Each year, Souhegan High School in Amherst hosts a philosophy conference titled HYPE (Hosting Young Philosophy Enthusiast). HYPE evolved from the school's Ethics Forum, a group that meets to to plan events at the school in order to develop student leadership. I just heard about this conference last fall and luckily we were able to participate in this year's conference.
The conference was held at UNH in Durham last Thursday, March 17 with the theme "To what extent is freedom of speech influenced by power, control, and fear?" The conference piggybacked off of a event sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council on political cartoons which was held the night before at Saint Anselm College.
Over 1,000 high school students from across the state attended HYPE 2016 including 21 from Trinity High School. The morning began with a panel discussion on political cartoons with some discussion on how even the most incendiary ones are entitled to be published. The panelists, which included two political cartoonists, a former editor of "The Nation", and a professor from Brandeis, spoke of their experiences with attempted censorship. The discussions focused on drawing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed to a controversial Henry Kissinger cartoon from the 1970's during the height of the Vietnam War.
From here the students went into small groups for ice breakers and discussions about the topic of censorship and freedom of speech. The teachers heard a presentation from students from Souhegan on leadership and their Ethics Forum followed by a Q & A with the panelists from earlier in the morning.
We hope to add this conference to our calendar going forward. It was a great opportunity for our students to go outside of their comfort zone and to learn that we might not agree with everyone but we should always defend our rights to believe what we want.