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Question Mark: Student Book (saddle-stitched)
Question Mark introduces young children to the three central philosophical skills of questioning, doubting, and being certain. The focus is on asking questions: about who we are, about reality, and about certainty. In the story, Mark helps a shadow-rabbit escape from a dog named Dogma, who is trying to eliminate uncertainty once and for all, but this leads to the fundamental question: Can we know anything for certain?
Question Mark is less of a textbook and more of a picture book, with mind-opening ideas and activities conveyed through words and images working together. The fifteen chapters fall into three parts, corresponding to the three central philosophical skills we want children to develop: questioning, doubting, and being certain. These are fundamental skills that have inspired great thinkers throughout the history of civilization to build and transform the intellectual world.
In Question Mark the focus is on asking questions: about who we are, about reality, and about certainty. The issue is: Can we know anything for certain? In the story, Mark helps a shadow-rabbit escape from a dog named Dogma, who is trying to eliminate uncertainty once and for all.
In the curriculum, students are encouraged to think about some of the central tenets of Western philosophy. The teacher manual fills in the historical and philosophical background with references to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hypatia, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Mill, Dewey, Russell, and de Beauvoir. The brilliance of the book is that it not only makes this intensely intellectual content easily comprehensible but also actualizes its affective content so that students can feel the emotional importance of the philosophical concerns.
This is a saddle-stitched (stapled) edition of this book. Saddle-stitched books are more durable and less expensive than perfect-bound (glued) books. This book also comes in a perfect-bound edition, which has the advantage of a printed spine so that it can be found readily on a bookshelf. Additionally, there is an accompanying teacher manual that serves both editions. (See below.)
“Informative, entertaining, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly ‘kid friendly’ in both organization and presentation, Question Mark is highly recommended for elementary school and community library collections—and would be an ideal supplement for homeschooling curricula as well.” – Midwest Book Review
“Question Mark is an utterly charming introduction to the essential skills of clear and deep thinking. Readers follow the adventures of Mark and his shadow-puppet bunny friends, Who What, Why, and Someone Else. The bunnies represent four “deep” philosophical questions that Mark puts to himself: Who am I? What am I doing here? Why do I exist?, and What is it like to be someone else? The first three bunnies ask for Mark’s help in rescuing their brother, Someone Else, from Dogma (represented by a dog, who also starts out as a shadow puppet) on the Island of Doubt. In order for their rescue attempt to be successful, Mark and the bunnies must raise a series of doubts—for example, in order to gain entry to the castle in which Someone Else is held captive, Mark and the other bunnies must doubt their own existence outside of the castle. By the end of the story, all four bunnies are safe, and Dogma has renounced dogmatism for the sake of her puppies. Mark has discovered the joy of asking deep questions, the power of doubting, and the certainty of his own existence.
“There are so many levels on which to enjoy Question Mark. There is the level of the narrative, which is sweet and clever and often very funny. The playful characters, vividly illustrated, and the well-structured action will easily appeal to and engage young children. There is the level of the dialogue, which feels like a natural conversation into which young children can enter and yet, at the same time, clearly communicates complex philosophical issues. Instructors will enjoy the book’s organization and structure: the story is divided into chapters according to philosophical themes. Each theme is clearly described in the teacher manual with suggested discussion questions and activities. Finally, the level at which there is most to enjoy in Question Mark is that of philosophical engagement. The book fosters, fulfills, and directs children’s natural tendency to wonder, to question, and to look for proof.” – Katherine Thomson-Jones, Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy, Oberlin College