Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation has run its first course for 30 mostly high school students at a secluded conference centre at Ingleside in northern Sydney.
And for Sophie Jackson, a 16-year-old student at Loreto Kirribilli, it was an eye-opener as well as a confidence boost.
She signed up to help her “horrible English marks” by studying Shakespeare.
“I was a little bit overwhelmed when I first sat in this room and there were some people out the front talking about some really high level intellectual thinking,” she said.
“I was just sitting here going ‘wow, I feel a bit out of place’. But after sitting down in smaller groups and getting to have high level intellectual conversations with a variety of people with different backgrounds, opinions and perspectives, it allowed me to open my horizons and I’ve learnt so much.”
The two-and-a-half-day residential course was flagged as “an introduction to the kind of thinking a future degree in Western civilisation might offer”. It drew on what is described as the Socratic method of argumentative dialogue to encourage critical thinking by studying Hamlet and Plato’s Apology.
“I was interested in the texts that we were studying,” Scarlett Green, a 17-year-old from Queenwood School For Girls, said. “This course offered an opportunity to learn skills that would be helpful for university – being able to think on a critical level and be reflective.”
Helga Tong, another 17-year-old Queenwood student, said taking part had shaped her view of the merits of studying Western civilisation.
“Most of us here can say that we disagree with the controversy around it,” she said. “We don’t see why there is after this.”
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