Perse student philosophical about essay competition victory

Hilary Hawthorne (Lower Sixth) enjoyed success in a prestigious essay competition with thought-provoking work on Covid-19.

She won the philosophy section of the New College of the Humanities (NCH) essay competition with her response to the question ‘How should we respond to the fact that misinformation can be harmful while recognising the value of free expression?

Hilary based her investigation around Covid-19 and looked into how misinformation around the virus, via sources such as social media, could be combatted without compromising the right to free speech.

“I found it really interesting because although I knew about misinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories, I didn’t really know about them in-depth, so I started by listening to some podcasts and reading articles on Covid and misinformation,” she said.

“The initial solution would be to completely silence people, but then you get problems with aligning it politically and I looked at Donald Trump as an example of that.

“Looking at this question philosophically was interesting. You cannot compromise freedom of expression because that’s important.

“As such, my solution was to consider having an independent fact-checking organisation that could flag misinformation rather than categorically removing it.”

Hilary, who hopes to study classics and philosophy at university, was delighted to win the competition, which received more than 6,000 entries across all categories.

She added: “I’ve always liked looking at the big questions. Questioning everything around you is the most fundamental thing you can do.”

Fellow Lower Sixth students Emily Martinez-McCune and Shaaon Bhattacharya also picked up major prizes in the NCH competition.

Emily was joint runner-up in the creative writing category with her investigation into the role fiction can serve when the nature of ‘fact’ is continually called into question.

Meanwhile, Shaaon was joint third in the art history section with his response to the title ‘Is it time for museums and galleries to decolonise their collections and, if so, how should they go about it?’


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