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Matthew

Matthew WILLS

Year of Award: 2009 Award State: Western Australia Education > Secondary
The Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Foundation Churchill Fellowship to study methods to improve the quality and rigour of secondary education in the area of Philosophy and Ethics - USA
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In 2009 Matthew Wills from Western Australia was awarded a Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Churchill Fellowship to study methods for improving the quality and rigour of secondary education in Philosophy and Ethics. He witnessed American schools and colleges and learned some interesting lessons to take home to his own program at Hale School, Wembley Downs, and also observed that Australian school philosophy and ethics programs could offer American programs some improvements as well.

In Florida, Matthew observed teams from two high schools debating issues such as: ‘Is it morally justifiable to charge someone more if they are obese and take up two seats on a flight?’ Another question was: ‘Should doctors prescribe cognitive enhancing drugs at a patient’s request?’ 

A younger group at Mt Holyoke in Massachusetts had positive things to say about the value of their Philosophy and Ethics class, for example, that it gave them ‘a chance to learn about important ideas’. One girl said she liked ‘to have the opportunity to disagree but still be friends’.

The benefits of school students participating in such programs includes critical thinking skills, learning the value of team work, and taking all relevant information into consideration before making judgements. Such skills will improve students’ future contributions to the democracy in which they live, helping them take an active interest in legislative processes, community choices and government decisions.

Matthew’s lucidly written report, beautifully illustrated, gives evidence of the importance of this subject in schools, helping as it does to create the opportunity for fully rounded young Australians who have the ability to think deeply and critically, a skill which will help them live better for the rest of their lives and which will help to make our country a better place. 

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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