He presented his idea on the nature of knowledge and claims that the only knowledge is the human mind. There are codes of transmitting knowledge – books, the internet etc., but that the only true knowledge comes from our own minds. He argues that schools confuse the codes of transmitting and true knowledge by testing the codes rather than seeking meaning from these codes.
This led him to talk about the important and power of imagination and thinking as he called for a focus on cognitive tools rather than knowledge or psychological development.
Egan has written many books and the reader would be well advised to read what is written rather than my limited notes from a thrilling presentation. But these were my takeaways as they relate to the young child.
- Children are abstract as well as concrete thinkers;
- Children’s thinking is powerfully affective
- Children readily understand content when organized into story forms
- Children are readily engaged by forming images from words
- Children are prodigal producers and consumers of metaphors
- Children’s learning can proceed by forming binary oppositions and mediating them
Concerned that presenting content to children without context leads to a road to nowhere, Egan is working on the LIDS (Learning in Depth). In this project, children from the very early years become true experts in a field of their choice and the project brings learning to life and empowers children from their very first year at school. By the end of the project, children graduate as true experts in a chosen field. The detailed notes on the SFU website below outline how to implement LIDS.
Imagination says Egan is the great primary workhorse for learning and children’s minds are porous to the power of imagination. ‘The more you know the easier it is to be imaginative’.
So why was Egan speaking at a Philosophy for Children conference? Because the cornerstone of his work is the focus on the tools we can use to build children’s understanding and make their curriculum more meaningful and engaging. These tools he refers to are the foundation stones for Philosophy in Schools.
 Lyle, Sue; Imagination in Education – the neglected dimension: the world of Kieran Egan. http://www.dialogue-exchange.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Imagination-In-Education-Sue-Lyle.pdf