Book Module Navigation
Everyone Poops is a simple story but can be used to facilitate complex discussion about privacy and social norms.
All animals, including humans, poop. Each page describes a different animal (e.g., elephant, snake, fish, mouse, camel) and the poop it produces. This includes a page which depicts humans of all ages pooping. At the end of the story, a boy enters a bathroom, poops, and flushes the toilet. All humans eat, so everyone poops!
Read aloud video by Shannon T
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
Although the plot of Everyone Poops is simple, the book can spark interesting philosophical discussions. For example, although the animals in the book poop in the open, why do humans poop in a bathroom, a private space? While most people would say that they value privacy, defining “privacy” poses a greater challenge. According to the reductionist view, privacy is not a discrete right, but instead is encompassed by other rights, such as the right to liberty or property. For example, suppose someone has a private diary. Reductionists would claim that the right to the diary is not the right to privacy, but rather the right to property. Additionally, reductionists claim that the owner of the diary has certain liberties, such as the liberty to read and write in the diary, and even burn it should they wish to do so. These rights are called positive rights. The owner of the diary also has negative rights, including the right that no one else read, write in, or burn their diary. On the other hand, coherentists claim that privacy is a discrete right. The terms “reductionist” and “coherentist” don’t matter and probably shouldn’t explicitly be raised with children. The core idea is that some people think there are basic rights to privacy, whereas other people think all “rights to privacy” can be explained in terms of other rights. It may be useful to ask students to come up with examples of when they felt their privacy was violated. These examples may be used to help children recognize that some violations of privacy are violations of ownership, and that privacy and ownership are related.
Although philosophers disagree about the definition of privacy, children most likely believe that privacy is good. But why? To get discussion going, you might ask, “Why is it good that humans poop in the bathroom?” Students may answer that pooping in the bathroom is good because it protects them from embarrassment. Instructors could facilitate discussion by asking students why they don’t poop in the middle of the classroom. Additionally, instructors can remind students that when they were babies, they used to just poop wherever and no one cared. What changed? Students may respond to this by saying that nobody would be their friend if they pooped in the middle of the classroom as an older child. Indeed, some philosophers claim that privacy is good, because controlling what information others have about oneself enables us to protect, control, and enhance our relationships with others.
On a related note, students may answer that pooping in the bathroom is good because other students poop in the bathroom. This brings up the important concept of social norms and their functions in society. Children may not be familiar with social norms, but they will be familiar with rules, which can serve as a proxy for social norms. For example, many rules taught in school are considered to be social norms outside of school, such as waiting in line or waiting until their friend has finished a sentence before speaking. This can be a good opportunity to ask why following social norms or rules is beneficial, even when children may not want to adhere to social norms. Asking students to think of a time when others broke rules can help students consider the consequences of not following social norms. Finally, children may not agree with the premise of many social norms. Having students explain why they do not like certain rules can address the issue that social norms are not always reasonable.
Gomi writes, “All living things eat, so everyone poops.” This brings up the question of what makes something alive. Students probably understand that humans, animals, and plants are alive, but may not have contemplated what exactly is required of an organism to be considered alive. For example, students may be perplexed when told that like humans, fire consumes energy (wood), excretes waste (smoke), and grows. However, most children do not consider fire to be alive. Children may also suggest that talking is an indication that something is alive. This could be a good opportunity to discuss robots (e.g., Siri) and ask if robots are alive. Children most likely treat living things differently than non-living things (e.g., they probably would not hesitate to throw a stuffed animal, but they wouldn’t throw a dog on the floor). Asking students how and why they treat living things differently than non-living things may facilitate interesting discussion.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
- The animals poop outside, but humans poop in the bathroom. Why?
- Is it good that humans poop in the bathroom?
- Why doesn’t your dog seem to care if you’re around when they are pooping?
- How do you feel when your siblings enter your bedroom without knocking first?
- Should your siblings knock on your bedroom door before entering?
- Should you have to ask your siblings to knock on your bedroom door?
- Do you always knock on your sibling’s door before entering? Should you?
- When is it important to have privacy? Why?
- Is it ever okay to violate someone’s privacy?
- Is there a reason that we do not poop like the rest of the other animals?
- Did you ever want to poop with the door open? Did you? Why or why not?
- If everyone pooped with the door open, would you poop with the door open?
- What are some classroom rules that you don’t agree with? Do you still follow them?
- Can you think of a time when you or someone else broke a rule? What happened?
- Is it important to follow rules that you don’t agree with? Why or why not?
- The book says, “All living things eat, so everyone poops.” Are humans alive because they eat?
- Besides eating and pooping, what else do living things do?
- What makes something alive?
- Why aren’t plants in the book?
- Fire eats wood, grows, and lets out waste in the form of smoke and ashes. Is fire alive?
- Do you treat things that are alive differently than you treat things that are not alive? Do you treat animals differently than you treat plants? Why?
Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Ezra Frankel and Kharmen Bharucha. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.
Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.