Carlos Heredia

Junior Gabe Heller shares his thoughts with the group.

Wintermission: Heterodoxy course encourages new perspectives

Upper School math teacher Michele Dennis and Upper School history and religions teacher Nyasha Chiundiza taught a course on heterodoxy for this year’s WinterMission. Heterodoxy refers to ideas or thoughts that differ from traditional viewpoints or narratives.

The course aimed to provide students with a better understanding of heterodoxy and the role it has in community and discussion, whether locally or nationally.

“In the big picture, when solving problems in the world you really need to hear from different viewpoints, because there’s not just one way to deal with issues, it can’t just be one way. Because who’s so infallible that they have all the answers? But in the smaller picture students should be able to come to the Harkness table and bring their whole authentic selves to the discussion” Dennis said.

The first day featured a digital appearance by Dr. Erec Smith, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania and co-founder of Free Black Thought. Students had the chance to ask him questions and engaged in a conversation about what productive discussion looks like.

The group learned about and discussed subjects such as the history/philosophy of free speech, Hannah Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil, and examined cases of exaggerative/manipulative language.

“We had a lot of deep and critical thinking, and I thought it was a really useful experience,” senior Chris Nappo said. “Towards the end of the course I really felt like I made a lot of new friends, people I could really talk to, and I felt like my voice was heard a lot throughout the course.”

The WinterMission course was well received by students. In online feedback one student wrote, “I think the lack of an echo chamber was really valuable. I didn’t feel like everyone agreed on everything, and it helped me develop a much more well-rounded perspective, which is really important, and an experience I don’t usually get”

Another wrote, “Meeting people and having so many opportunities for discussion with them, both when we agreed and disagreed, was probably my most valuable experience. I value the discussions we have had, and I feel I’m more open to all sorts of viewpoints.”

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