Philosothons originated in Perth Western Australia. While Matthew Wills was the Head of Philosophy and Ethics at Hale School, he sought to promote P4C pedagogy as he introduced a new ATAR course in Philosophy and Ethics. In order to provide students with an opportunity to engage with other students in 2007 he invited nearby schools to send teams of five students to represent their school. University based Philosophers participated as judges and the evening was a great success. Since then this same model has been replicated throughout Australasia and the UK. The number of schools participating in Philosothons annually has been estimated at around 400-500. (Philosophy students will recognise this previous statement as an example of weasel words.) Basically lots!
A Philosothon is an event that encourages school students to investigate ethical and philosophical questions in the context of ‘communities of inquiry’. Participating in the event helps students to develop higher order thinking and communication skills through a series of discussions with students from other schools. These discussions are facilitated by philosophy teachers and adjudicated by a panel of educators with appropriate academic or educational qualifications. While there is an element of competition in a Philosothon, it aims to promote a sense of community by developing a shared understanding of values and purposes in a spirit of cooperation. It also develops skills in inquiry-based learning, ethical reasoning, higher-order reflective thinking and a search for meaning through dialogue about open questions and contestable concepts.
At a Philosothon, it is usual to make awards for individuals and overall schools based on criteria such as collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. While this introduces an element of competition, it should be emphasised that a Philosothon is not a debate and the performance criteria focuses on the extent to which students engage in collaborative philosophical inquiry.
The Australasian Philosothon has been run annually in different capital cities since 2013. Click here to the see previous results. .