“Prophecies of Doom” aims to tackle the apocalypse

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A capture of a turbulent sky.

Cami Culbertson and Eshaan Mani

This interim term, you could learn all the skills you need to survive the end of the world.

Choir teacher Mr. Chip Colvin and former Upper School math teacher Mr. Olen Rambow are combining forces in their course “Prophets of Doom” to explore various threats to humanity and ways to combat them. 

“I think the magnitude of the subject matter makes the course unique,” Mr. Rambow said. “I mean, we will be talking about the future of humanity itself! What could be more consequential than that?”

The course will involve discussions about videos including those on the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt, podcasts and texts. 

Mr. Colvin explained that the course had its genesis in casual conversations with his coworkers. He said he decided to shift away from music and co-teach this class because he wanted to collaborate with Mr. Rambow, who he described as “a special and one-of-a-kind mind,” and teach students in other disciplines.

“I hope to grow in the same way that I always aim to grow in my teaching: by being open to my students’ ideas and insights and taking the knowledge and wisdom they have offered me onto my next endeavor,” Mr. Colvin said. 

This is also a slight departure from Mr. Rambow’s usual interim term teaching material, though less so than Mr. Colvin. In his past interim term course “Defense Against Dark Math,” students addressed issues that are related to this course such as the Doomsday Argument and Fermi’s Paradox, for example. 

“In ‘Defense Against Dark Math,’ we talked about the role of math in calculating the probabilities of potential future disasters,” he said. “But in this class, we won’t do any calculations. We’ll focus more on the social aspects of these problems.”

In his time at Kinkaid, Mr. Rambow was well-known across the Upper School for his musical performances, light demeanor and engaging teaching style. He is an accomplished teacher with knowledge in physics, math, writing, medical imaging and spectroscopy. Though he taught for eight years at Kinkaid, he spent five years teaching in China.

Mr. Rambow departed the Kinkaid community after the 2021-22 school year. He is the first former faculty member to return to teach a full-time course at the school. The only other time a former faculty member has taught during interim term was in the 2022 interim term, when former Upper School teacher Mrs. Rosalie Filippone guest-taught the knitting class for a day. 

Mr. Rambow expressed his feelings about returning to campus.

“Being a socially awkward person, I’m a little nervous,” he said. “But I’m really looking forward to seeing so many people I haven’t been able to talk to in a long time.”

Both Mr. Colvin and Mr. Rambow expressed their excitement to hear what students think about both fantastical threats to humanity, such as alien invasions and killer robot armies, and serious threats.

“I hope everyone will have fun, but most importantly, I hope everyone in the class, including me, will have their mind broadened and become more conscious of what we humans can do to overcome our differences and work together to solve the big problems that threaten us all,” Mr. Rambow said.