From the editor…

Children ask the best questions and yet most schools and parents do not educate children into asking questions. Too often, education encourages children not to think and the questions children ask are often dismissed as foolish… perhaps because the best questions do not have simple answers.

As teachers of Philosophy my wife Charlotte and I have tried to encourage our daughters Petra (now 13) and Thora (now 10) to ask questions and never to expect a single, simple answer. This book is made up of the best questions they have asked over the past five years. Many of these questions arose during COVID lock downs in 2020-21, when we taught them at home, and others on the drive home from Ripon Cathedral each Sunday morning.

As a philosopher and former Vice-Principal of Heythrop College – which was the specialist Philosophy and Theology College of the University of London – I attempted to answer each and every question that Petra and Thora asked. I then asked a wide range of prominent figures for their answers to the best questions – such as they might give to an intelligent teenager – which very many were happy to give. For practical reasons I limited responses to 500 words and have inserted (in brackets) the meaning of words and phrases that a teenager is unlikely to understand.

What has become clear in preparing this book is that many other children raise similar questions, and that our answers to them as adults and parents are worth thinking about and taking the time to discuss with our children. I hope that readers will be inspired to engage with and try to answer the questions that the children in their lives ask, and perhaps to contribute their own (questions and) answers to this website.

Without the illustrations of Dan Cohn-Sherbok, this book would have been greatly the poorer. We are grateful to David Moloney and to Darton, Longman and Todd for being willing to publish this book as well as to Wendy Rowe and Moira Siara for their invaluable help.

Dr. Peter Vardy, 7th January 2023.