By Bob Kolar, Candlewick
By Alyssa Nelson
Biggie Bear enjoys playing jazz and collecting stamps by himself. One day the local soccer team asks Biggie for BIG help by playing on their team. Biggie doesn’t know how to play but he agrees to help. On the field, they all realize that playing soccer requires more than being big.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Alyssa Nelson
Big Kicks introduces the question of what’s wrong with stereotypes and peer pressure, producing the framework for a philosophical investigation into epistemology and ethics. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and beliefs. In terms of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with how we know what we know, what are our sources, and to what extent is what we know true.
The study of beliefs in epistemology questions how we go about justifying beliefs, how we justify our beliefs, and are these justifications based on external influences or internal reasoning. The story involves both ideas of epistemology. The Mighty Giants want Biggie Bear to join their team because he has the qualities that they need in a player and he just happens to fit the description. But how do they know that Biggie has all of these attributes? Where did they get their beliefs/knowlege from? What has influenced them to think the way they do?
The Mighty Giants explain that they need a bear on their team because he is big, brave, has a big brain and a big kick. They automatically assume that Biggie is brave because he is big. Yet that proves to not be the case when he hesitates about joining the team. When the Mighty Giants mention Biggie’s big brain, they are implying that he intelligent; they have no actual knowledge of that. The team members are using prior knowledge to assume the assets Biggie “innately” carries. They must have all come in contact with a bear who had all of those attributes. They in turn assumed that all bears carried the same characteristics. In other words, the Mighty Giants were stereotyping Biggie. Stereotypes also fall under the category of ethics, and the question is whether or not stereotyping is morally wrong. The description the Mighty Giants gave of what they were looking for matched that of a bear. Who said that all bears are like that? Although they are not bad stereotypes, they are still stereotypes, misjudgments of a person’s characteristics. The Mighty Giants also believe since Biggie is big, he can play soccer. Size does not define one’s qualities. For example, when the Pirates meet Biggie, they say “Uh-oh” suggesting that they are intimidated. Should people judge others based on their appearance? The answer is most likely to be no, but people do it anyway. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing to size someone up. We do pass judgment on others for our protection. The Pirates feared for their safety because Biggie was much larger than them. Yet assumptions are not always true which the Pirates later discover about Biggie.
The story also introduces the idea of peer pressure and persuasion. The Mighty Giants persuade/pressure Biggie into playing soccer by complimenting him. They regurgitate the characteristics they learned or know about a bear persuading him into joining the team. They stroke his ego, boosting his confidence eventually persuading him into making a decision to join them. The team pressured Biggie to step out of his comfort zone. He decided it was okay to do so because he took their compliments as friendliness. The team again steps into Biggie’s comfort zone by volunteering his house for a victory celebration. Biggie is hesitant. Why does Biggie feel the need to comply with their requests? Perhaps he wants to fit in or wants a change. However, Biggie’s stepping out of his comfort zone allows him to share his passions with new friends.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
By Alyssa Nelson
The Mighty Giants think that Biggie is a perfect fit for their team.
Biggie tells the team that he doesn’t know how to play soccer.
Biggie agrees to help the Mighty Giants play soccer. When they get to the field the Mighty Giants introduce him to the other team.
Biggie usually sits at home playing jazz and fixing his stamp collection. He likes to be alone.