly as to how the Philosopher’s Club is of value to educators:

It opens up the philosophical world to both teachers and students – we forget sometimes in this hectic world to really think about things –

It provides children with the opportunity to really “think” and “wonder”

It stimulates conversation amongst peers – not towards the teacher!

It promotes speaking and listening skills (both Common Core Standards)!

It allows children to practice “good conversational behavior”

It provides a forum of trust and respect

It is fun and different!

The “deep thinking” that occurs is amazing – out of the mouths of babes!!!

So many “ah ha” moments!

It promotes respect for the opinions and thoughts of others – no matter your age

There are no tests involved!!!!

Like Socrates said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” And that’s what teaching is all about Charlie Brown.

This club (I’ve been promoting it in my classroom for 5 years now) has become one of my most favorite things that I’ve ever done as an educator (and I just began my 32nd year teaching!).


To which I can only say: As you can imagine, such glowing words for Philosophers’ Club from a seasoned teacher, who still finds so much joy in her work and who believes that my approach to co-learning with kids is so meaningful, make my day, week, month.  It is heartening and gratifying to know that, 16 years after it was first published, the method of inquiry advanced by Philosophers’ Club and Socrates Cafe still resonates with educators — some more so than ever — and still manages to find new and receptive audiences.