Superb curiosity projects round off this year’s stimulating Kritikos programme

Superb curiosity projects round off this year’s stimulating Kritikos programme

25 June 2020

Mrs Katharine Payne, Coordinator of Kritikos

Kritikos is our programme for students in year 7-11 demonstrating both high academic ability and high engagement with learning. Intellectual discernment, or what the Greeks called κρῐτῐκός ('kritikos'), is the ability to judge and evaluate rather than simply regurgitate information.

This year’s programme included a wide range of lectures and seminars from staff and students from Brexit to the objective truth. At Lunch with Lower Sixth, Sixth Formers shared top tips for achieving 9s at GCSE. At a successful session, Upper Sixth Oxbridge applicants gave seminars on their specialist subjects. There were also mini challenges like the What If? game, debating Oxbridge interview questions and a fiendish Christmas quiz.

The curiosity project is the lynchpin of the programme. This year’s theme of communication could not have been more pertinent as we have all adapted to new strategies in these unusual times.

The project started in January with a Kritikos visit to the Top Secret exhibition at the Science Museum. Students discovered the remarkable world of codebreaking, ciphers and secret communications. From the trenches of the First World War to the latest in cyber security, Top Secret explored over a century’s worth of communications intelligence through hand-written documents, declassified files and previously unseen artefacts from the Science Museum Group's and GCHQ’s historic collections.

Students used this initial stimulus to dip in and out of these projects as their other school work allowed. They had to generate ideas, gather evidence and complete extended research using JSTOR, a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources. The students were challenged to reference at least two academics who had written about their research area.

The curiosity project culminated this week with students completing some fantastic projects. There was a fantastically diverse array of ideas. Immy gave a clear and concise explanation of different categories of communication, whilst Claudia took an in depth look at Body Language. Livvy, Megan and Lea took a historical perspective. Livvy considered the challenges of submarine communication in 20th century conflicts, Megan the role of Enigma machine in the defeat of the Nazis, and Lea the advantages and disadvantages of Morse Code for the Titanic. Waishe set herself very large scope of enquiry with her topic, the development of communication over time. Hattie chose to explore female assertiveness in the use of communication through the fan. Meanwhile others took on issues of huge contemporary relevance, with Caitlin exploring the realities of social media communication on mental health and Fleur’s amazing work using mathematical modelling to explain how to predict human behaviour. Pippa’s highly commended submission perfectly blended historical case studies and the current debate about removing statues as she explored the pros and cons of censorship and free speech. Finally, Hannah expertly investigated both science and ethics as she posed the intriguing question, ‘Should you update your brain?’

 As with all academic curiosity, solving one problem will always raise others, so the students have received feedback and set off on further areas of exploration. If you are looking for something to ponder over the summer, here are some questions Hannah’s project raised:

  • How much of our brain do we need to keep in order to be the same person?
  • If we suddenly lose our memories, does this mean we’re not us?
  • What about if a brain injury affects our personality?
  • What makes me ‘me’?
  • Who will be responsible if future AI helps us to make a bad decision?
  • Should implants become necessary for people with high risk jobs, such as soldiers, or should they be banned because they are hackable?
  • Is it right to shortcut talent and hard work by just ‘uploading’ new skills?
  • Just because we can, does that mean we should?

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