This year, I have signed up for the John Waterhouse Society, a co-curricular activity in which a group of students meet to discuss philosophical ideas and issues. These can be related to current world problems or personal interest, and we present and discuss in two 45-minute sessions when we meet. I decided to join this group as I believed it would be very interesting to learn more about various topics and issues that we face today so I can broaden my view of the world. Throughout the year we will also be listening to the various ethics lectures that our school are hosting, in which we learn about various topics from qualified people from those fields.

Here are the outcomes that I will be working towards:

Outcome 1: During our meetings, I will be striving to listen as much as possible so I can contribute and learn on any areas

Outcome 2: When I am making my own presentation, I will be researching and learning about a chosen topic

Outcome 4: I will be going to every meeting that I can make, as well as all the lectures at the school during this time

Outcome 5: As we are in a group, we will be working together to form new ideas relating to the topics presented

Outcome 6: Many of the lectures being given are related to current world issues, as well as us also picking these topics for our own presentations

Outcome 7: We will be discussing and learning about topics and ideas that make us question our own ethics and provide deeper insight into other views

Reflection: Term 1 2019
During the first term, we had two meetings and one lecture.

Our first meeting had two presentations, one on the ethics of news media and another on modern art. The first presentation was very interesting as it covered many issues surrounding modern media, such as biased reporting, altering the facts for the media, and many more. During this presentation, I spoke very little as I didn’t know much about the topic, however I did learn a lot about the various aspects surrounding this topic. The second presentation was a general class discussion on what constitutes art. During this presentation, we were shown various images and had to try to distinguish a guideline for what was art and what wasn’t. Throughout the presentation, many boys had different contradicting opinions, however by the end, we had confirmed that what constitutes art is purely subjective, whether from the view of the artist or the viewer.

Our second meeting also had two presentations, one on private prisons and another on democracy. The first presentation was very eye-opening for me as I had never thought much about the prison system and had never known that private prisons existed. I learnt lots about how they operate and how they compare to government funded prisons. Our second presentation was on democracy. This was also very interesting as I only knew the basics of what democracy was and not much more. This presentation spoke about the main principles of democracy, as well as us as a class discussing the impact of these and how they have or haven’t been upheld globally.

Our first lecture for the year was also held during this term, in which Professor Toby Walsh spoke to us about Ethics and AI. He spoke about the current situation with AI and how this is related to ethics, such as autonomous drone strikes. I learnt a lot from this as I didn’t know anything from that field, and it was all very interesting to hear about.

Reflection: Term 2 2019
During the second term, I was sick so the lecture however I was still able to go to the two meetings.

The first commitment I had was a presentation with only one group in it. This was because the other group wasn’t ready and so wasn’t able to go on that day. This presentation was on the Australian refugee situation and how we could solve different issues surrounding it. It was very well made and informative as there were lots of facts to support the statements being put forward by the group. In the next session as there was no presentation, we just spoke about various topics. Eventually, we started talking about climate change and discussing the current situation.

Next, was another meeting with two topics, one about prison and another about education. The first session was about education systems and whether we need schools. This was very engaging for all of us as we all go to school and have varying opinions on it. Our second session was on the Panopticon, a prison designed by Jeremy Bentham. This prison was revolutionary for its time as it reduced the amount of guards to prisoners. We spoke about the morality of this type of prison and whether we should have one now or not.

Reflection: Term 3 2019
This term we have two lectures and one meeting, in which my group is presenting.

Our first lecture was given by Dr Stephen Law and was talking about his book, ‘The War for Children’s Minds’. This book is about an authoritarian vs liberal approach to teaching and learning. He detailed everything involved in both approaches to teaching, and why authoritarian has had a negative influence on society. Then he explained the positives a liberal approach would give. Overall, it was a very informative talk that was very interesting to me and many others.

Next, we had a meeting in which my group presented our presentation on animal rights. We had a general discussion on how we treat animals and then spoke about some philosopher’s views on how we should treat animals, and finally the laws on animal testing in Australia and the US. We presented very well, and the general discussion was also very good, with people openly voicing their opinions. The next session was on the idea of Absurdism, a philosophical belief that humans have no inherent purpose but will still try to seek one out. This was interesting to most people as the idea was different as well as the points being made to support or go against the theory.

The last commitment of the term was another lecture, this time by Professor Alex Haslam about the psychology of tyranny. He spoke about the five steps to tyranny as well as some case studies on tyranny, such as the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram experiment. I didn’t enjoy this lecture as much as others simply because I had already learnt most of this during my philosophy lessons at school.

Reflection: Term 4 2019
In this last term, we had one lecture and one meeting scheduled, however the meeting was eventually cancelled as we couldn’t book the room in any available times.

This terms lecture was the last for the year and was on Julian Burnside QC on justice and human rights. It was a very well put together and informative lecture, with lots of personal knowledge of the current situation facing these people, as well as some solutions. As I knew very little about this area, it was good to get a very qualified professionals’ opinion on this issue.

Reflection: Final
This is my final reflection for John Waterhouse. This has been a very enjoyable co-curricular activity for me as it has helped me expand and broaden my knowledge on many topical ideas and issues that I would never have known about without it. This has led me to have a more un-biased opinion on many issues as I now more about them than before. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed the John Waterhouse Society.