Oxley College Cornerstone subject

An academic cornerstone has started at Oxley College. Photo supplied

An academic cornerstone has started at Oxley College. Photo supplied

STUDENTS at Oxley will this week start contemplating the big questions.

A new subject called Cornerstone has been introduced to the curriculum and according to Oxley Principal Michael Parker, the aim is to help students think clearly, creatively and with passion.

"In the curriculum ideas are in subject silos - English, history etc - and so many of the biggest issues either go across or fall outside these area," Mr Parker said.

"Cornerstone links into all these subjects and pulls together the big philosophical and ethical ideas. For example, what are we proud of as a race? The answer would touch on art, science, society....In English we study utopian and dystopian societies, while in Cornerstone we will look at 'What is the ideal society?'"

Mr Parker said there are three reasons why he designed the course.

"First, children in the 21st century increasingly need to be thoughtful, reflective, and creative. They are going to have to think of new things, so this will teach much-needed skills," he said.

"Secondly, I believe ethics makes for better people. Would you rather be smart or good? I think most people would answer 'good'.

"Finally, not everyone can become a philosopher, but everyone can be interested and curious about the world, and this helps you to live with a sense of optimism."

Mr Parker also believes that passing down ideas, some of which originated with people in Ancient Greece, gives young people a sense of the intellectual longevity of ideas.

The subject will be taught twice a week to students from Year 7 to 10. Staff members have volunteered to teach the course and have been trained by Dr Sandra Lynch, a specialist in teaching and philosophy.

"Over four years the students will receive a liberal education that will provide a core of holistic education. Oxley is fertile ground for this type of course because we are non-denominational and co-educational, so we are free to investigate questions of religions and faith as well as ethics, values and even cosmology," Mr Parker said.

"It's a paradox really: people think philosophy is for the elite, but it is actually most democratic.

"There is no right or wrong, nothing is better or worse. We are hoping to inspire students to develop open thinking and tolerance," he said.

"This is an academic cornerstone for all other subjects."

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