The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

From the Head of Senior School

The value of philosophy

It was my great pleasure to accompany, along with our Enrichment Co-ordinator Mr Sam Sterrett, the state title winning Scotch College Philosothon team to the Australasian Philosothon in Adelaide during the second week of the school holidays.

Led by Year 11 students Lewis Orr (Ferguson) and Benjamin Steinberg (Ferguson), the team consisting of Sam Wake (Year 10, Brisbane), Lachlan Norcott (Year 10, Anderson), Nathanael Kumar (Year 9, Alexander), Thomas Westcott (Year 9, Shearer), Benjamin Waddell (Year 8, Gordon) and Andrew Walker (Year 7, James) competed against 12 of the top performing schools from across Australia. It was clear that the preparation the boys completed in their sessions prior to the event was going to hold them in good stead during the competitive Communities of Inquiry which formed the basis of the competition. Many thanks must go to Mr Sam Sterrett and our Scholar in Residence, Mr Akram Azimi, for the time they contributed in the lead up sessions. Their commitment, along with that of the boys, was on display every Friday afternoon prior to our departure.

Discussing such topics as

  • Is ethical relativism true?
  • Is civil disobedience ever morally justified, and if so, under what conditions?
  • Why doesn't Hollywood cast Asian actors? And
  • Should some scientific research be censored?

the boys used a Socratic dialogue known as a Community of Inquiry to demonstrate their critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinking skills in relation to the questions above. The discourse was amazing to observe as students in a combination of age group sessions and mixed age group sessions conducted philosophical debate with the aim of collectively contributing to the discussion. No one student was permitted to dominate the hour-long sessions, with all encouraged to contribute to and challenge those ideas presented. The great value from the competition being the ability to wage a debate, take due consideration of the point of view of others and "spot a logical howler, cut through the waffle, be relevant, make a point clearly and precisely" (taken from: Philosophy by Stephen Law). With all of the above abilities being most useful in life beyond school for the participants.

It was certainly a wonderful opportunity for the boys to develop their skills in this domain; one capped off by the College winning third place in the competition. A magnificent achievement. Congratulations also to Benjamin Steinberg (Year 11, Ferguson) for being awarded third place in his age division, another wonderful achievement. The College is certainly gaining a reputation for excellence in this domain and I look forward to it continuing in years to come.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School