By Kellye Coleman
Scholars enrolled in Elon Academy philosophy courses this summer gathered Wednesday afternoon for the first session of the inaugural Elon Academy Philosophy Conference, a two-day program in which students present final papers based on the conference’s theme – “Why Perspectives Matter” – and converse with classmates, mentors and the public.
The two philosophy courses, “What is Democracy, Anyway?” and “Philosophy: Self and Others,” taught high school students enrolled in the Academy how to defend positions on philosophical questions or issues, and to support those stances with evidence gathered through a philosophical lens. Associate professor of philosophy Stephen Bloch-Shulman and Rebecca Scott said they organized the conference to provide students an opportunity to share work with a broader audience.
“In both classes scholars were asked to choose their own topics, within the scope of the conference theme and what they had learned in class,” Scott said. “Stephen and I thought it would be a great capstone to bring the two philosophy classes together.”
As part of the democracy course, Josh Hilgartner, a rising senior at Eastern Alamance High School, examined laws that address the carry of concealed weapons. He argued that the presence of concealed weapons on college campuses may prevent violent incidents, simply because those planning to carry out an act will be fearful of who may be able to respond with equal force.
His greatest challenge was making sure his claims were supported by evidence, he said. After talking with professor Bloch-Shulman, a first-page rough draft “became like two sentences,” Hilgartner said. “But I was able to overcome that by approaching my idea again and trying to include more of what my teacher called unforeseen consequences.”
Elizabeth Tish, a senior at Graham High School enrolled in the self and others course, said the assignment proved to be eye opening for many students.
“When we were naming the conference, we brought up perspectives,” said Tish, who authored a paper on the way the college search tends to lead students to become more concerned about what colleges can do for them and less about a connection between university and student. “I think that is something I will take out of this, that perspectives and relationships matter with every single thing you could ever talk about.”
The second part of the conference will be held Thursday, July 14, at 3:45 p.m. on the second floor of Alamance. Members of the community are welcome to attend.
Launched by Elon University in 2007, the Elon Academy is an intensive three-year college access and success program for local high school students with high financial need or no family history of attending college. It combines a month-long residential program over three successive summers with follow-up experiences during the academic year.