who we are
About Corrupt the Youth
Corrupt the Youth is a philosophy outreach program inspired by Socrates, the Greek philosopher notorious for corrupting the Athenian youth. Socrates encouraged the young people of Athens to think critically, to ask questions, and to challenge authority. Corrupt the Youth continues this tradition. Corrupt the Youth believes that the study of philosophy stimulates intellectual curiosity, that it allows students to develop a sense of agency, and that it builds community by cultivating a capacity for perspective-taking.
Corrupt the Youth currently offers in-school programs through our Chapters.
We invite donations here to continue funding free, residential summer camps in odd numbered years.
Corrupt the Youth Chapters offer a semester long course each Spring. Each chapter operates in partnership between a university philosophy department and a local, Title 1 high school.
This partnership enables Corrupt the Youth to bring graduate students, professors, and talented undergraduates together with high school students from underserved backgrounds. You can find our current locations below.
The goal of each chapter is to bring philosophy to populations that have traditionally lacked access to it – people from low-income and working-class backgrounds, people of color, and gender minorities – creating a pipeline for fresh perspectives from people and groups that have been historically excluded.
“Corrupt the Youth is a place to discuss ideas that have circulated our minds, often previously left unquestioned. Not only that, it’s a place to absorb new ideas, some of which we would’ve never heard had we remained in our own bubbles.” – Former CTY participant
In summer 2019, Corrupt the Youth offered our first completely free, two-week sleep-away camp for talented high school students interested in philosophy. Students spent their days engaged in rigorous, interactive philosophical instruction and their evenings having fun together, exploring what college has to offer while extending their discussions from the day.
“I’ve been struggling for a long time to find my voice. Being a girl and a minority it’s always been difficult but when I came to camp my opinions felt so valued and I was taught how to speak and fight for what I believe in and in a respectful way. ” – CTY summer camp participant
Corrupt the Youth’s summer philosophy camp offered intensive courses aimed at developing critical thinking skills and applying philosophical thought to understanding contemporary social, political, and moral issues. Campers each enrolled in two three-hour courses, took a writing workshop, and participated in ACT and college-prep seminars.
Why Corrupt the Youth
a letter from the founder
To future corrupters of the youth –
I came to philosophy late. The truth is I had no plans to come to it at all. I didn’t know that philosophy was a real subject of study or a possible profession. Like many from low-income and/or working-class backgrounds, I had little exposure to white-collar, upper-class professions, and to their corresponding academic disciplines. My choice to take philosophy was strategic, incidental – it was a way to boost my LSAT scores. I realized almost immediately that my future lay in philosophy, because its questions about and perspectives on society were provocative and exciting, and echoed my own. I felt that I had found my field. And I couldn’t help but wonder how my path might have been different if I had been exposed to philosophy earlier.
The loneliness, alienation, and perpetual sense of unbelonging I began to feel in my graduate department were not, I quickly understood, unique to me. For all of us who leave working-class backgrounds to enter the academy, or come from historically-excluded minority groups, we soon find that there are few people who look like us, who share our background and experiences, or who can appreciate the obstacles we have overcome to be in these spaces. So, I made it my mission to create new spaces, to help young people who aren’t typically exposed to philosophy – and whom we overlook as future philosophers at our peril – discover their paths sooner, and not have to walk them alone.
In Spring 2016 I founded the first chapter of Corrupt the Youth, establishing a partnership between the philosophy department at UT-Austin and a local Title I high school in East Austin. There, peers from my graduate program, as well as my professors, taught classes several times a week, introducing students to complex philosophical concepts and exploring their practical applications. I envisioned Corrupt the Youth as an opportunity to level the playing field, to create a community in philosophy for those in the margins, and to offer them a pathway into the discipline. It was also a way to make the background experiences of people like me real and tangible to my peers and professors by enlisting them as Corrupt the Youth’s volunteer educators. In bringing these two distinct groups together – folks from elite institutions and those from working-class and minority backgrounds – I hoped we could rediscover the joy and value of philosophy in a new and dynamic way.
For me, philosophy provided the means to name my experiences and to question how my world was constructed. In my experience as a high school teacher, I found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are rarely asked to share and develop their own views on the important issues that will shape their world. Corrupt the Youth seeks to change that and aims to give these students an opportunity to clarify their own thoughts and to discover the power of their own voices. Five years after our founding, we run three chapters across the United States, we have partnered with six institutions, and we have introduced over 100 students to philosophy. This is only the beginning—we have work to do yet. We invite you to be a part of it.
— Briana Toole, Founder