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The City Journals

'The Paradigm Project' podcast reaches variety of guests, celebrates its year anniversary

May 02, 2022 08:25PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Shortly before the first anniversary of Paradigm School’s podcast, South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey was a guest on the show.

That was the most impactful episode for host Kelln Pratt.

“We were talking about education and the government’s role in education as well as the individual’s role, which goes along with some school assignments I’ve been working on,” she said. “I am very passionate about education and about government and its role in our society. I loved being able to meet Mayor Ramsey and learning she has this passion and drive for education, for our citizenry and the good of our society. I really appreciate having that paradigm shift on government roles.”

The Paradigm Project podcast, which typically airs a dozen 45-minute episodes per semester, introduces an expert in the field on a particular topic. After the first 10 minutes, during which guests talk about their work in scripted questions, the podcast goes into unscripted discussion based from a text which everyone reads.

The podcast idea came from Daniel Furniss, a senior at the school.

“Our school has a discussion-based learning system,” he said, outlining that during the three-hour seminar class, students, or scholars, have a discussion based upon a classic. “So I thought, what if we have our podcast like that, use a collection of books from Pluto, Socrates, Aristotle and the great thinkers of the old time, but modernize it and have a great conversation of America and the modern world we’re in right now. So, we use a lot of these texts or books our guests recommend and have discussions with people who are qualified to discuss those things. It’s super cool.”

Furniss, who is the head producer and editor, admits it’s a lot of work, and not just reading additional texts and researching the information. Since the inception of the podcast, he has totaled about 300 hours in the extracurricular activity.

“It’s totally worth it. There’s a level of satisfaction coming out with an episode that anyone in the world could click on that link and listen to an episode that I edited or to an idea I came up with. I may not be the one sitting there as the host, but I was still there editing, and creating a final product and that is super satisfying,” he said.

He said that currently there are about 75 listens per episode. Several teachers or mentors as well as classes have listened to them.

“I’m actually not an avid podcast listener, but they’re kind of central theme in media currently,” he said, adding that most of his friends listen to podcasts. “I may want to do this as a side gig, maybe edit others’ podcast or start my own podcast after I graduate. I’m learning these skills that can translate into future jobs and that has been so crucial to my development as a human.”

That is something that podcast adviser Keith Debono sees as rewarding.

“Literally, there is so much capacity for them to learn,” he said. “They’re learning about working with a soundboard and editing to gaining three time the regular education they would get even at this school because they’re reading so many texts. They do it because they love it. A lot of time they are investing in their education and when I see the learning they get out of it, it’s just beautiful. They’re also getting a portfolio of skills. Every one of them can go and say 'I produced and edited a podcast,' and they can take that wisdom to college and use it for their own resume.”

At any given time, the staff – Furniss and Pratt, along with second host Michael Clark, an intern producer, a social media staff member and Debono — brainstorm topics, discuss what they’ve been learning about and questions they have, and decide guests for an episode.

The group then decides on a classic text and when guests have texts as well, they’ll also read those. Students also will research the topics for episodes. Then, they record the episodes weekly in a former orchestra practice room that is insulated with foam walls and has a microphone set-up. Episodes are produced every two weeks. 

Debono says they always are working ahead, so for example, this summer there won’t be any repeat episodes.

“We’ve done a lot of really cool episodes and we’ve had some interesting guests,” Debono said. “It’s neat that they wanted to spread this idea of a conversation out a little bit beyond just our borders. We’ve had Representative Mike Winder talk about the role of the citizen and their place in government and we’ve had episodes about self-care and mental health with youth with South Jordan counselor Madisen Busenbark.”

The range of topics have stretched from discussions on language distilled in poetry to the economy, focusing on capitalism to communism.

Furniss said one of his favorites was the two-part series on the constitution when Paradigm mentors and graduates talked about each individual article of the U.S. Constitution.

“We talked about the constitution and the obligations of American citizens. It was really cool to host; these people have really studied the constitution and have great discussions about it,” he said.

Debono said the “topics are academic in nature. We’re not about making judgements or for them to be saying their peace. We’re not really a talk show; our podcasts are more educational, informational, trying to inspire conversation,” he said.

Pratt has even gone back and re-listened to podcasts.

“I’ve learned some beautiful concepts that I’ve been able to discuss. It’s so inspirational,” said the senior who plans to study neuroscience and vocal performance on a full-ride scholarship to Westminster College. “This has been genuinely one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had.”