An occasional newsletter from The Philosophy Club
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Dear friends,

It’s been a long and topsy-turvy time since our last newsletter. I hope that you and your families have stayed safe and well. It's high time to catch you up on all our latest!


       Glimmerings - a new series of very short films        
       Our (brief) return to the classroom 
       Free resources
       Seeking your support

       Academic publications
       What’s new on The Philosophy Club blog?
        - The Philosopher Activist: and interview with Violet Coco
        - 'Blobs' fall flat: A review of The Blob Guide to Children’s Human Rights

       Congratulations! to a valued member of our team
       Educational Ethics During a Global Pandemic


Glimmerings: a new series of very short films

Earlier this year I produced Glimmerings, a series of eleven very short films dedicated to all my friends and colleagues who have inspired me and clarified my thinking. The films encapsulate some of the big themes that have guided The Philosophy Club’s work over the past decade: the joy of philosophy, the search for meaning, the nature of inquiry, the value of reasoning, the discipline of thinking, the necessity of self-correction, and the power of thoughtful dialogue in the face of institutional power. You can watch them all in a ten minute coffee break!

Our (brief) return to the classroom

Eltham College welcomed us back at the start of Term 2 for a pilot program integrating Philosophy into the school curriculum for the full cohort of Year 7 students. Given the very long COVID hiatus during the preceding year, we launched this workshop series with a little trepidation, but soon discovered that the skills of facilitating philosophical enquiry – like those of riding a bike – remain ingrained even after a lengthy period without practice.

We started the term as a four-strong team, thanks to the company of my trusted co-facilitator Olly, and promising trainees Rebecca and Alex. Together we were able to offer the Year 7s a rich experience of diverse facilitation styles. We inducted students into the culture of collaborative enquiry and they began to tackle a range of intriguing questions through respectful dialogic argument. We were halfway through our 8-week series when the latest lockdown began and our work in schools was indefinitely suspended. We can't wait to get back to it!

Thanks to Kylie Price (Head of Literacy), Steph Lim-Duke (Year 7 Coordinator) and the entire English staff for their ongoing support for our Philosophy program at Eltham College.

Free resources

I’ve recently made a range of our high-quality educational resources available online free of charge under a Creative Commons licence, in order to promote the uptake of collaborative philosophical enquiry, to support educators, and to strengthen the community of philosophical practice in schools and homes. These resources include session plans, printable stimulus materials and audio-visual aids. Please feel free to browse, use and share them!

Seeking your support

Current COVID restrictions mean that The Philosophy Club is currently unable to deliver any of the in-person educational programs that we rely on as our sole source of income, nor are we eligible for government assistance at this time. COVID restrictions have prevented us from running workshops for all but one of the past sixteen months. Although schools have now reopened after Melbourne’s fourth lockdown, it may be some time before incursions like ours are legally permitted. This uncertainty poses an existential challenge for The Philosophy Club, as our workshops cannot be delivered via online platforms. We are nonetheless continuing to work however we can, to help young people develop the critical engagement with ideas that is vital for democratic citizenship.

The Philosophy Club has been operating for nine years without seeking donations, but right now we need your support to go on.

Please make a $5 donation today to help us continue our work. 

Donate $5 to The Philosophy Club
If you are in a position to make a larger donation to help us at this challenging time, please get in touch.

Academic publications

I’m pleased to announce the publication of a journal article which I co-authored with my friend and colleague Grace Lockrobin of Thinking Space (UK). Our article, Against directive teaching in the moral Community of Inquiry: A response to Michael Hand, is published in the  Journal of Philosophy in Schools (Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2020). It's one of a number of thoughtful replies to that issue's principal article, Moral education in the community of inquiry by our respected colleague Michael Hand. I would also draw your attention to Tim Sprod’s elegant reply Direction in a community of ethical inquiry.

What is at stake in this issue of the journal is whether philosophical educators should guide students towards particular conclusions concerning the moral acceptability of certain behaviours that they consider to be clearly right or wrong. Michael Hand argues they should; but many respondents – including Tim, Grace and I – beg to differ. It was an honour to be part of this correspondence alongside a group of luminaries in the field of Philosophy for Children.

I’m delighted that another of my articles is due to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Human Affairs later this year. Entitled ‘Unveiling and Packaging: A model for presenting philosophy in schools’, this article will appear in a special issue of the journal exploring the theme of how philosophy is presented.

What's new on The Philosophy Club blog?

