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The PLATO Philosophy Fund: A New Funding Initiative

By Jana Mohr Lone

Update 12/30/16: 45 institutions have now become PPF Founding Members, with membership contributions of $250 or more. With a challenge grant from the Squire Family Foundation and an anonymous donor, PPF currently has over $25,000 for philosophy programs. The simple application form is online, and applications are due February 1, 2017. All applications will be blind-reviewed by a committee composed of members of the PLATO Board of Directors. In this first year, we expect to fund projects with a wide range of awards, from as small as $100 to as large as $5,000. Funding decisions will be announced in the spring.

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Nationwide, scant funding exists that is geared specifically for philosophy programs, and, in particular, for programs that bring philosophy outside of colleges and universities to non-traditional settings, including schools, senior centers, libraries, museums, prisons, refugee centers, and public lecture halls.

Yet everyone can benefit from doing philosophy. Philosophical inquiry improves analytical reasoning and logical argumentation abilities, cultivates the skills necessary for thinking independently, and pushes us to pose clear questions and challenge our own and others’ assumptions. As philosophers know, philosophy enhances the ability to think deeply about our lives and values and to understand why we hold the beliefs we do.

Since 2010, PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), the national network devoted to advancing pre-college philosophy, has provided resources and support to enhance efforts to bring philosophy into schools around the country.

Recognizing the importance of greater access to philosophy for all adults, youth, and children, as well as the scarcity of funds available for philosophy programs, the organization has created the PLATO Philosophy Fund (PPF), which will provide funding for a wide range of innovative philosophy programs with the aim of broadening philosophy’s reach. The expectation is that many of these programs will take place in public and other non-traditional settings. Applications will be due February 1, 2017, with funding decisions announced next spring.

To launch the fund, a $50,000 challenge grant has been secured from the Squire Family Foundation and an anonymous donor. With over 1,100 degree-granting philosophy departments around the country, as well as Ethics and Humanities Centers, Colleges of Education, and other academic departments, PPF has the potential to become a robust funding source for philosophy programs.

We are gratified by the success of our initial PPF membership drive this spring. With our challenge grant, PPF has already raised just under $20,000 to fund new philosophy projects. Thirty-one institutions have become 2016 Founding Members, with membership contributions of $250 or more:

PPF is a membership organization, established and run by volunteers, and 100% of all membership contributions will be pooled to fund philosophy programs. All PPF members will receive an annual detailed list of all project proposals submitted to the fund, along with information about which projects were funded, which can serve to inspire new ideas for potential projects.

In the coming months, PPF will be reaching out to all philosophy departments and related institutions, including the APA, to become members, in the hope of building our 2016 founding membership to take as close to full advantage as possible of the $50,000 challenge grant.

For more information, or to become a 2016 Founding Member with a $250 minimum contribution, please email Jana Mohr Lone, Chair of the PLATO Philosophy Fund, at mohrlone@uw.edu.

Jana Mohr Lone is the Chair of the PLATO Philosophy Fund and the Founding President of PLATO. The director of the Center for Philosophy for Children and Affiliate Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Washington, she is the author of The Philosophical Child, co-author of Philosophy in Education: Questioning and Dialogue in Schools, and co-editor of Philosophy and Education: Introducing Philosophy to Young People.

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