May 9 to Jul 18
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Dan Gornel
Co-coordinator: Lee Molho
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should. This is not a book about dying; it is a book about living at the end of life and what the American health care system needs to do to improve end of life care for seniors: what can be done, what has been done, and what is needed to do it better.
Dr. Gawande, a Harvard surgeon, is a master reviewer of a number of health care problems including articles in the New Yorker about variable costs of health care in different sections of the country, and other best sellers such as The Checkpoint Manifesto. Being Mortal was on the New York Times non-fiction best seller list for over 70 weeks, many of them as #1.
As a retired geriatrician, I consider Being Mortal to be one of the most important books on health care for seniors to be published in the last decades.
Jun 20 to Aug 1
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: David Roloff
Co-coordinator: Barbara Klein
of our cities has been occurring across the US for the last 20 years, intensifying
over time. Some see this development as a revitalization of cities and urban
spaces, while others argue that it is displacing people and communities,
destroying the fabric of civil society in those neighborhoods.
this SDG, we will look at what gentrification means and what impact it has. Using Peter Moskowitz's How to Kill a City (2017) as our
core book, supplemented by a number of articles, we will try to understand this
process from various points of view. We
will analyze the forces behind gentrification in a number of specific cities
and consider how the question of who can and cannot afford to pay rent affects
inequality and racial justice.
Apr 30 to Jul 30
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Alice Lewis and Sam Pryor
NOTE: Sam Pryor and Alice Lewis are coordinating this SDG together.
By 1815 Europe was
reverberating from the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic
Wars, events that had not only challenged the feudal,
monarchical landscape of Europe but had engulfed virtually all of Europe in
conflict. In that year, the great European powers met in Vienna with the goal
of assuring that no one power could again threaten the security of the
continent as had Napoleonic France, and guaranteeing this by restoring
monarchies in France and elsewhere. This system, the Concert of Europe, held
for most of the 19th century,
which saw far fewer wars and less bloodshed than in any of the preceding four
centuries. By 1914, this system had broken down, and Europe was again at the brink of
war -- this time the threat came from the newly formed German Empire, and
industrialization ensured that the coming war would be far deadlier than
anything seen before.
In the years
between the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of World War I, Europe experienced
transformative political, economic, scientific and economic changes that
created the modern world. Following the 1815 Congress of Vienna, Europe
grappled with forces of political reaction, revolution and liberalism;
growing nationalism; accelerating
industrialization and its resulting social changes; global
expansionism and imperialism; new political alignments and philosophies
such as Socialism, Marxism, and
Anarchism; and a technological revolution
that included the railway, the telegraph, the steamship and others. The changes
in 19th century Europe were not just political, social and
economic but included a series of shocks in the arts from Romanticism to
Impressionism to “The Rites of Spring.”
on the highly acclaimed book, The Pursuit of Power, Europe
1815-1914 by Richard J. Evans, this SDG will illuminate the incredible
changes that took place across Europe from Russia in the east to Britain in the
west. While the changes were not uniform across Europe, no part was left
unchanged. In this SDG, we meet political leaders from Metternich to Bismarck,
from Mazzini to Tsar Alexander III; social philosophers from Owen to Marx, from
Bakunin to the Webbs; authors from Dickens to Tolstoy to Proust; and music
composers and artists who revolutionized the arts. Join us for this discovery
of Europe and the creation of the modern world.
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Victor Weingarten
Co-coordinator: Joyce Campbell
History’s Greatest Speeches
and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation,
conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created
equal”. When Abraham Lincoln said these words at Gettysburg, Virginia on a cold
November day in 1863, the introduction to his Gettysburg Address, he had no way
of knowing that his speech would define an entire period of American history
forever. Defining a nation’s struggle for equality, democracy and unity.
nothing that can capture the mood, feeling, and excitement you get from a great
speech. With this in mind the speeches that we will discuss in this S/DG represent
centuries of oration as well as the most fascinating and important moments in
history. From Pericles’s “Funeral Oration” during the Peloponnesian War to
Winston Churchill’s declaration that “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” at
the beginning of World War II, some of the speeches we will be discussing show how
leaders of great nations inspired their countrymen during the darkest days of
battle. Through the speeches and words of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther
King Jr. and Obama will illustrate how some of
history’s most courageous activists spoke truth to power in their efforts to
remake the world.
core book is “Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History” edited by William
Safire. Each week two speeches will be selected and analyzed from the 200
speeches in the core book. The speech or part of the speech will be read in class. The historical
and political background for making the speech will also be discussed.
