P4C is an abbreviation for what was originally promoted as a ‘thinking skills program’ by its author, Matthew Lipman, a Philosophy professor at Columbia University in the 1960s. The full name of the program was ‘Philosophy for Children’, and it remains the most important influence on my own thinking and practice.

Nowadays, in line with SAPERE, the UK charity promoting P4C, I prefer to translate the acronym as ‘Philosophy for Children, Colleges and Communities’, since its central practice, Communities of Inquiry, is appropriate for all ages and contexts.

The idea of Communities of Inquiry arose in the USA in the 19th century, and was developed in the early 20th century by the well-known philosopher, John Dewey.

For him, ‘an education that emphasizes community, communication, intelligent inquiry, and a reconstructive attitude can best serve the citizens of an ever-evolving world’. (Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Education, p. 29)

There can be little doubt that such an attitude, and such aptitudes, are even more needed in the globalised world of the 21st century than they were in the past two centuries.

Lipman’s genius was to show how the idea of Communities of Inquiry could be turned into everyday practice in the classroom.

What started as a belief that such inquiry had a vital role to play in educating children has indeed developed into a more general ‘movement’ to restore such inquiry to the respected place it once had in society at large, not just in education: P4C is now being advanced in more than 60 countries, as a model of thoughtful and constructive dialogue among adults as well as children.

My own focus, though, remains on the classroom context, and on building a particular movement – of philosophical teachers.

I still regard a P4C Level 1 (Foundation) course as the best introduction to Communities of Inquiry, and the Level 2a (Facilitation) course as best way of continuing to develop as a philosophical teacher.

I have run such courses for SAPERE for many years, but my own development of the concept of ‘philosophical teaching’, especially in the context of the IB curriculum, and Inquiry-based Learning in general, has enabled me to enrich my presentation of both courses.

Copyright © 2017, Roger Sutcliffe, All rights reserved