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  • Writer's pictureGina Parker (Mullarkey)

The Joy Of Not Knowing (JONK)

I have been looking through Marcelo Staricoff's book 'The Joy of Not Knowing (JONK)' and in particular pausing on Chapter 7, 'The Thinking Skills Starters' and Chapter 8 'Philosophy and a Philosophical approach to learning'. Marcelo is the creator of the JONK approach- A Philosophy of Education Transforming Teaching, Thinking, Learning and Leadership in Schools. Marcelo has very kindly written a guest blog which focuses on the value of Philosophy and even includes a maths linked example related to 2D shapes. Over to Marcelo...

The whole of the curriculum can be taught philosophically! I once wrote a paper for the Gifted Education International Journal where I argued that not only should philosophy form part of the curriculum but a philosophical approach to learning should form part of every minute of every day in every school and in every home!

The Chapter that focuses on Philosophy and a Philosophical approach to learning in the book that has just been published The Joy of Not Knowing launches with the analogy of the DNA double helix, where one strand of the helix represents the curriculum and life at school and the other represents philosophy. The idea then is that if is this is the case then what every ‘gene’ then expresses will have a philosophical component as a natural and inherent part of it!

The passion for philosophy started very early in my teacher career when I started to see the impact that I was having on children’s enthusiasm for and love of learning- what made it so magical is that I was equally fascinated, and I think this shone through to the children. It was fascinating how much they loved discussing all aspects of the curriculum and of life philosophically, by which I mean without worrying that there was a right or wrong answer or that they had to write things down, or that anyone would not listen to what they were saying or not valuing everyone’s ideas. The children loved it that the teacher also doesn’t know the answer and that they can take risks with their thinking, speculate, theorise and very importantly laugh, most things take on a very humorous dimension when proposed philosophically- I think it is because philosophy has the potential to make the possible seem impossible and the impossible seem possible!

In order to infuse philosophy across all areas of the curriculum, I developed the idea of the philosophical learning objective. There is a lovely example in the book that describes how amazing the start of a lesson can be if the learning is presented to the children philosophically.

For example, if the children are learning about shape the objective could be:

To learn about the properties of 2D shapes

…to make it more engaging this could be turned into a question such as:

Can we investigate the properties of 2D shapes?

…to make it magical and philosophical this then becomes

Do 2D shapes exist?

The discussion and engagement and interest that ensues in the classroom is amazing, the children (and adults) through philosophy are able to look at things from a completely different angle and it makes the daily teaching and learning experience very memorable.

The greatest thing of all though, is what children say about philosophy and about being immersed in a philosophical community of enquiry throughout their time at school and how this then contributes to their ability to thrive as individuals and to acquire all the dispositions and values that enables them to thrive in society and to ultimately make positive and considered contributions to their local, national and global communities.

There is no end to what one can achieve through a philosophical approach to the curriculum and to school life and to how this can ensure that all children develop a great love and an intrinsic motivation for learning as they feel that school has equipped with all they need to be able to know how to know, what they are curious to know, that they know they don’t know!

Pupil Reflections - Staricoff, M (2021) Joy Of Not Knowing pg 161 and 162.

You can purchase a personalised signed copy of JONK with 25% off by contacting Marcelo on

Marcelo is also the author of 'Start Thinking'.

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