First Center for Inquiry Summer School a Success
by Austin Dacey
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 18, Number 3.
In the greatest expansion of its educational activities since its inception
in 1989, the Institute of the Center for
Inquiry inaugurated a two-week summer school in critical thinking and the
scientific outlook this July 14-28. Involving fifty-six total participants,
forty-six hours of lectures, twenty-two hours of field trips, eight evening
programs, twenty-one State University of New York (SUNY) credits, and nine
scholarships and assistantships, the first summer school at the Center was a
The extended summer session consolidates former educational and internship
activities and encourages students to pursue the Institute's thirty-credit-hour
Certificate of Proficiency. The students who came for the courses in critical
inquiry and the philosophy of naturalism arrived as strangers and left as a
community of inquirers with a strong sense of solidarity (goodbyes on the final
evening were long and tearful). The student body was diverse in age, background,
and life experience, ranging from a young community college student of
philosophy to an eminent neurologist from Rice University whose contributions to
class included comments like "Well, when I spoke with Stephen Hawking about
his views over dinner. . . ." Students on scholarship hailed from Russia,
Malaysia, Gambia, and elsewhere.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One student, a professor at the Adler
School of Professional Psychiatry in Chicago, called it "a peak
experience" in his life. "An outstanding program!" commented an
emeritus professor of classics at University of Minnesota and a member of
Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. Many students are already planning to
return next year to continue pursuing the Certificate, and some went on to the
Skeptic's Toolbox workshop at the University of Oregon, Eugene, in mid-August.
Over the two weeks of the Institute, various assets of the Center for Inquiry
came together in an exciting new way: professors-in-residence taught in its
classrooms; staff technicians videotaped lectures to produce correspondence
courses for the Institute; students completed assistantship projects in the
Center's computer lab; staff librarians assisted students in researching its
libraries; resident experts and volunteers led tours to nearby historic Upstate
New York sites; SUNY provided room, board, dorm Internet services, athletic
facilities, and a campus environment, as well as transferable undergraduate
Some have wondered why the Center
for Inquiry is located in Amherst, New York, or why it has built up a large
research library. One answer is now clear, as was apparent to those attending in
July: in cooperation with SUNY, the Center runs a unique new summer school in
critical inquiry and the scientific outlook. Students can now attain the
Certificate of Proficiency in two to three years, by attending two summer
sessions, one Skeptic's Toolbox workshop, and completing a thesis. Plans for an
accredited Master's program are now being explored. Next summer's courses will
include The Psychology of Belief and Reason and Ethics. For more information,
or contact the director at email@example.com.
Austin Dacey is the director of the Center for Inquiry Institute.
"Fantastic mix of students; the current and retired professionals
really help the younger students learn."
-Edward Tong, student, Brisbane, Australia
"An excellent balance among formal presentations, less structured
group discussion, and informal camaraderie."
-Carlos Gutierrez, Ph.D., retired superintendent of schools,
"This summer session is a great step forward in my education
and personal growth."
-Tania Pesotskaya, student, Moscow, Russia
Center for Inquiry Institute at a Glance
Summer session 2002 students and staff, from the left:
Uliya Denisenko, Eva Keuls, Jan Loeb Eisler, Ralph Meister, Maria
Katkova, Susan Gerbic-Forsyth, Carlos Gutierrez, Tania Pesotskaja,
Robert Goldberg, Paul Kurtz, Dixie Lee Harris, Nathan Bupp, Valerii
Kuvakin, Walter Sartory, William Streib, Marvin Kohl, Lila Segade-Lugaro,
Edward Tong, Paul Putz, Melissa Yeong, Joran Sokol, Charles Salieu John,
Norman Silverman, Glenn Visher, Deborah Goddard, William Meyers, DJ
Grothe, Austin Dacey (not pictured: Linda Chapman).
Paul Kurtz bestowed the Center for Inquiry's
Certificate of Proficiency on eleven graduating students, including Jan
Loeb Eisler, of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Some of the students attending on scholarship,
enjoying a break from their studies.
Class in session at the Center for Inquiry.
Dressed in traditional suffragette garb for a
historical tour, Margaret Downey gifts a portrait to the Robert G.
Ingersoll Birthplace Museum.
Center for Inquiry staffer DJ Grothe (a former
magician) entertains students with a magic and mentalist
Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell guides
student Edward Tong through the museum at Lily Dale Spiritualist
Humanism Online Library