Joshua Tepley, an assistant philosophy professor at St. Anselm’s college, says it’s important for high school kids to study philosophy because, “There’s value in asking the big questions. We spend most of our time concerned with small and petty things and it’s worth our time to step back and reflect on the big questions in life.” While he makes this happen every day at Saint Anselm’s, on Friday he took some time to help high schoolers learn about philosophy. Friday was the first of two HYPE development days this year. HYPE, or Hosting Young Philosophy Enthusiasts, was first developed at Souhegan High School seven years ago by seniors in the ethics seminar, and it has gotten bigger every year. A part of HYPE’s growth over the last few years was when it became something that is no longer put on by Souhegan High School alone, but rather three schools: Souhegan, Bedford and Spaulding High Schools.
The purpose of the development day on Friday was to kick off the planning of the main conference, which will take place this spring, and to get the committees together so they could start planning together rather than planning as three separate schools. The day started by displaying the new HYPE logo, which will stay with HYPE year after year starting this year. The first thing on the agenda for the day was discussing the essential and sub-essential questions for this years conference. After unveiling this year’s theme of discussing what it means to be a responsible citizen, the group worked together to brainstorm the questions. After a morning of brainstorming and tweaking questions they had a good list ranging from the topic of of celebrities, to civil duties, to a school’s role in raising a kid, and even to how social media affects us as responsible citizens. Now that the main part was out of the way, the students still had a lot of work to do.
All of the students from the three schools make up five different committees that each do something unique to make HYPE possible. Those five committees are tech and social media, advertising and merch, high school outreach, logistics and content. Although they all do very different things HYPE would not be possible without each of these committees. A big goal for the tech and social media committee this year is to, “have more presence even after the HYPE event and for it to be mainly year long for people who can’t make it [to the conference in spring] because they are too far away” said Madison Farris, a student at Spaulding High School. This would allow for HYPE to expand out of the New England area which is a huge goal for the program within the next few years. The advertising and merchandise committee spent the day budgeting to buy bags, tee shirts, pens, folders and all the other things that they would need to make HYPE the best that it could possibly be. Because HYPE wouldn’t be a thing without any students at the event, the high school outreach committee spent the day thinking of schools to invite to HYPE and what the best ways to contact those schools are. Daniel Hawkins, a student from Bedford’s philosophy program, who is on the logistics committee, told us that his committee spent the day, “going over the planning process of how the actual day is going to c ommence, things such as the facilitators, how many we need, the amount of students were gonna have…stuff like that. Just the overall planning of the day”. And alongside the logistics committee, the content committee talked about what will actually be discussed on the day of HYPE, the sources they can use and what the students attending will actually do once they arrive at the conference next spring.
Chris Brooks, a teacher at Souhegan High School and a co-founder of HYPE, talked to us about what will actually happen when March rolls around and it’s finally time to host the conference. He gave us a quick look at the agenda for the day: “Hype the day itself has a big get together with all the students who are in a big room and they talk for about 20-30 minutes, just getting the day started. But most of the day is in these small groups where students are sorted – literally mixed up based upon their school – so they are in different groups with different students from all over the state and all over the region, and they talk about the conversation, the topic, the question led by their facilitator their group leaders” The actual conference will take place at UNH Durham and this year is the biggest year yet. So far, they are inviting up to 48 schools and they are expecting somewhere around 1,300 students. With 12-14 students in each group that’s nearly 100 groups all spending the day discussing philosophy. When we asked Sarah Salem, a Bedford student, what she wanted to see on the day of the HYPE conference she told us that she wanted to see “some really creative discussion” and getting to discuss “concepts that are really good that we don’t really get to talk about in school or with each other”. Another student from Spaulding added that she was excited to see, “a lot of different viewpoints that [she] wouldn’t have had if [she] just stayed in [her] own school. “
No matter what way we put it, the HYPE conference is a great thing for all of the students involved, whether they are planning or attending the event. At the end of the day it all comes back to the same thing. Philosophy. Why is it so important? Why does it need to be discussed in high schools? When we asked Souhegan senior, Katy Osterholtz, she summed it up perfectly saying, “Us as high school students…we’re the next generation and it’s important that we have that ability that to think philosophically because if we’re going to be the ones leading our world and shaping the world, it’s important that we can deliberately think about all the things and decisions the world is making- which is why we are inviting over 1000 students to come to this to make sure that our generation is as fit as possible to do that” That’s what HYPE is at it’s core, HYPE is not only a way to get students to engage in the great philosophical questions in our society, but it is a way to prepare the next generation to be a generation full of great leaders.