OH Philosophy Club emphasizes civil discourse while offering an in-depth exploration of meaningful topics


Mr. Alex Celis (far left) serves as the faculty adviser to the Olympic Heights Philosophy Club, which includes members (from second to the left): Mohammad Ali Zia, Camilo Herrera, Valeriia Tugai, Adam Hamedeh, and Roden Magnaye.

There is a new club in Olympic Heights and it’s making peace where there was once a social war by providing the battlefield. Philosophy Club, under the advisement of OH math teacher Mr. Alex Celis, offers students a way to explore all aspects of a wide array of topics in an in-depth manner.

Philosophy Club is a place for methodical discussion. The Philosophy Club takes a socratic approach to just about any topic there is; the members don’t ignore any question. OH sophomore Camilo Herrera, the club’s vice-president speaks of the club “removing echo chambers” and establishing a safe haven for civil discourse. 

“You see people not talking about very not taboo things or things that don’t really promote thought, and I want to open that up,” Herrera explains. He argues for deeper conversations in a student´s day-to-day life. Thorough discussion is what the club emphasizes.

The club also seeks to remove walls of discussion within students. They push for people being able to freely voice their views without a stigma held against them. “I feel like people aren’t challenged by other people,” Herrera continues. “People just stay quiet to not be offensive. If you are able to be open [to dialogue] and not take things to heart, or even if you do take things to heart, if you have a civil conversation with them they’ll treat you with the same respect back even if they don’t respect [your position].” 

Herrera recalls this sort of civil discourse has helped him to have meaningful dialogues with people of differing beliefs, even with those expousing racist viewpoints. “There is no stigma; give your opinion,” Herrera says.

Herrera explains that the club follows a cycle between “Activity Days” and “Discussion Days.”

Discussion Days are days when the club dialogues on the prompt chosen by the members. “On Activity Days,” the club takes on established discussion prompts such as “Is there a difference between humans and A.I.” 

Philosophy club is first and foremost, student based. Any conversation can be brought to the table and can only be explored as far as the students want. Topics are chosen from a survey of club members. The club also has a bank of topics ready to go. 

Because students can be jumping from subject to subject, on Discussion Days, Herrera, in his role as a club officer, moderates the conversation, ensuring that everyone is heard and that everyone stays on topic. He manages the branching in conversation. It shows that the club is merely just hosting a conversation, not so much as teaching a topic. “We [the club officers] see ourselves more as supervisors and not as the club’s dictators,” Herrera explains. 

There is no silencing, only respect. 

Herrera was inspired to start the Philosophy Club on a trip to Colombia. “Every single summer I go to Colombia. I go to one of the schools there,” he explains. It was this past summer that he took a philosophy class in Colombia and that course really stuck with him. He approached OH sophomore Valeriia Tugai, the club’s current president, with his idea for the club.  

“I´m a debate student right, and I fell in love with it last year,” Herrera continues. “I just want another place to talk. At the end of the day, what I want to do with Philosophy Club is have a place to talk about cool stuff.”