Meriden students have achieved a clean sweep in the 2023 Philosophy in Schools Essay Competition, with Leah Har, Year 10, topping the competition, while Nidhi Nellore and Anjali Kailasanathan, both in Year 11, claimed second and third places respectively. The girls’ achievements signify a five-year streak of Meriden students consistently placing in the top three of the rigorous competition.
Organised in collaboration with the Royal Society of NSW Southern Highlands, the state-wide competition challenges students in Years 10 to 12 to tackle complex philosophical questions.
This year, students were asked to consider whether restrictions should be placed on free speech. To form their insightful essays, Anjali, Leah and Nidhi drew on concepts shared by ancient philosophers and incorporated contemporary examples.
Leah’s winning essay presented her viewpoint that free speech, while essential to democracy and autonomy, should be restricted in some capacity after drawing from a range of perspectives, including those of philosophers Alexander Meiklejohn and John Locke.
Similarly, Anjali delved into the intricate nuances of free speech and the necessity of imposing restrictions to safeguard individuals and minority groups. She drew upon the ideas of Mill’s harm principle and Fienberg’s offence principle to establish measures for determining when the use of free speech can become problematic.
“I focused on free speech in the modern world, especially in light of the development of social media. I explored the line between balancing the value of free speech in a liberal democracy with concerns over the incitement of violence and hate speech,” said Anjali.
Nidhi’s essay focused on the negative consequences of unrestricted speech, particularly in a technologically dominant society. She emphasised the spread of misinformation and its harmful outcomes, highlighting the lack of media literacy skills among individuals to combat fake news. To strengthen her argument, Nidhi drew from real-world examples, such as social media bans following the Capitol riots.
Anjali, Nidhi and Leah are enthusiastic young philosophers who actively participate in intellectual discourse as members of Meriden’s Philosophy Club.
Leah and Nidhi believe studying philosophy plays a valuable role in fostering their critical thinking while broadening their perspectives.
“I like that philosophy encourages diverse perspectives and allows us to freely explore questions as well as arrive at our own conclusions,” said Leah.
“Philosophy requires critical thinking about the world and societal constructs that surround us. I enjoy drawing from real-world examples and ethical frameworks to form a perspective,” said Nidhi.
Anjali agreed and said she enjoys the collaborative nature of philosophy.
“Philosophy is highly subjective. There is not really a correct answer or conclusion to reach. You are encouraged to reach a joint understanding when engaging in philosophical discussions,” said Anjali.
Congratulations to Anjali, Leah and Nidhi on their success. We are proud to see Meriden girls consistently excel in this intellectually challenging competition.