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Wednesday, October 26th 2016

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Perth Philosothon

Perth Philosothon

On the evening of Wednesday 26 October, Perth College hosted the annual Perth Philosothon, an event which involves students from over 20 secondary schools and Colleges across Perth. The aim of the event is to promote the basic tenets of philosophical inquiry: critical and creative thinking, open and democratic communication, moral and ethical consideration and higher order thinking skills.

Four students from Newman College participated in the event: Annaliese Hurba (Year 8), Luka Moukine (Year 9), Caitlyn Butler (Year 10) and Celeste Travaglini (Year 11). All students represented the College with aplomb, promoting insightful and respectful discussion throughout the evening.

Essentially, the Philosothon involves students in a series of four discussions, based on a model called the Community of Inquiry. Each of the four students involved from Newman had previous experience with this model through their participation in the Lumen Program courses offered at the College. Within the Community of Inquiry model, participants are involved in a democratic discussion, exploring and interrogating ideas relating to a specific philosophical question. On the night, each Community of Inquiry was aimed at collectively answering one of four questions. The first two questions were discussed within independent year levels, while the last two involved students working with others from different year levels. The questions that the students were required to discuss were:

1. How can a benevolent and omnipotent God permit innocent suffering?
2. Can a robot be conscious?
3. Is there a right to be rescued?
4. Why are human beings so easily deceived?

Throughout the event, the discussion produced from these questions was sophisticated, progressive and insightful. However, the Philosothon also has a competitive element, with students assessed on their ability to think quickly yet critically when summarising other students’ ideas, expanding upon them, re-focusing conversations and introducing more relevant theories. At the conclusion of the event, prizes were awarded to three students from each year level for demonstrating incredible critical thinking and promising futures in the field of philosophy. Although all of our students did extremely well, one student in particular, Caitlyn Butler, was awarded third place from the entire Year 10 cohort of competitors. Demonstrating this level of intellect was certainly an incredible achievement and something which Caitlyn should be congratulated on. Overall, Christchurch was awarded first place, with Willetton High School in second place and Hale School in third.

Within each discussion, it was extremely pleasing to see these students engage with such complex and intellectually challenging ideas, collectively coming to a range of conclusions that they would not have made individually. The students all remarked that they found the discussions stimulating and were inspired in realising that, through the respectful sharing of ideas and opinions, they could still learn so much without the aid of Google. In a world dominated by ambiguity and uncertainty, giving our students the skills to engage with complex and difficult questions has never been more important.

Aaron Richards, Lumen Program Coordinator

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