High School Freethought Groups

High school freethought groups are so important in helping young people develop their skills in critical thinking. It’s one of the first places you can openly talk to other people about your atheism. It’s also tougher than starting a group in college, when you’re likely to have a few more like-minded people around you.

Lucia Guatney is just a freshman at Cherry Creek High School in Colorado.

But she’s started her own freethought group, attended a student conference (hosted by the Center for Inquiry), and met her own personal hero:

I went to my first CFI conference (The Secular Society and Its Enemies) last November in the splendid city of New York. I hadn’t a clue that meeting fellow student freethinkers could be so much fun. For the first time since I’d entered high school, I was in an oasis of thought with intelligent discussions taking place all around me. Not only were there speakers with fascinating subjects, but there was also the opportunity to talk to fellow student freethinkers and other attendees. Later that evening, I was in shock to find myself having dinner right across from Richard Dawkins in the Beekman Pub, and conversing about campus activities with all the other students at the conference.

About a week after the conference, I e-mailed Richard Dawkins because I felt the need to thank him not only for dining with us but for his books which had helped me appreciate science (“appreciate” being an understatement; more like “love passionately to death”) so much. He wrote back telling me that he had remembered who I was, and not only that…he told me that he’d been “bowled over” when I told him that I was fourteen at the time. I looked up the words in the dictionary—they mean “highly impressed”. Imagine how I reacted.

If you imagined me falling out of my chair and giggling madly, you imagined correctly.

I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes with her group in the next few years and what she’ll be able to do with that knowledge once she gets to college.

The article stresses two points that I think need to be repeated:

First, attending an atheist/Humanist conference when you’re young can change your life. It’s a chance (possibly the first chance) to be around people who share the same thoughts as you. When you feel isolated in your thinking, it’s the prime opportunity to realize you’re not the only one in that position. That’s a powerful thought. And groups like CFI and the Secular Student Alliance give students grant money to attend those kinds of conferences.

Second, it’s not difficult to begin a freethought group, even if you are in high school. You just need someone willing to take charge. If there’s a problem, CFI and SSA and other groups will help you out.

Kudos to Lucia for what she’s done so far.

Where are other high school freethought leaders like her?


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • David D.G.

    Many of the 14-year-old girls I’ve known had posters of rock stars on their ceilings. I’m betting that Lucia has one of Dawkins on hers. ;^D

    I, too, am “bowled over” by how amazingly articulate this girl is, especially for a high school freshman. Between that and her devotion to science and critical thinking, as well as her obvious self-motivation, I suspect that she will outshine a lot of her peers.

    ~David D.G.

  • http://www.evolvedrational.com Evolved Rationalist

    Although Lucia and I disagree about the fact that Gould pwns Dawkins, she is a great person and she will only be less famous than me in atheistland someday…. :)

  • http://splendidelles.wordpress.com/ Lucia

    Many of the 14-year-old girls I’ve known had posters of rock stars on their ceilings. I’m betting that Lucia has one of Dawkins on hers.

    I turned 15 last March, actually.

    Truth be told, I don’t. I have a picture of a bunny on my ceiling, though. I’m not sure why I put that there… I do random stuff like that when I have too much caffeine. :-)

  • http://mygoddlessdrama.blogspot.com/ Stacy

    I hope my daughter is alot like you in 10 years, Lucia. Rock on.

  • Richard Wade

    Lucia, I admire your intelligence and your pluck. Please accept a word of caution from someone who had far less of those at your age:

    Young people tend to have heroes. Hopefully they grow out of that quickly. Don’t make people into heroes. When you find extraordinary people, listen to them, admire them, accept their encouragement, but don’t turn them into something more than human beings. That kind of adoration demeans you and corrupts them. If you do that you are setting yourself up for embarrassment and disappointment. Then you might discard the valuable things those people offered.

    When you practice the discipline of critical thinking that Richard Dawkins encourages, be sure to apply it to him as well, not just everything else. Then you are really practicing what he hopes you will learn. A true freethinker is free to differ with the freethinkers she admires the most.

    If this advice is superfluous, my apologies.

  • http://www.ineedtothink.com Seavee

    I agree that young people need freethinker societies. I am wondering how to encourage this. I teach high school and I have encountered a couple of atheist students before, but more often than not they are unaware that there are others like them. I could sponsor a free thought club if a student asked but I can’t start one.

  • http://madmansparadise.blogspot.com Asylum Seeker

    Young people tend to have heroes. Hopefully they grow out of that quickly. Don’t make people into heroes. When you find extraordinary people, listen to them, admire them, accept their encouragement, but don’t turn them into something more than human beings. That kind of adoration demeans you and corrupts them. If you do that you are setting yourself up for embarrassment and disappointment. Then you might discard the valuable things those people offered.

    Wow. I’ve got to say I agree with this wholeheartedly. It’s odd, because I’ve always felt rather embarassed that I never admired anyone blindly enough to even call them a “role model” let alone a hero. Thought that it was just one of many things wrong with me, being a pessimistic mope and all. Funny, but, for the all the reasons that Richard so eloquently presented, it does seem to be the preferrable position. Guess you can learn from people without worshipping them…and not enough people realize that (not going to point fingers at the church…not going to point fingers…).

  • http://splendidelles.wordpress.com/ Lucia

    I agree that I oughtn’t follow Richard Dawkins unquestioningly. I understand your concern. I was concerned about that as well for a while, until I realized that we disagreed on punctuated equilibrium. That realization felt really good, oddly enough. :-)

  • http://www.evolvedrational.com Evolved Rationalist

    Thank science that our Gould vs. Dawkins debates were not for no use, eh, Lucia?

  • Pingback: Phil Plait is Wrong! « Splendid Elles

  • TravisM

    Phil fixed it post-haste. :)

    I too am glad that there are critical thinkers in our younger generation. I hope this “illNES” spreads to anyone you come into contact with, girly.


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