University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: You Can’t Say You Can’t Play by Vivien Paley

Field of Philosophy: Ethics; Philosophy of Education

Plot Summary: (from the book’s blurb): “In this fascinating look at the moral dimensions of the classroom, MacArthur Prize-winning educator Vivien Paley introduces a new rule—“You can’t say you can’t play”—to her kindergarten students. The struggle that ensues presents a great teacher with a great challenge—and her best book yet.” This isn’t a book that you would read to or with students; it’s more a book to read and reflect on as a teacher. That said, the questions that Paley examines—especially the question of what rule or rules a classroom should have—is one that can be explored by sharing with students Paley’s rule and having them wonder about whether they would be willing to try it out in their own classroom.

Some discussion questions:

What do you think of the rule, “You can’t say you can’t play?”
What rules should a classroom have?
What rules should we have in life?
What does it mean to be a friend?
How should you treat people who are not your friend?
Can we be friends with just anyone?
Is it okay for friends to exclude others?
Is it okay for any groups of people to exclude any others?
What makes a good teacher?
What makes a good student?
What makes a good classroom?
If you had to make just one rule for your classroom, what would it be and why?