Oxford Big Ideas Event

On Thursday 25th May, Mr. Burton took a small group of students to an ‘Oxford Big Ideas event for More Able and Ambitious”. This amazing day improved and consolidated our philosophical learning while breaking down more controversial topics to test our judgment and opinion-making. I particularly enjoyed the funny and slightly quirky anecdotes. The content was fast-paced and differentiated to meet the needs of highly able learners with a focus on important and enduring concepts. I felt that us students really benefited from this university style of learning in which our knowledge was broadened and our critical abilities were upgraded with new thinking tools. All sessions were engaging and very enjoyable to listen to.


The first and second sessions were run by Julie Arliss, a Farmington Scholar at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. She discussed the topic “Knowing what you know and what you don’t know” through the examination of epistemology. We explored different ways that we might establish knowledge, such as empiricism, rationalism, and fallible foundationalism. The next session focused on interview questions at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. This includes questions to test whether a candidate can think laterally and apply their thinking to new ideas and different contexts. The questions we considered were ‘How Many Animals did Noah Take onto the Ark’ and ‘Does a snail have Consciousness?’


During this event, we were also lucky to hear from Dr. Christopher O’Neill, a psychologist, registered psychotherapist, and trained counsellor. He explored the topic of “The Science of Happiness”. We dived into the questions “What is happiness?” “Is it found in fame or fortune?” Or maybe the true secret of happiness is accepting that there isn’t one!


The event concluded with a debate, the motion being “This house believes that love is not a commodity to be traded. This was perhaps my favourite session of the day because it got many students from different schools involved. It was exciting to hear others’ stances on the topic. Overall, it was an engaging day, and I think all of us WGHS students who attended felt privileged to be immersed in an environment bursting with creative and curious minds. 

By Isabella Drummond