Scholarship and SEAL students: Hypotheticals

Recent discussions in my course with GERRIC prompted/inspired me to develop an activity that directly addressed and invoked the creative and intellectual skills of gifted students. The activity is similar to one that I’ve used in many classrooms and demands a developed (or developing) capacity for higher-order thinking skills. It is particularly appropriate for Philosophy classes, yet I consider that parents wishing to challenge their children and also develop a better degree of communication or understanding with their children will enjoy the discussions, and enjoy a clear sense of achievement through completion of the evaluation component.

The design and exercise of this activity is such that it can be managed by gifted students of different “Overexcitabilities” (Dabrowski, 1964). As a gifted student mentor and English tutor, I have helped many students in Melbourne advance their abilities, and also to use their strengths in thinking and puzzle-solving to develop other skills. Some have enjoyed the opportunity in these hypotheticals to be wildly creative, or very talkative, or highly analytical, but many have equally benefitted from using a combination of these skills through the activities. I have a word document version of much better presentation and formatting than what is shown here if interested parties wish to email me at


The following scenarios challenge you through a discussion with a second person(s) (peers, parents): to come up with ideas; to test your values and beliefs; to confront your fears and prejudices. Do NOT answer each question immediately! Instead, try to ask questions and discuss possibilities, try to listen to and consider alternate positions and perspectives. You should potentially spend 5 minutes discussing each hypothetical: ask questions, discuss possibilities, listen with consideration, and achieve a variety of perspectives. Try to stall your personal reaction to the question, and let your answer last! Following each discussion, complete the evaluation form in detail (20-30 mins) to record your thinking habits.  Take your time = three discussions + three evaluations over the period of one week.

i.            You discover that your wonderful one-year-old sister is, because of a mix-up at the hospital, not yours. What would you and your family do? Would you want to exchange the child to try to correct the “mistake”?

ii.            Imagine that you and your family have just won a novelty prize of $10,000,000. The trick is that you can keep half the money if you give half of it away to a worthy cause, or you can keep it all for yourselves for just ten days. What will you and your family do?

iii.            Would you rather have a pet snail, or a pet turtle?

iv.            If you could solve ONE of the world’s problems, what would it be?

v.            Would you be willing to have your left middle finger surgically removed if it ‘somehow’ guaranteed you immunity from all diseases? What about if you and you only could grant immunity to others from all diseases by surgically removing their left-middle finger: would you use your talents on others?

vi.            If you were a teacher, what subject would you like to teach?

vii.            Several major companies that sell personal care products have offered you and your family $50,000 each (as well as the opportunity to become “famous”) if you don’t wash your hair, brush your teeth, or use make-up or deodorant for two months (although you may wash your hands, and you may shower without using soap). Would you and your family accept the offer?

xiii.      If you could have free, unlimited service for five years from an extremely good cook, chauffeur, or masseuse, which would you choose?

ix.            Imagine two people climbing a mountain, one who could climb it in an hour if he wanted to but can’t be bothered, and another who will try as hard as they can only getting a bit at a time, and who will get to the top first? Now think who you would rather be: the person with talent, or the hard worker?

x.            The country has been invaded by a deadly enemy breed of mutant rats. What will you and your family do to survive?

xi.            If a new medicine were developed that would cure arthritis but simultaneously cause a fatal reaction in 1% of those who took it, would you want it to be released to the public?

xii.            A family friend has left you to care for their baby daughter for a week while they visit their grandfather overseas. Given that everyone in your family is busy, but that everyone has a responsibility and desire to help, who will do what?

xiii.           Would you rather be bitten by a cat, or bite a cat?

xiv.          Imagine that your family are the world’s most famous and popular people. Tomorrow morning the world will be talking about what you tell the world today. What message would you like to share?

xv.            What are three things that today has taught you that you can improve on tomorrow?

xvi.          You and your family are out camping when suddenly an alien space-craft crash lands. You approach the wreckage, and you discover the body of an extra-terrestrial. Though the creature is dead, and there is some damage to the space-craft itself, the space-craft still seems to be working. What will you and your family do?

xvii.        Would you accept $1,000,000 to leave Australia and never set foot in it again?

xviii.      Remember the hypothetical situation where you weren’t allowed to improve your appearance or presentation with personal care products? A TV show has now joined the sponsors, and will triple the offer to $150,000 each if they can use hidden cameras around your home. You’re not allowed to tell others about your TV deal though…  Would you accept the offer?

xix.   You and one family member have one week to enjoy a holiday anywhere in the world, doing anything you wish. What is your preference?

xx.     Would you be willing to murder an innocent person if it would ‘somehow’ end all hunger in the world?

xxi.   You have the keys to a craft that will travel to a glorious place otherwise known as “heaven”. What will you discover?

xxii. Would you be willing to give up half of what you now own (randomly selected) for a pill that would permanently change you so that one hour of sleep each day would fully refresh you?

xxiii. Would you be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted, just for the sake of it? (You know nothing more about the history of the house than that) There is no electricity though there is running water and other utilities, and you can bring your own flashlight and/or lantern and such. The nearest neighbors live 5 miles away.

xxiv. When you go to bed at night, what are you grateful for?

xxv.  You’re getting old. What would be better, if you could choose: to lose control of your body, or lose control of your mind?

xxvii.  You ‘somehow’ know for certain that you will die of an incurable disease within three months. Would you allow yourself to be cryogenically frozen *within the week* if you knew it would give you a modest chance of being revived in 1,000 years and living a greatly extended life?

Web bibliography



Answer Yes!/No!, and provide Quick details/Summary for the following:

Did you spend 5 minutes discussing the scenario?

Quick details/summary:


Did you think that interesting questions were raised in the discussion?

Quick details/summary:


Did you discuss a range of possibilities?

Quick details/summary:


Did you feel that you were challenged to change your mind?

Quick details/summary:


Did you feel that you were challenged to consider a position different to your own?

Quick details/summary:


Do you think you discussed a variety of perspectives?

Quick details/summary:


Do you think you now have more ideas about the hypothetical scenario?

Quick details/summary:


Do you have a last answer to the hypothetical question?

Write or type up the hypothetical question and your thoughts. Include illustrations!


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