Following the success of our inaugural Summer Program in January 2019, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation will host its second program for students from 19-21 January 2020.
The Summer Program provides senior high school students with the opportunity to participate in intellectually stimulating seminars on the Great Books that help prepare them to read and think at university level. The challenging discussions and debate enable students to build on their communication and presentation skills.
At the heart of the experience is exposure to a teaching method called the Socratic method, a teaching approach that encourages students to engage in cooperative and critical discussions in small groups.
Academics from the Centre, as well as the broader university and education sector, lead students in analysing texts, raising questions that drive discussion and nurturing the kind of critical thinking and reading skills essential for success in the HSC.
Participants from the 2019 program said that while they expected it to be largely an academic experience, it was so much more.
For some it was a confidence boost that they could make meaningful contributions to arguments and form insights into complex texts and philosophical challenges.
For others it was that unexpected friendships could be formed with people from varied backgrounds who brought different perspectives to works that have informed the development of our western societies.
Others were thrilled that unlike other educational environments they had experienced, they were challenged to develop their conclusions based on meaningful and respectful challenge from peers, rather than seek one ‘correct’ response’.
The two and a half day residential course is intended as an introduction to the kind of thinking a future degree in western civilisation might offer. The Centre has signed two funding agreements with the University of Wollongong and the University of Queensland to offer scholarships for the study of western civilisation from next year.
Similar to our inaugural program, the 2020 Summer Program will include examination of two key works, Plato’s, The Apology and Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
It will also include multiple sessions on ‘Community of Inquiry’ where students will be challenged with difficult philosophical questions.
A popular session with Bell Shakespeare at this year’s program saw students on their feet, workshopping performance techniques to enhance their understanding of Hamlet and Shakespeare more generally.
Students also met with esteemed members of our Board, and attended a session with former NSW Premier Nick Greiner who gave his insights on how a liberal arts education could provide transferrable skills for a successful business career.
Visiting academics included representatives from Campion College, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Wollongong and the Philosophy in Schools Association.
Professor Simon Haines said he was excited to offer the program again in 2020.
“The rich discussion means we as teachers learn from the students too as they offer their unique insights into challenging philosophical questions and the Great Books of the ages.”
The Summer Program is open to high school students in their final two years of study with an interest in liberal arts and humanities. To apply click here
Quotes from student interviews with the Sydney Morning Herald 23 Jan 2019.
Sophie Jackson, 16
“I was a little bit overwhelmed when I first sat in this room and there were some people out there talking about some really high-level intellectual thinking. 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 learned so much.”
Scarlett Green, 17
“I was interested in the texts that we were studying.”
“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.”
Attendees at the inaugural Summer Program – January 2019