23 March 2022
Mr Roy Peachey, Sophia Programme Coordinator
According to Aristotle, the purpose of human existence is happiness or human flourishing, and, for humans to be happy and flourish, we need the best that education can give: not just qualifications or knowledge but wisdom; or, to give it its Greek name, sophia. That is why this year we have launched the Sophia Programme, a series of weekly seminars for Lower Sixth students on topics ranging from anthropology to society, via critical thinking, culture and ecology.
Since wisdom tends to become fragmented in contemporary society, our aim in the Sophia Programme is to put things together again, to develop an understanding of the whole of reality. That is why our central image is a Tube Map of knowledge. It is the connections that matter.
And what are we connecting? Different aspects of knowledge certainly, but also the past and the present. In the Sophia Programme, ancient wisdom and the modern world are in conversation. In good conversations, no one dominates. Both parties listen to each other. There is a healthy give and take. The same is true of our conversations with the past. In the modern day, we need to be humble enough to learn from ancient wisdom, just as ancient wisdom can be renewed through its meeting with the modern world.
Indeed, conversation is at the centre of our programme. Our weekly seminars rely on students speaking, and listening, to each other, and our philosophy is neatly summarised by Sherry Turkle in ‘Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age’, “In the classroom, conversations carry more than the details of a subject; teachers are there to help students learn how to ask questions and be dissatisfied with easy answers. More than this, conversations with a good teacher communicate that learning isn’t all about the answers. It’s about what the answers mean.”
Our hope is that students will grow in wisdom through the course, while also picking up valuable skills that will equip them for higher education and the world of work. The response from the students so far has been really positive, so I can truly say that it has been a joy to welcome Sophia to the Sixth Form.
You can read more about the Sophia Programme in Sophia’s guide to places of local interest.