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What About Me?

by Ed Young

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How do we acquire knowledge? How should we acquire knowledge?

In this story based on a Sufi tale, a young boy searches for knowledge. In spite of following the instructions of a teacher to the letter, he acquires knowledge in a surprising way!

Read aloud video by Jordyn Goddard

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

In the story, the boy wants knowledge but he does not know how to gain it.

  1. Why does the boy want knowledge?
  2. Why does he not know how to gain knowledge?
  3. Do you know how you would gain knowledge?

The boy says he will see a Grand Master.

  1. Can the Grand Master give the boy knowledge?
  2. How does one person give another person knowledge?
  3. What is knowledge?
  4. How do you know when someone has knowledge?

The Grand Master is wise.

  1. How do you know when someone is wise?
  2. Are all people with knowledge wise?
  3. Is there a difference between being wise and having knowledge?

Each person that the boy meets needs something.

  1. What do you need?
  2. Is needing something different from wanting something?
  3. What does the boy need? What does the boy want?
  4. What does the Grand Master need? What does the Grand Master want?
  5. What does each character in the book need? What does each character of the book want?
  6. Is wanting similar to desire?

At the end, the boy finds out that the knowledge is inside of him all along.

  1. What does the ending quote mean?
  2. How can the boy already be wise?
  3. Did the Grand Master help the boy become wiser?
  4. Can children be wiser than adults?
  5. What would an adult know that a child would not know?

The Grand Master is older than the boy and has more experience.

  1. Does experience make a person wiser?
  2. What kinds of experiences have you had that have made you more or less wise?
  3. Has school and education been an experience that has given you knowledge?
  4. Have you gained knowledge from the people in school and out of school?
  5. Who do you learn from?
  6. Who are your teachers?
  7. Who do you teach?
  8. Is the Grand Master a kind of teacher?

Original questions for philosophical discussion by Hannah Esrick. Edited May 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.

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About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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