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July 29,

Student at Monday morning’s academic orientation Student at Monday morning’s academic orientation

The students at the 2019 New England High School Summer Program have completed their first day of classes!

At this morning’s session, they discussed Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Among the questions considered were “Did Oedipus deserve his fate?” “Should we morally condemn him for his actions?” “Ought we to pity Oedipus?”

At lunch, the conversation continued, and prefect Dan Selmeczy asked students to offer their analyses of the reading according to his much-beloved seven-point scales. Question one was, “With 1 being, ‘the gods control everything,’ and 7 being, ‘humans control everything,’ how would you rate the relative roles of the gods and men in shaping the course of human lives, according to Sophocles’ portrayal?” Question two: “How would you rank the morality of Oedipus, with Hitler at 1, and Mother Teresa at 7?” The average ranking to both questions, he said was around 4.

In the afternoon class on Plato’s Euthyphro, students discussed piety and its relationship to justice, concluding that piety is, in fact, justice in its most perfect form. Afterward, one student approached prefects Katie Ellefson and Seamus O’Brien and asked them what an apple is. When they asked him why he asked, he replied, “I came here thinking I know lots of things, and now I’m not sure I know anything anymore!”

This self-deprecating observation was the result, he said, of his class’ efforts to define piety — which then turned into an attempt to define “definition” — an experience that was at once both confusing and eye-opening. Being forced to reconsider set notions and define concepts that they may previously have taken for granted is, for most students, the first step toward contemplating and then understanding much larger ideas. This class already seems to be growing and expanding their intellectual horizons, which is exciting to see.

Come back tomorrow for posts — with photos — from tonight’s activities!