We will discuss why these great speeches affected people in critical times in
history. You should also enjoy reading the great speeches in class and discussing how the speech affected you. This should be an exciting S/DG discussing history from Pericles Greece to the present through the uses of great speeches. If you are tired of present day politicians not being able to solve our problems then find out, by taking this S/DG, how great men of the past addressed their problems.
May 3 to Aug 2
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Ruhama Goldman
Co-coordinator: Linda Pomerantz-Zhang
What is the role of climate in human affairs? ? How did
human societies cope with climate change?
Historians have rarely paid attention to climate change, but
it turns out that a few more, or a few less inches of rain, a change in one or
two degrees, can make a difference in how human events unfold. Often disregarded, climate change was a
contributing factor to numerous historical developments, but it was far from
being determinative. How humans coped with factors that were beyond their
control determined the course of history.
The course will cover the effects of climate change on human
history and the various ways humans responded to changes in their environment.
It will cover a period of about 20,000 years, from 18,000 BCE to 1850 CE. The course is not Eurocentric; it covers the
effects of climate change on many diverse cultures located all around the world.
Three books authored by Brian Fagan are our core books:
The Long Summer, How Climate Changed
The Great Warming, Climate Change and the Rise
and Fall of Civilizations
Little Ice Age, How Climate Made History
will provide an additional tool for the understanding of historical events.
May 1 to Jul 31
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Jim Kohn
Co-coordinator: Toni Schuman
One of the
favorite indoor sports of historians is taking potshots at the statesmen who
made the decisions at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. How could they have been so stupid on such
issues as German reparations, claims of the nationalities and arranging borders
in the Middle East? However, all of
these issues seem much simpler in retrospect than they did to the decision
makers at the time.
We have had SDGs on World War I
and the Paris Peace Conference. This proposed SDG is somewhat different. Rather than the usual presentation and discussion of each set of issues, the idea here is for the weekly presenter to argue the case of a nationality or country and for the SDG members to put
themselves in the position of the three principal decision makers at the
Conference-- Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau-- and to discuss and debate with the presenter the merits of the claims advanced by the presenter and what would be a reasonable result. In this way, we should be better able to experience the difficulties and pressures felt by all of the Conference participants.
The defeat of Germany, the Austrian Hungarian
Empire and the Ottoman Empire meant that the winners’ decision makers had to
listen to the requests and claims of many countries and ethnic groups
(including allies) as they reconfigured Europe and the Middle East. Many of these claims conflicted with each
other and with the objectives of the winners, even claims of the winners were
sometimes not merited by the claimant’s contribution to the War effort, and others
rested on historical and ethnic grounds which were questionable, murky and/or
not well understood by the decision makers.
Another major set of conflicts requiring resolution was the extent to
which ideas of punishment of the defeated countries should be controlling and,
more particularly, what to do about Germany. Despite the difficulties, decisions had to be
made, and they were.
The first sessions of the SDG will
necessarily set the scene, with information and discussion about the
makeup of Europe and European possessions before the War and the condition of
Europe at the start of the War. We will also consider the backgrounds of and pressures on the three decision makers and selection of
the format for the Conference. The
balance of the weekly sessions will be devoted to the type of dialogue and debate indicated above, including consideration of whether responsibility for the War rested exclusively with Germany.
The discussion of each claim will include the following: the
justice of the claim; the politics of the claimant’s region; the emotions, politics
and objectives of the winning countries; the anticipated results of alternative
possible decisions; the fear of Bolshevism; the ways in which facts on the ground were changing as the Conference proceeded; and the particular reactions and actions of the three decision
makers. Each discussion will also
include an evaluation of the wisdom of the decision made, both then and in the
years which were to come.
May 1 to Jul 31
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Jack Samet
Co-coordinator: Beverly Grabell
This SDG was jointly created by Jack Samet and Beverly Grabell. The entertainment value in an audience's cinematic experience often lies in the plot, acting, music and/or other aspects of a film as it is observed and presented on the screen. Some movies, intentionally or otherwise, however arouse more and a viewer can't help thinking about them well after he/she has left the theater. These movies engage a viewer's intellectual appetite for contemplating questions concerning self, relationships, values and strategies, political and social issues, which may or may not be "resolved" in the presentation on screen. We will examine 14 such films and try to identify, explore and address the broader and enduring questions they raise, subliminally or openly. In addition, we will explore whether the film can lead its audience to similar views of the questions raised or if audience opinions on the meaning and resolution of the questions perceived to be raised are highly individual. We will keep our eyes wide open as we examine "Eyes Wide Shut", we will be present when we try to understand the value of "Being There" and we will behold, with an appreciative eye, "American Beauty" among others. Our discussion will consist of more than "13 Conversations About One Thing" , we won't overlook "Her" , and though we may or may not be "Ordinary People" we will engage these films without disregarding a "Notebook".