The Philosopher Activist

In The Philosopher Activist I interview Violet CoCo, an inspirational environmental and social justice activist in Extinction Rebellion. She opens up about how studying philosophy helped her come to terms with the climate and ecological emergency, how it opened her eyes to the failure of the social contract, and why she now sees civil disobedience as a moral imperative. She says:

I doubt that philosophy has equipped me with all the skills that I’ll be needing to survive the tumultuous times ahead - but it has absolutely set the course for my life beyond university. It’s given me both a unique perspective and some necessary tools to navigate through a revolutionary moment in history. And it’s equipped me to facilitate ongoing conversations, among diverse voices, in the service of positive social change.
Read the interview in full here

'Blobs' fall flat

In 'Blobs' Fall Flat, I offer a critical review of the book The Blob Guide to Children’s Human Rights. It was always going to be a tall order to create an educational resource that combines human rights education with socio-emotional learning, as the two domains use entirely different conceptual frameworks. But that’s just what was attempted in The Blob Guide to Children’s Human Rights. In this blog post, I take a look at what went wrong, as well as recommending a range of other teaching materials that introduce human rights more effectively. Here's an excerpt from my critique:

Rights-based discourse is concerned with concepts like respect, dignity, autonomy, individuality, entitlement, duty, protection, and violation, whereas socio-emotional discourse is concerned with concepts like sympathy, kindness, cruelty, hurt, solidarity, need and helplessness…

The book’s failure to deal with the tension between the socio-emotional and human rights frameworks leads to what I see as a significant problem. In the socio-emotional domain, the emphasis on subjective experience leaves room for the kind of relativism that the authors articulate: ‘the Blobs can be interpreted in a hundred different ways. There is no right and wrong about the Blobs’. By contrast, in the human rights domain, the emphasis on the universality and objectivity of rights necessitates rational justification, shared evaluative standards, and public accountability. For rights to have weight, their meaning must be broadly agreed upon. It is erroneous, not to mention dangerous, to imply that ‘there’s no right and wrong’ about human rights. The book therefore suffers from a misalignment between the prescriptiveness and universality of rights, and the contingency and variability of emotional responses.

Read the post in full here.


Congratulations to one of The Philosophy Club’s expert facilitators, Kai Tanter, who in 2018 received the University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts Dean’s Honours List for his Masters Thesis in the field of philosophy of language and logic, and has since been working on a PhD at Monash University. Kai has been a much valued member of our facilitation team since 2013: dependable, sensitive, insightful, and exceptional at building rapport with students. We warmly wish Kai much success in his academic career while he continues to contribute his talents to The Philosophy Club.

Educational Ethics During a Global Pandemic

The following announcement is shared on behalf of researchers who are not associated with The Philosophy Club.

School teachers, school leaders, and others in education are invited to join a discussion group about ethical challenges in education since COVID-19. This is a collaborative project with Harvard University's Justice in Schools, School of Education at the University of Newcastle and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

These days it might be hard to avoid thinking about the risks of COVID-19 at work, and for many of us the impact of it has created changed work conditions, which have had challenging consequences for our students and their families too. Some of us are going back into remote learning, homeschooling our own kids, whilst others might be teaching kids who have 'fallen behind' or who are harder to reach and support. Some teachers are concerned about balancing health risks and financial security or the loss of some external professionals or extracurriculuar activities at schools. The pandemic has created unique ethical as well as practical issues.

The project Educational Ethics During a Global Pandemic offers a Professional Development opportunity that’s coupled with a Research investigation, with the intention of shaping policy and practice, and supporting each other through challenging times. You are invited to consider: What are one or two ethical questions or dilemmas that you've been wrestling with while trying to educate during a pandemic? What is making you morally anxious, or what values or principles are you finding it hard to live up to?  It is hoped that this time spent in collaborative discussion with colleagues will provide you with a chance to make sense of the challenges and opportunities that are arising in your work during this difficult time and offer valuable insight for practice and policy. The sessions are free, no obligation, after school bell (AEST) and open to school teachers, school leaders, educational support, SLSOs and EC educators.

Upcoming online sessions, fostering open discussion, will run on several dates from 17 June 2021 to 8 July 2021. Please visit the project website for further information.


That's all for now. Many thanks to those of you who are able to make a $5 donation to support The Philosophy Club.

Sign up to our facebook page and blog for further updates, and please get in touch if you'd like to propose a project.
Yours philosophically,

The Philosophy Club respectfully acknowledges the traditional owners of the Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we are located. The Philosophy Club is a carbon neutral business. In the interests of sustainability, equity and global justice, we have offset twice our carbon footprint for the years since we began trading.


Michelle Sowey
The Philosophy Club
Mobile: + 61 425 221 604
Address:   9 Henderson St, Northcote VIC 3070 Australia
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