Philosophy is no longer the domain of old men with beards - it is being taught in schools, and one Dubbo team has been awarded alongside some of the best teenage thinkers in the state.
Madelyn Legget, Carrigan Baker, Finn Randell and Noah Randell of The Central West Leadership Academy took third place in the Sydney Philosothon in August, placing after Sydney Boys High School which came first, and fellow Sydney school Newington College.
The Dubbo team was against 16 schools displaying their critical thinking skills in topics including the tyranny of the majority, and the connection between language and thinking.
Carrigan said philosophy has been stigmatised as a type of "old time concept", and she hoped to change this.
"In modern philosophy we get to apply it to real world context and see how those ideas can be seen in our own ethics and morals of today," the Year 11 student said.
Madelyn agreed she loved the "real world applications" of philosophy and spoke about how the teenagers were encouraged to apply critical thinking to politics during the Philosothon.
"Current events like the referendum on the voice [to Parliament] and Indigenous issues and bringing philosophy - which can often seem really abstract and not relate to a 16-year-old girl's life - and relating it to a 16-year-old girl's life is actually really interesting, and I find myself invested in that," Madelyn said.
She said the event was about "considering everybody's perspectives and the different ones that coalesced".
Students at the Academy learn philosophy from Year 3, and Carrigan said it was important to become "a more unbiased thinker, and a critical thinker".
"My investigations and learnings of philosophy have allowed me to get an overall more in-depth understanding of the world, its events and the people around me, which I think is really critical as you grow older and you meet more people and you gain more experiences," Carrigan said.
Being a regional student travelling to Sydney for the competition brought a "very different" perspective to the day, Madelyn said.
"These were city kids. This was an after school event for them ... Whereas it was a six-hour drive for us," she said.
"So it was pretty intense but it was really worth it to see not only the difference in the regional experience versus the city experience, but to offer our regional perspective and to offer that perspective to them, and they were really receptive to that."
The 2023 Sydney Philosothon was co-organised by the Newington College Centre for Critical Thinking and Ethics, and the Philosophy in Schools Association of NSW. The competition celebrated the virtues of critical, creative, collaborative and caring inquiry through engagement and discussions known as 'communities of inquiry'.
Academy principal Mandi Randell said it was important for the school to take the children to Sydney for educational opportunities and equity. She was also proud of her students' success.
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"It was absolutely phenomenal to see students from our school competing and participating with some of the greatest minds in NSW schooling, holding their own and excelling," Ms Randell said.
"I think that says that there's a lot of talent in Dubbo and it shows the value of critical thinking and philosophy, that these kids can go into any situation on-the-fly and they know how to think and they know how to interact and respect the perspectives and differences of others."
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