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About the WA Skeptics Awards
for writing critically on any strange belief
"To me truth is precious... I should rather be right and stand alone
than run with the multitude and be wrong".
From a 1931 booklet by Charles de Ford of the USA in which he proves the
earth is flat.
Since 2006 the annual WA Skeptics Awards for Young Critical Writers have
shown that students enjoy learning how to deal with strange beliefs.
They have fun, they learn a lot, there are no restrictions on subject
choice, and the Awards fit in well with classroom activities. Entry is
free. Students can enter individually or as a group whether working
alone or in a classroom. Resources are provided online, so when the work
is part of a classroom activity the demands on a teacher are minimal.
The Awards have been well received by students, parents, and teachers --
for a selection of their views see Critical Thinking in the Classroom.
Be a mythbuster!|
Open to all WA students in years 8-12.
Write critically on any strange belief.
Give the evidence for and against.
Include your own test or survey.
Joint entries welcome. Entry is free.
All entrants achieving merit receive $200
and a certificate, and the school library
receives a skeptic book and a year's
subscription to the Skeptic magazine.
Deadline 30 June each year
Most entries arrive in the last few days.
People often believe in strange, unlikely things. Some strange beliefs
are true -- stones fall from the sky, continents move, space is curved.
Other strange beliefs are not true even though millions of people have
believed in them -- witches on broomsticks, sea serpents, a flat earth,
bloodletting cures illness, magnets cure backpain, sleeping in moonlight
sends you mad, black cats are lucky (or unlucky depending on who you
believe), 13 is unlucky (but not in China and Japan where the unlucky
number is 4).
True or false? Meet the challenge!|
Many popular beliefs and claims are strange, such as astrology,
auras, channelling, crystal power, ESP, faith healing, ghosts,
homeopathy, intelligent design, iridology, Moon landing hoax,
out-of-body experiences, palmistry, poltergeists, pyramid power,
reincarnation, spoonbending, UFOs, water divining, claims that
violence in films and TV does not produce real-life violence,
magnets help you sleep better, GM food is bad for you, psychics
can solve crimes, truth is just a matter of opinion, hydrogen will
replace fossil fuels as an energy source. True or false? Finding
the facts is not easy. Meet the challenge and gain an Award!
Are you a critical writer?
Critical writers ask inconvenient questions. Not what is X but what is
the evidence for X? What is its nature? How can we be sure? Critical
writers get their parents to ask not what they learnt at school today
but what questions they asked. Critical writers ask inconvenient
questions, ignore opinions, and follow wherever the facts may lead.
What successful entrants receive|
The annual WA Skeptics Awards for Young Critical Writers is not
a competition and there is no fixed number of Awards. Each year
all entries achieving merit receive $200 and a signed Certificate
of Merit framed ready for display. Entries not achieving full merit
status but deserving recognition receive a signed Honourable Mention.
Schools with successful entries receive for their library a skeptic book
chosen from the world's best, and a year's subscription to the national
skeptic magazine (see below), which each year features a summary
of the entries. Awards are presented in Perth by a prominent skeptic,
usually in August, or are posted to entrants unable to attend.
the Skeptic is the national skeptic magazine published quarterly by
Australian Skeptics Inc, founded in 1980.
It is noted for its humour, diversity of topic, and a $100,000 prize (as
yet unclaimed) for proof of paranormal ability.
It is one of the world's largest skeptic magazines with over sixty A4
pages per issue. Circulation is 2500.
How entries are judged
Entries are judged according to school year -- the higher the year the
higher the standard.
Entries with several authors are judged to a higher standard than
entries with a single author.
Entries arising from classroom activities are judged to a higher
standard than independent entries.
Conditions of entry
Entrants must be in school years 8-12 and must live in WA.
Entry must be typed or written on A4 paper.
The first page must be an abstract with entry details as described in
How to Write Your Entry.
Entry must be the entrant's own work. Joint entries are welcome.
Begin whenever you like. Most entrants take up to a school term to
complete their entry.
Entries must be in the mail to us by 30 June of the entry year.
Entries are not returned but photocopies are accepted.
All entries will be acknowledged. All entrants will be advised of the
What judges look for|
You don't like muddle and waffle. Neither do our judges. They
look for three things: 1. Clarity and organisation: Can even you
understand what you are saying? Do you group your ideas under
headings as in a newspaper? Are there graphs and pictures to
save on words? Are pages numbered? Can the reader find things
in a hurry? 2. Critical thinking: Have you described your chosen
belief? Its popularity? Why you think it is curious? What the facts
are for and against? Where your information comes from? 3. Your
own test or survey: Be your own mythbuster. Any test, even a
simple one, is worth a hundred opinions. What the judges don't
want is more opinions. Be like Aristotle, who is supposed to have
said "Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth". Further help for
entrants and teachers is in How to Write Your Entry.
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