Friday, April 22, 2011

Home from San Diego

While you weren't even looking, I dashed off to San Diego for the annual convention of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association. I left on a 6:30 flight on Wednesday morning, driving to the airport in the predawn darkness while my house guest was still asleep; I arrived home at midnight yesterday. So all in all, I was in San Diego for just about 36 hours. And a very happy 36 hours it was.

I was taking part in a mini-conference on philosophy for children preceding the main APA program. In last few decades, following the pioneering work of Prof. Gareth Matthews of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, among others, a movement has emerged for sharing philosophy with pre-college-age children, even with children in the early elementary school grades. The APA pre-conference was wonderful testimony to how far this movement has come.

I heard presentations on fascinating interactive philosophical exercises and games to share with children, on how to structure successful summer camps focusing on normative ethics, or on philosophy more broadly, on how schools have been transformed through philosophy in Australia, about how philosophy for children has the potential to bridge Israeli-Palestinian discord in the Middle East. My talk was in a session on how doing philosophy for children can enrich and transform our college-level teaching as well. It's rare, believe you me, to attend APA sessions that are not only intellectually exciting, but that move the audience to tears, and to cheers. The pre-conference was also infused with the poignancy of remembering the genius and vision of Gareth Matthews, who had passed away the previous weekend.

In addition to savoring the abundant energy of the philosophy for children pre-conference, I also had my usual fun on the plane: reading an excellent dissertation on philosophical questions around the concept and practice of apology, reading a friend's lovely poetry collection manuscript, and starting an enjoyable novel that I bought in the San Diego airport: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I breakfasted with beloved former grad students, and then sat on the hotel terrace in the late afternoon with other beloved former grad students, looking out at the bay. Best of all, I awoke early in my gorgeous (and very expensive) hotel room and faced the revisions for my chapter book, Third Grade Reading Queen, which I had been avoiding through that pointless dread that dissipates instantly once one spends even ten minutes doing the work instead of dreading it. Fixing this book is going to be a most delicious piece of cake! And for good measure, I sat alone by the large windows in the hotel bar sipping a pomegranate martini and planning out another book. Which maybe I'll be writing over a pomegranate martini some future year at some highly satisfying future philosophy conference.

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