Learn about the Utah Lyceum Program hosted at Southern Utah University, which is based on the first Lyceum Program established in at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne.
PLATO: What is the history of the Lyceum Program model in the United States?
Utah Lyceum: The Illinois Lyceum initiated the movement in 2010, with the mission of providing a unique kind of education to Champaign-Urbana’s youth – philosophical evaluation and critical thinking. Now, the Illinois Lyceum has grown into the Lyceum Organization which oversees summer philosophy programs across the Midwest, provides education to students ages 12-18, and conducts research on the benefits of philosophical training for youth. The organization inspired the creation of the Iowa Lyceum in 2013, which in turn inspired the creation of the Utah Lyceum in 2015.
PLATO: How did Southern Utah University come to host a Lyceum program?
Utah Lyceum: Dr. Kris Phillips brought the idea to Southern Utah University from the University of Iowa, where he had helped to found the Iowa Lyceum as a graduate student. The Philosophy Department hired Dr. Phillips as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and we were excited to create Lyceum program of our own. To us, it represented a willingness to broaden the philosophical audience, to better serve the community, and to engage young minds interested in the study of philosophy.
PLATO: Who is involved in making the Utah Lyceum Program successful?
Utah Lyceum: Dr. Kristopher Phillips, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, and Dr. Kirk Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor of Philosophy are the co-founders and lead teachers of the Utah Lyceum Program. We are able to make the summer program free for students with support from various offices and programs at Southern Utah University: the Grace A. Tanner Center, the Provost’s Office, and the College of Humanities Social Sciences.
PLATO: How is the Utah Lyceum Program doing so far, in its first few years?
Utah Lyceum: The first year we had a small but dedicated group of eight students join us, and in our second year we saw that number rise to seventeen! We hope to see that kind of growth continue in future years, and we hope to bring in some of our advanced philosophy undergraduates to help facilitate some of the teaching. We continue to be committed to making this program free for students in our community. You can learn more about this year’s Utah Lyceum Program by reading a news article written by The St. George News, here.
PLATO: How do you structure your Lyceum Program in Utah?
Utah Lyceum: Every Lyceum Program is different, and we continue to develop ours as we learn from what is successful each summer. The first year we read a text on logic and a text by David Cunning, Everyday Examples, An Introduction to Philosophy. We covered parts of each text every day, to serve as a general and fairly traditional introduction to philosophy. We spent a day on epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy.
In the second year we decided to introduce a slightly narrower subject-matter; we read on logic, Plato’s “Five Dialogues”, and Hume’s “An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.” We discussed formal logic in the morning, followed by a session on Plato’s text and Hume’s text. We finished each day with a study on informal logic. We figured that we would start with the challenge of formal logic and end with the more entertaining study of informal fallacies.
We’re going to continue offering students primary sources going forward, as we found that the students really valued that experience. The students also seemed to really enjoy and benefit from the final project where they got to explore a topic in philosophy of their choosing, with our support and one-on-one guidance.
PLATO: What have your learned from running your program that could be helpful for others who may want to start a Lyceum of their own?
Utah Lyceum: I think that the biggest take-away is that there is no need to treat these students as if they cannot handle really difficult philosophical work or primary texts. While we had very young students (as young as 13!) and by treating them with respect and holding them to a very high standard, we noticed that they were able to perform at a high level. The material that we might expect pre-college students to find dull or overly technical actually went over really well. The sections on formal logic that we introduced each day were well received, and were listed as the best part of the Lyceum on several of our closing surveys.
PLATO: Will you be offering the summer program again?
Utah Lyceum: Yes, we plan to have a Lyceum in June 2017. You can check out our facebook page for details.
PLATO: How can people get involved (if they are not high school students)?
Utah Lyceum: If there is a colleague who would like to visit and participate, we would be happy to host you and arrange for lodging. If you are thinking about developing a program, we would be happy to help. You can contact us at the Utah Lyceum through email: email@example.com
PLATO would like to thank Dr. Kris Phillips and Dr. Kirk Fitzpatrick for taking the time to contribute to this blog post.
Utah Lyceum Program Leadership:
Dr. Kris Phillips is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Southern Utah University and is co-founder/co-director of the Utah Lyceum, and the co-founder of the Iowa Lyceum.
Dr. Kirk Fitzpatrick is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southern Utah University and is co-founder/co-director of the Utah Lyceum.
Photo Credits: Utah Lyceum