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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 resounding success!

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 credit.

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, see www.centerforinquiry.net/education.htm or contact the director at adacey@centerforinquiry.net.


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,
Bradentow, Florida

"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).

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.

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.

Some of the students attending on scholarship, enjoying a break from their studies.

 

Class in session at the Center for Inquiry.

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.

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 performance.

Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell guides student Edward Tong through the museum at Lily Dale Spiritualist Assembly.

Center for Inquiry staffer DJ Grothe (a former magician) entertains students with a magic and mentalist performance.

Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell guides student Edward Tong through the museum at Lily Dale Spiritualist Assembly.


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