In the first year of Humanities here at MVGS, one of the topics we initially review is the field of epistemology. Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge. How do we know that we know what we know? Knowledge, in epistemology, is a higher understanding than simply “knowing” something. Knowledge, according to Plato, is when we can justify our understanding of something, when that thing is true, and when we believe it to be true. Vast swathes of human interaction, then, cannot be construed as Knowledge.
In Ms. Hayes’s Humanities 1 class, the students are assigned a philosopher prominent in the field of epistemology to study. Beginning with a man named Edmund Gettier in the ’60s, philosophers have been questioning Plato’s doctrine of Justified True Belief (JTB), and Warrenton students spend some time investigating those philosophers and their viewpoints on JTB. JTB can be a sticky wicket, and many students have been overwhelmed by its intricacies and formulas (philosophy has formulas!).
However, not all students are as bold as Anna. As Anna was studying the work of eminent Rutgers philosopher Peter Klein, she found herself confused by the philosophical jargon in his work. Rather than throwing in the towel, throwing up her hands and presenting herself in class with unfinished homework, Anna became innovative. She sent Peter Klein (who, unlike most of our philosophers, is still very much alive) an email. She asked him, if it wasn’t too much trouble, if he couldn’t help her with a simplified version of his ideas.
Dr. Klein was delighted to hear from her, and after expressing his admiration of our program (epistemology is hardly the standard high school fare), he sent her an article he’d written aimed at helping undergraduates understand his theories. Anna’s homework became easier, and a Rutgers professor will remember the bold students of Mountain Vista Governor’s School.
We like to think that we encourage this spirit of innovation here, and that our students will leave our school capable of navigating both the academic and professional worlds as innovators who create solutions where others see only problems. Way to go, Anna!