The roles of the animator in teaching philosophy to children and teenagers
Depending on the approach chosen, the role of the animator will vary greatly. According to Jacques Lévine the teacher remains voluntarily silent, whilst in other approaches the animator will intervene during exchanges. What should the role be? This is the subject of a number of reflections - namely the position or posture of the adult which plays a key role in the achievement of the objectives. In other words, when do we intervene and for what purpose?
In no case should a class be taught ex-cathedra in which the students are led to memorise what philosophers have said. Neither is it a question of the students "borrowing" the reflections the philosopher made to come to his conclusions. In fact we should say that philo in primary and secondary schools is not to be taught but practised as in music.. The instrument we are learning to play however is thinking and the teacher must encourage the students to do this by themselves.
The animator has an arsenal of questions stimulating different thinking skills, helping the students to go further than the sharing of opinions to the real analysis of ideas. His role is not to give ideas but to support students in their thinking, leading them towards ideas he thinks appropriate for their research. The teacher becomes a moderator, questioning the students and encouraging them to go further than an expressed opinion, to bring up counter arguments, helping them to reason and conceptualise.
In this context, the teacher/animator needs to carefully consider the processes i.e. the way students organise their own thoughts and research.. He should also enable them to see a multitude of opinions and to ensure that they integrate logical, moral, aesthetic and metaphysical considerations in their reflection. His role is also to deconstruct certain prejudices which could rise from discussions. In fact the job description of a philosophy teacher differs greatly from the traditional one. M. Gagnon points out that "the teacher must take on the opposite of a traditional role since the changes occurring in a philosophical research community (as opposed to a normal classroom situation) presuppose a waiving of the magistral form of teaching to make way for questioning and dialoguing so that students can practice their reflective and critical thinking skills" (Gagnon, 2005, p.1).