About the Program
Question Everything is a residential summer philosophy program for high school students from Holyoke and Springfield, Massachusetts. Participants spend three weeks on the UMass Amherst campus to get a taste of college and explore life’s big questions. Students live in university dormitories, eat in UMass’s award-winning dining halls, and have access to recreational facilities and libraries. During the weekdays, they gather with program instructors to discover exciting philosophical issues in a fun and supportive environment through dialogue, role play, debates, and research projects. On evenings and during the weekend, the students participate in social activities organized by UMass’s Summer Pre-College Residential Programs office.
Question Everything targets students from lower-income families, as well as students from racial or ethnic groups that are underrepresented in higher education. All admitted participants automatically receive a full scholarship that covers room, board, fees, all academic and social activities, and transportation. Question Everything helps prepare students for college. The program also has a component during the academic year that helps participants navigate the college application process and is tied in with the center’s Philosophy in Public Schools program.
Our summer program in 2023 is designed around important questions relating to freedom and liberty, such as:
- Do all humans have an inalienable right to liberty? What would that mean? (What are inalienable rights? What is liberty?)
- What is the difference between moral and legal rights, and how do these relate to liberty?
- Where does this right to liberty come from, if we have it? Where does the idea come from that all human beings have this right? How is that relevant to us today?
- To what kinds of liberty (if any) do we have a right? Are some types of liberty more important than others? For instance, is there a moral right to free expression, and if so, does it have limits?
- Do young children have a right to liberty? Why or why not? Do nonhuman animals have such a right?
- Was the natural right to liberty historically considered to be limited to white men? How did the framers of the U.S. Constitution view this right, and is that relevant for us today?
- Are there circumstances under which the government (or someone else) can justifiably take away or limit someone’s liberty? If so, what are these circumstances? Is incarceration ever morally justified? Should prisons be abolished or completely rethought, as some people argue?
- What is the difference between liberty and freedom of the will?
- What would it mean to have a genuinely free will, and do we have it? Is having a free will the same as being able to do what one chooses, or is there more to it?
- Is there a connection between having a right to liberty and having a free will?
To explore these questions, participants read and analyze a series of transformative texts, some of which are historical and others contemporary. Participants engage with these transformative texts and the ideas contained in them through a variety of activities, including discussions, group projects, role play, café conversations, creative projects, writing assignments, research projects, and mock trials.
You can make a donation to Question Everything by following this link.