Young Philosophers, Age-old Questions

A group of Accelerated Degree Programs students created a video to stir philosophical discussion, turning to children for insight. The video marks the first major collaboration between Albright College and Berks Community Television (BCTV) since the nonprofit community media organization moved to campus last year.

By Hilary Bentman

When seeking answers to life’s great questions – the kind that have dogged men and women for centuries – it may be best to seek out younger thinkers.

“Children are the best philosophers,” said John Morgan ’63, who teaches philosophy and ethics in Albright’s Accelerated Degree Programs.

That’s because children view the world honestly and openly, and answer questions spontaneously and candidly, said Morgan. It’s only with age that answers become encumbered and filtered by life experiences.


ADP student Jonathan Morgan (right) interviews children for
"The Not So Simple Questions of Life" video

So it’s no surprise that when Morgan tasked the 15 students in his summer Introduction to Philosophy course to create a video discussing philosophy and ethics, these adult learners turned to youngsters.

The result, “The Not So Simple Questions of Life,” is a 17-minute video that includes an enlightening segment that features children engaging in philosophy, even if they don’t realize it or know what the word means.

The video also marks the first major collaboration between Albright and Berks Community Television (BCTV) since the nonprofit community media organization moved to campus last year.

BCTV provided the equipment and technical expertise, working closely with the Albright students on filming and editing.

“The Not So Simple Questions of Life” is intended to take philosophy beyond the classroom and into the wider community, a longtime goal of Morgan’s, whose book, "A Little Wisdom for Growing Up," aims to help children learn about ethics using fables written by himself and some students.

The hope is the video can be shown in other classes on campus and even in elementary schools, infusing ethics into the curriculum and stirring all ages to ponder life’s deep queries.

“I think the term ‘philosophy’ scares people off, even from taking this class,” said Sinking Spring resident Tristram Vaughan, an organizational behavior/applied psychology major and one of the students involved with the video project.

Vaughan and the other philosophy students scripted and spent several days shooting on Albright’s campus and in BCTV’s studios. Several children of the philosophy students were asked to participate in the interview segment.

Jonathan Morgan (no relation to the professor) interviewed four children, ranging in age from 6 to 11, on camera.

“We wanted to see what children had to say. They say whatever is on their minds and sometimes they ask the best questions,” said Morgan. “I was excited to talk to them.”

Morgan began by asking each child, What is philosophy? No one could answer. So Morgan tried some easier, but no less profound, questions:

  • If you could have a super power, what would it be?
  • What does happiness mean to you, and what makes you happy?
  • Is there a difference between telling a lie and keeping a secret?
  • Why are people mean to each other?
  • If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

The kids didn’t hesitate. When it comes to super powers, some desire speed or strength to, as one boy put it, “help save the world. I could pick up cars and punch bad guys really hard.”


Filming on campus

When it comes to changing the world, the kids want to eliminate bad people and bring about peace, though one boy said he would let kids sleep late so they didn’t have to wake up so early in the morning.

At the conclusion, Morgan, the student interviewer, explained to the children, to their astonishment, that they had just participated in philosophy.

A business administration major from Douglassville, Morgan believes that people should ponder these types of questions daily. He recently attended a barbecue when the conversation turned to passion and drive. Where does it come from? Are we born with it, or do we develop it?

“We can have these conversations over hotdogs and potato chips,” he said. “Why not ask deep, philosophical questions? We get caught up in our everyday routine and we miss a lot. Life is not just work and pay your bills, eat and sleep.”

Heather Adams, executive director of BCTV, calls the video project a great collaboration between her organization and the College. She hopes it’s the first of many.

“BCTV is dedicated to community education,” she said. “We want the projects to rev up. There is a lot of growth opportunity here.”

Morgan, the professor, said this first effort has opened his eyes to the promise of sharing learning opportunities with BCTV, not only having students learn how to produce their own videos, but also to work together and wrestle with the subject matter of a course.

"I can envision now using student-produced videos in courses, as well as creating a link between college and elementary age students," he said.

Last year, BCTV relocated to the Berks Community Media Center at 13th and Richmond streets on campus, sharing space with the College’s radio station, WXAC 91.3FM.

Adams said Albright faculty and staff immediately stopped by to welcome their new neighbor and to open the door to future partnerships.

“There are so many ideas of where it can go. This was a good move,” she said.

BCTV currently provides internship opportunities for Albright students interested in gaining real-world journalism and video production experience.

"The Not So Simple Questions of Life"

< back to Spotlight home