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The PLATO Philosophy Fund

by Jana Mohr Lone

Applications are now being accepted for the PLATO Philosophy Fund (PPF), supporting a wide range of innovative philosophy programs around the country.

PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), founded in 2010 as a national resource and support organization, is dedicated to the belief that everyone can benefit from doing philosophy. Philosophical inquiry improves analytical reasoning 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 to understand why we hold the beliefs we do.

The benefits of broadening philosophy’s reach beyond the academy are manifold, as 2017 winners of PPF funding report:

“Philosophy is a means to help people live healthier, happier and more deeply satisfying lives, to promote and encourage critical and creative thought, to cultivate leadership and action, and to foster, strengthen, and enrich communities,” say the Helena, Montana organizers of Philosophy in the Community.   “Valued and relevant, philosophy is conceived of as a truly fun, exhilarating, and rewarding activity in itself – something that should be lived.”

Students in a Washington DC high school who created a student-led, after-school philosophy club did so because they think doing philosophy together will make a difference in their lives and inspire others.  Philosophy, they believe, will help students learn who they are and how they want to be in the world.

To bring philosophy to people not likely to engage with it – K-12 students, adults, seniors, people in prisons, shelters, and refugee centers, etc. — and into settings such as libraries, museums, and public lecture halls, PPF funded six diverse programs in 2017:

Linguistic Inquiry with Bilingual Children – New York, NY

Integrating philosophy into the English Language Arts curriculum of mainstream elementary dual language classrooms.

Philosophy in the Community – Helena, Montana

Sponsoring philosophy-based community activities such as philosophy walks, philosophy symposiums, philosophy drive-ins, philosophy workshops, philosophy community socials, and philosophy forums and roundtables.

UCSC Philosophy Outreach – Santa Cruz, CA

Serving two disparate communities: the Santa Cruz City Jail, Code 4 unit (a self-contained unit of 25 inmates that stresses anti-recidivism and self-improvement) and two public elementary schools in which third through fifth grade students do philosophy with volunteers from UCSC’s Center for Public Philosophy.

Beautiful Minds – Washington DC

After-school student-led high school club where students come together to discuss issues of the day, think deeply and critically about subjects important to them, learn about the different schools of philosophy, and share their philosophical perspectives.

Young Philosophers of New York, NY

Series of after-school philosophy workshops (“What’s The Big Idea?” and “The Keys to the City”) for older elementary and middle schools students in diverse neighborhoods.

Annual Philosophy Summer Camp – Lexington, Kentucky

Free, week-long summer camp run by the University of Kentucky’s Graduate Student Association for 30 young students (half of whom come from underrepresented neighborhoods) who respond to readings, stories, keep journals, learn about philosophical terms, logic, and social justice, and examine the relationship between philosophical theory and activism.

The deadline for applying for a 2018 award is January 31, 2018.  All applications are blind peer-reviewed.  All applications must be submitted online here, and funding decisions will be announced in the spring.

Funding for PPF, a volunteer organization, comes from its almost 50 members, as well as from a $25,000 challenge grant from the Squire Family Foundation.

Jana Mohr Lone, Ph.D. is the Director of the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children.

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