Students at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic College Burraneer have taken to Philosophy by the Bay with good reason.
The new elective was developed for Year 9 students by gifted education facilitator and teacher Kerrie Ramsay to explicitly teach critical thinking skills and is endorsed by the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES).
The 13 students enrolled have discussed a range of philosophers, topics and texts: from how the big bang theory and creationism can co-exist and whether it’s fair to disagree with an opinion if it comes from someone you dislike, through to the classic Dr Seuss children’s book Green Eggs and Ham.
Mrs Ramsay said the course – which crosses subjects such as science, religion, politics, history, literature, power and truth – gives students a framework to connect with the world and their studies on a deeper level.
“It is about expressing yourself and that idea of logically supporting any claim you make.” – Teacher Kerrie Ramsay
“It was planned with an idea of really expanding Shire girls’ horizons,” she said.
“It is about expressing yourself and that idea of logically supporting any claim you make. We’ve tried to include a real-world aspect in that a small part of the assessment will be representative debating for the school or perhaps writing an argument for the newsletter – something that has a real-world audience.”
Ashley Bannister, 14, has looked at the work of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose cognitive imperative is the basis of many western laws.
“I never thought it would be this interesting or that I’d be posing my own philosophical theories in this class,” she said.
“It’s like a complicated dinner table conversation where everyone’s talking over each other and it teaches us key cognitive skills for the future. In terms of learning it’s extremely difficult. How are you supposed to test the way you think?”
Isabelle Williams, 14, completed a ‘philosopher fact file’ on French mathematician and rationalist Rene Descartes’ famous statement ‘I think therefore I am’. She said the elective had given her more confidence to speak up in class.
“There’s a lot of discussion on how we think and how our mind works,” Isabelle said.
“We go off topic a lot, but in a good way. It’s really enjoyable.”