The Privilege of Boredom

  • 2020-06-18
  • TLS

The day before the shutdown I went into our daughters’ school to teach philosophy. A number of teachers were absent, either because they had underlying health conditions or because they lived with people who did. Many of the children were absent too. The teachers were busy photocopying worksheets, trying to figure out what would be required of them in the coming days and weeks. I went in to add an extra pair of hands, to feel I was being useful. Each class, from reception to year six, came to me in turn. We sat in a circle on the floor and talked. One exercise involved a chair and a story about aliens who came down to our planet, took the chair, and started to wear it on their heads (an idea borrowed from Peter Worley’s The If Machine: Philosophical enquiry in the classroom, 2010). Is it a chair? Is it a hat? Is it a chair being used as a hat? One year six told me that Slinkys had been designed for use as springs in factories but are still a toy because you play with them. A year three told me that she could sit on her sister but that doesn’t make her a chair. They fizzed with ideas and laughter. The next day we all withdrew into our homes.