"Wandering Through Life"—Introducing Philosophical Practice with Children and Adolescents in the Church of Norway

Project presentation by Øyvind Olsholt, Co-Director of Children and Youth Philosophers, Norway

Published in:

Eva Marsal, Takara Dobashi, Barbara Weber (eds.):
Children Philosophize Worldwide—Theoretical and Practical Concepts
Band 9 in Hodos—Wege bildungsbezogener Ethikforschung in Philosophie und Theologie,
published by Institut für Philosophie und Theologie der Pädagogischen Hochschule Karlsruhe
Peter Lang Verlag
Frankfurt am Main 2009
ISSN 1619-666X
ISBN 978-3-631-59329-5

p. 633-644


In 2006 Children and Youth Philosophers commenced a project in the Church of Norway named "Wandering through life". Besides Children and Youth Philosophers the project involves three church organisations: Youth Chorister's Association, The Pilgrim Priests and Liturgical Centre. Together we search for parallels as well as incongruities between philosophical and religious practice—in particular we want to look into the relationship between pilgrimage and philosophical dialogue. Also an important aim of the project is to educate and train church youth leaders enabling them to lead philosophical dialogues with children and youth in the Church of Norway. The project runs through 2008.


Downloads and discussion

1 Description of the project "Wandering through life"

On May 27th 2003 the Norwegian Parliament voted to reform the church's religious education. Before the introduction of this reform religious education had been the responsibility of the grade schools. However, due to substantial alterations in the school's Religion curriculum over the last 10-15 years—where the pivotal role of Christianity was down-played and where preaching in school was banned altogether—the government decided to continue religious education outside of school under the auspices of the church itself. Specifically, the Parliament wanted religious education in the Church of Norway to "stimulate the development of one's own identity and understanding of one's own culture and traditions in a society where the mix of different religious and secular communities is becoming increasingly richer." The total funds allocated to the reform in 2005 amounted to 55 million Norwegian kroner (approx. €7m). (The picture on the right shows the symbol/logo of the educational reform.)

These funds made possible a whole range of different projects, one of which is the present project called "Wandering through life." The project involves the following church organisations: Youth Chorister's Association, The Pilgrim Priests and Liturgical Centre. Youth Chorister's Association unites children- and youth choir singers in congregations all over Norway. The association has approximately 280 member choirs comprising more than 7000 individual members. Youth Chorister's Association initiated the project, applied for funds and works as a hub for the other participating organisations. The Pilgrim Priests are appointed by the church to enhance interest for the 1000-year-old pilgrim traditions in Norway. Finally Liturgical Centre is a church resource centre specialising in liturgy, hymnology and church music.

I should say a few words about my own organisation as well. Ariane Schjelderup and I started Children and Youth Philosophers in 2000, following several years of philosophical practice with children and adolescents. We are both Masters in Philosophy and since 1997 we have had lots of projects in schools, kindergartens and other institutions working with or for children. We have written two books in Norwegian: Filosofi i skolen (Philosophy in School), the first book on philosophy for children in Norwegian (1999), and Filosofi—Sokrates, Platon og Aristoteles (Philosophy—Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), an illustrated presentation of the philosophers of antiquity written for young people (2001).

It is safe to say that the project group consists of people with widely different backgrounds (all project members apart from the philosophers subscribing to the Christian faith), hence different experiences, and, as it turns out, different views on—and expectations to—the role of philosophical practice in the realm of faith. The church representatives search primarily for ways to strengthen and anchor the faith by way of philosophical enquiry; we (the philosophers) are more concerned with the general impact of philosophy in contexts where certain truths (dogmas) are more or less taken for granted. However, should it turn out that the philosophical practice does lead to a strengthening of the religious faith of the participant's, we have no qualms whatsoever with that. It would be a very interesting outcome that needs to be examined in order to confirm possible causes and premises.

Differences in outlook notwithstanding we agree on the following project mandate:

The primary task is to educate, train and empower adult leaders in the church so that they are able to facilitate philosophical enquiries with children and adolescents on their own. An important facet of this guiding process is to locate—or, if needed, to create—material that is suitable as starting points for philosophical enquiry. When we say "adult leaders" we refer to persons from 15-16 years upwards. Many young people are conductors of local children's choirs, and if they are keen to learn about philosophical practice, there is no reason to exclude them just because they are young. The second main task is to try out philosophical dialogue with young people in a pilgrim setting. The idea is to walk some distance with groups of children and adolescents interspersing philosophical dialogue whenever desirable.

I'll come back to these two main tasks in a minute. First let me draw some theoretical parallels between philosophical practice and pilgrimage. The two practices have more in common than one should at first think.

Page created: 10.12.07. Page last modified: 13.08.09 01:26.