May 3 to Jun 14
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Fred Reimer
Co-coordinator: David Roloff
The Vietnam War was not only waged by soldiers on the battlefield. Long after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the traumas of war continued in the intimate memories and scarred bodies of those who fought, and in the nightmares of civilians whose lives were destroyed or irrevocably changed. The Vietnam War has also had an enduring and contentious national legacy, which still shapes military policy, political debates, and the way war is portrayed in journalism, literature, and film. We will explore the creative outpouring of responses to the Vietnam War in film. We will ask how filmmakers represented the experience of those on the battlefield and the home front; how they fought symbolic battles over the interpretation and memory of the war; and what legacy they created for future generations.
Michael Cimino’s death in 2016 brought back memories of The Deer Hunter and other impactful Vietnam War films. It wasn’t until after Saigon’s fall that Cimino and other directors began grappling with the conflict. Right from the start, Hollywood struggled with the Vietnam War, a conflict that deeply divided public opinion and defied easy representation onscreen. The 1968 John Wayne film The Green Berets, released at the height of the conflict, was an old-fashioned war drama and ignored the moral gray areas of the increasingly confused war effort. Other movies dealt with the issues only indirectly or focused on the state side anti-war counter culture that was growing parallel to the conflict. It wasn’t until well after the last chopper left Saigon in 1975 that Hollywood attempted more in-depth and nuanced looks at the conflict, with Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter leading the way. Things came full circle in January 2014 with Last Days In Vietnam, an American documentary film written, produced and directed by Rory Kennedy—about forty years after Saigon fell.
Our selected films will be viewed “at home” (using Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or a similar service), and then discussed in class. Discussion topics for each film will include:
- How our filmmakers represented the experience of those on the battlefield and the home front
- How they fought symbolic battles over the interpretation and memory of the war
- What legacy they created for future generations.
- Place within the overall “world of film” and among Vietnam War films
- Time and place, setting of the film, plot summary, the cast, etc.
- The film’s unique characteristics, techniques, technology or breakthroughs
- Key themes, characters, events, symbology, imagery, etc.
- Messages, political or social commentary, and interpretative frameworks
- Mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing/montage and music/score
- Critics’ reviews and commentaries on the film (as available)
- Important scene viewing from the DVD (Optional—as time allows)
Given the usual S/DG time constraints, this S/DG will take a broad—rather than an overly deep—look at these often challenging films. At the end of the semester, the desired outcome is to understand better these overall works, within both historical and film studies contexts.
Apr 30 to Jul 30
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Linda Rice
Co-coordinator: Doug Green
The Arabian Peninsula is
located at the cross-roads of the Middle East. It is the birthplace of
Mohammed and the heart of Islam. It’s a hot spot, sometimes the hottest.
Other SDGs have examined the peninsula along with neighboring Arab and
Muslim countries, using core books. The problem with core books: current
events make core books obsolete before the SDG starts. This SDG is
After some historical
review, we examine current status. There has been peninsula oil wealth,
but what about now? Saudi’s are at the top of Arab heap, aren’t they?
Yemen’s failure is due to the Saudi’s aggressions or due to Iran's
interference or…? What’s going on with Bahrain, with the UAE, with the
boycott of Qatar? What will happen to them all in the future? The
religious and political challenges are so great that these countries risk
internal turmoil and even collapse. What will happen with regards to
religion, human rights, women, and economies?
To find out, we read the
latest on-line references, including: The Economist, Al-Monitor.com, Haaretz.com,
Geolpoliticalfutures.com, NYTimes.com, Aljazera.com, foreignpolicy.com.
For those of you unaccustomed to finding references on-line, the coordinator and
co-coordinator will show you how.
Our discussions will also include
substantive underlying issues in the peninsula which contribute to these current
challenges and potentials. We will know what’s going
on right now in the Arabian Peninsula, and endeavor to understand why.
