Speaker Series Launched

Two speakers will present contrasting perspectives on a common topic as part of the Kaleidoscope program, a pair of consecutive All-School Meetings (ASM) that will unfold over the fall term of the next two years. The Kaleidoscope program serves to correct the perceived imbalance of previous ASM speakers by offering students divergent perspectives of the same issue, allowing them to digest and decide what they personally believe according to Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students. “The goal of Kaleidoscope is to add points of view to our world perspective, going beyond the familiar environment of Phillips Academy and teach the students to be good critical consumers of information and stimulate their development outside the classroom,” said Hoyt. This Fall Term the program features perspectives on religion, and next fall speakers will present different political views in time for the 2012 election cycle. Hoyt worked with Head of School Barbara Chase, Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, John Rogers, Dean of Studies, Linda Griffith, Dean of the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) and Kevin O’Connor, Instructor in English, to launch the Kaleidoscope initiative, coordinate the program’s logistics and contact potential speakers. “Through perpetual observation, concern and sometimes complaints about [the school’s] leaning towards a liberal view and left-leaning guests, members of the community…often voiced concern that [ASMs] are not balanced and not fair to conservative speakers, which is a fair observation but not a deliberate decision by the administration,” said Hoyt. “[The administration] wanted to incorporate views from every corner. The meetings would not be a debate, but more an open discussion that allows students to synthesis the theses of the presenters, creating civil discourse and leading to some common ground between the different perspectives,” said Hoyt. Financial assistance for the Kaleidoscope program came from the Hosch Speakers Fund. The administration initially considered having both speakers come during the same meeting. However the administration felt that speakers could not thoroughly present both their viewpoints in the normal ASM period. Hoyt felt a two-week time span would give students time to evaluate the information and get a bearing on the issue. The ideal solution, according to Hoyt, would be to extend ASM beyond its regular time, thus allowing both speakers to present on the same day with adequate time. According to a student survey sent out last spring term, the potential topics for the Kaleidoscope speakers included abortion, gay marriage, affirmative action, global justice, orthodox Islam and the legalization of marijuana. The most popular topics were religion, secular views and politics according to Hoyt. While looking for possible speakers, the administration searched for individuals with relevant and unique perspectives, knowledge of the featured issue and speaking ability. In its inaugural presentation, the Kaleidoscope 2011 program featured New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who discussed the nature and implications of his spiritual worldview, and Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, who will present on his secular beliefs during the next week. Hoyt initially reached out the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department for suggestions of speakers about the spiritual worldview. Michael Legaspi, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, recommended Ross Douthat. Hoyt also researched speakers with secular backgrounds and felt that Greg Epstein, author of the New York Times bestseller “Good without God”, would fit in well with the Kaleidoscope program.