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Rochester High School Students Lead Philosophy Conference

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ROCHESTER— Spaulding High School Principal Justin Roy is pleased to announce that 37 students in the Praxis Society philosophy club facilitated a Hosting Young Philosophy Enthusiasts (HYPE) event last month.

HYPE is an annual student-led conference that gives high school students across New England the opportunity to discuss a philosophical question generated by attendees. This year, Spaulding High School and Souhegan High School directed the event, determining the main question for discussion, which was: “What does it mean to be a responsible citizen?”

Students attended the event on March 16 at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. It consisted of interactive sessions in a small group format, and each student spent most of the day in a Socratic seminar-style discussion led by student facilitators. Of the 37 Spaulding students in attendance, 15 were discussion leaders.

Since its start in 2009, the aim of HYPE has been to provide a safe environment to teach students the skills required for engaging in healthy discussion or debate with people they may not know or agree with. The yearly conference has since grown to over 1,000 participants from 30 different schools in the area.

To prepare for the event, Praxis Society members participated in two leadership sessions at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester. They worked with Souhegan High School students in small planning committees to develop this year’s question and to learn the skills necessary to facilitate the conference.

“We’re proud of our ability to host a club where students feel comfortable engaging in complex, philosophical dialogues,” Principal Roy said. “The HYPE conference was a great way for our students to show the techniques they’ve learned, and to express the ideals they felt were relevant to the discussion topic.”

Over the years, HYPE has evolved to include teacher workshops and adult panel discussions, which have included Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonists Joel Pett and Signe Wilkinson, author and editor Victor Navasky, and former New Hampshire Governor John Lynch. This session focused on the justification for teaching philosophy, as well as strategies for how to teach with a philosophical approach.

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