By Jordan Cutler-Tietjen
Not many teenagers ponder whether or not engineering an army of personal clones is plausible, let alone advisable. Fewer still contemplate the fuzzy intersection of human subconscious and human identity. But knock on the door of Room 315 at approximately 12:23 next Wednesday, and you’ll step into a space where discussions like these aren’t just accepted, but actively encouraged. Welcome to Philosophy STEP.
At the front of the room stands the club’s talisman/spearhead, Mr. Hainey. 25 bright faces dot the lab tables ( he teaches Honors Biology) around him, eager for the day’s lesson to start.
“Alright, guys. Free will. Does it exist? Talk about it with your tables for five minutes, then get back to me, but make sure you can back up your argument.”
The class erupts into discussion. It’s just his first year at LCHS, but Mr. Hainey has already established quite a cult following. Students pile into his room during lunch to watch old episodes of Doctor Who, and when asked why he chose Philosophy STEP above all other choices, freshman Christos Menemenlis had but a three-syllable exclamation on the tip of his tongue: “Mr. Hainey!”
After having to wait more than eighteen years to realize his passions for philosophy, Mr. Hainey started the STEP with the hope of introducing students to complicated concepts like determinism and nihilism before college.
“In most of your life, you won’t be able to find answers in books or on Google,” he explained. “I wanted to give students a place to explore life’s dilemmas and space to dictate their own learning.”
And true to form, the students in the STEP get to decide what the next meeting will be about. After a decision is reached, Mr. Hainey prepares a brief lecture or worksheet, and then the STEP reorganizes into an open dialogue between students. At the meeting I attended, a debate quickly bloomed as students voiced impassioned evidence for both sides of the free will dilemma.
But no matter whether the day’s discussion centers on the ethics of multiple realities or revolves around the tragedy of the human condition, you can be sure to leave Philosophy STEP with an expanded awareness of life’s big questions.
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