For 12 years, Holy Cross Collegiate's Religion Teacher Tomas Rochford has been the head of the Dead Philosophers Society. This extra-curricular class has students take part in readings from some of history's greatest minds, ranging from Greek classics like Plato and Socrates to Jane Austen and her prominent heroines. Taking inspiration from the Robin Williams' movie Dead Poets Society, Rochford explained HCC's Dead Philosophers Society seeks to get the students involved with all that the past has to offer us.
"They get to intellectually partake in that kind of timeless conversation with the great minds throughout human history and throughout civilization. Whether it be Jane Austen or Socrates, Aristotle, or Confucius from China. I think a real education requires us to be able to be part of that conversation, not think that because we live in 2022, nobody in the past has anything to offer to us. I think it's really important that we have that conversation and have students given the opportunity to be part of that also," Rochford said
"They (great thinkers) are able to grasp our experience better and put it in better words than I could put it myself. And I think that's an important thing. Like 'I'm part of this. I'm part of this great story.'"
Rochford added he believes one of the most important aspects of the society is the style of education. Rather than focus on memorization and tests, the society is about creating habits of the mind and shaping the students' ways of thinking to have them come out with a deeper appreciation of life. Rochford is especially happy to see some of his students carry the lessons they learned outside of the classroom.
"Whoever we read, it shapes us. Last year I think was a good example. Kieran Donais was the valedictorian for our school and in his valedictory speech. A lot of the dead philosopher stuff that we had covered came out and it had become part of him, which I think is the ideal."
While the aim of the society isn't about getting a job or passing tests, Rochford said by reading these great texts, you're opening yourself up to improvement by expanding your ways of thinking, becoming a better writer by reading great works, and in some cases, you may continue to study philosophy or English literature in university.
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