Successful Skepticism: Creating Lasting Community

Tucker Phelps

11 a.m., January 12, 2020

We often look at youth as a source of hope for the future: we want them to be less prejudiced, more equitable, able to tell right from wrong and better equipped to build a better world. As Skeptics, we often tell ourselves that critical thinking and analytical reasoning are key tools for building this better future.

Yet surveys show that while the newest generation of young adults supports science and scientific literacy, they are increasingly disconnected from the broader skeptical inquiry. Surveys find that US Adults 18-33 are the most likely to identify Astrology as “sort of scientific,” the most likely to fall prey to pyramid schemes and twice as likely to express skepticism in a round-earth than their older peers.

One element which may explain this trend is that social pressure to engage the world rationally is lacking. Research has shown that on its own, analytical reasoning is insufficient to prevent belief in unfounded ideas. The true test is whether or not the individual personally values critical thinking as a means of engaging with their world.

At Camp Quest, we provide children 8-17 the tools necessary to be critical thinkers and engaged members of their community. Between your traditional summer camp activities, campers are taught to engage with everyday science and given the freedom to put to practice what they learn among their peers. Campers are encouraged to ask questions and rewarded for inquiry. In this way they learn more than the bare facts of some scientific experiment, but rather how to value that process and bring it into their everyday worlds at home, school or elsewhere.

What they learn at their sleep-away summer camp they take home for the rest of the year and return again smarter and wiser. Come learn how a volunteer organization is teaching children to think critically while building a supportive community.

For 7 years Tucker Phelps has been serving as Leadership Track Director, board member, and curriculum developer for Camp Quest West, a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) educational non-profit who envisions a world in which children grow up exploring, thinking for themselves, connecting with their communities, and acting to make the most of life for themselves and others. This marks his first year as Director of Operations for Camp Quest West. In his spare time, he works as an analyst in the financial sector.

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