Apr 30 to Jul 30
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Hal Slavkin
Co-coordinator: Warren Fish
brain shapes your life and your life shapes your brain. Your genes (genotype) and microenvironment (epigenetic) control the structure and function of your neurons, neuronal synapses, and brain size and shape. Using neuroscientist David Eagleman’s The
Brain: The Story of You (2015), this SDG will explore the wonders of the human brain to discover the ultimate story of
us, namely how and why we feel and think the way we do. It has been stated that "Eagelman wants to make us more conscious..." (NY Times) We will consider questions such as why our brains need other
people, how we make decisions, and how technology is changing what it means to
be human. We will learn how genes regulate brain expression and beyond. We will explore how identical twins (monozygotic twins) present profoundly different neurodegenerative diseases and disorders. Eagleman's book is the companion book for a PBS series
of the same name (aired in 2015). This course is designed to
appeal to scientists and curious non-scientists alike.
May 2 to Aug 1
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Stephen Breuer
Co-coordinator: Linda Kelemer
The role of the comedian has changed over the years in America. Starting as performers filling in between more substantial acts, comics have evolved into central roles on stage, film, radio and television. More than mere joke tellers, they have depicted the foibles of our society and today are influential commentators and activists in the society. From tellers of jokes and performers in skits, some former stand-uo comedians are hosts to our most influential shows: Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, John Stewart, and Ellen DeGeneris, for example.
In his new book, The Comedians Kliph Nesteroff, chronicles this evolution. Using and expanding on his excellent work, we shall attempt to better understand who and why we have enjoyed so much over the years.
May 3 to Jul 5
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Dave Pierce
Co-coordinator: George Lauer
Human activity just 600 years ago was vastly different from
what we do today. Such basics as food,
clothing, transportation, medicine, speech, weapons, and the ways we study
nature are all very different today.
These changes are all due to science.
Since we live in a scientific society, it behooves us to understand how
these remarkable changes came about and how they affect us today.
In this 10-week SDG we will consider the following areas of
science. Each member will select one of
the areas below and discuss important milestones in the history and development
of that science. This SDG is non-mathematical.
1. What is
science? Astronomy: understanding the universe.
2. Physics: how
3. Geology: motion, evolution
of understanding our planet, plate tectonics, whatever happened to the poor dinosaurs?
discovery of the elements and how they react.
understanding and repairing the human body.
6. Evolution: Darwin,
Wallace, Bates. Human evolution,
7. More Physics: understanding
light and other forms of radiation.
8. Relativity, the atomic
9. Biology: cells, genetics,
10. Summary of the
invention and evolution of science.
For each of the ten discussions, we will want to address
some or many of the following questions:
What is science? How
did science, as a way of discovering how the world works, evolve from
superstition and dogma to experiment and reasoning?
Why did science begin with astronomy?
How has your “your” science evolved over the centuries?
How was the scientific method applicable to your science, or
How does your science relate to other sciences?
What role has technology played in the development of your
What is/was the funding source for your science?
What has been the role of your science in important world
events, like the Industrial Revolution, the cures of fatal illnesses, the
How does your science use or rely on mathematics, or not?
What hinders scientific progress?
What is the role of science today?
What would a world without science be like?
How do scientific discoveries affect the future?
Apr 30 to Jul 2
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Paul Markowitz
Co-coordinator: Teri Ponchick
At the close of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied eight countries in Eastern Europe, the countries the West came to view as the "Eastern Bloc". During the period of Communist domination, these countries shared a common fate and appeared to be an ideologically and politically homogenous region. In and of itself, this is remarkable; these countries had little in common prior to 1945, and since 1989, they have moved in separate directions.
Between 1945 and 1953, the Soviet Union successfully "sovietized" these countries, effectively creating totalitarian regimes from the Baltic to the Adriatic. This did not happen overnight but it did follow a well-planned blueprint. How did this happen and what did it involve? Using Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 (2012),we will see how the Soviet Union deliberately destroyed civil society and how individuals living in these countries survived. Applebaum's book is based on extensive research in the archives, opened after 1991, in the former Soviet Union and in each of the countries that formed the Eastern Bloc. In understanding how the Soviet Union succeeded in their quest to create ideological and political homogeneity, we will better understand what a totalitarian society is for the people living in it and how it comes into existence.
Jun 19 to Jul 31
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Larry Ceplair
Co-coordinator: Christine Holmgren
Woland (the devil) and his minions have arrived in Soviet Moscow in the 1930s. And the city and its denizens will never be the same. Mikhail Bulgakov's (1891-1940) brilliant satire takes the form of a novel within a novel. The exterior novel is a refashioning of the Faust/Mephistopheles legend; the interior novel is a reworking of the Jesus/Pontius Pilate story. The two are brilliantly intertwined to dramatize the fate of artists living under oppressive regimes. But the book contains
much more than that – it poses a number of interesting philosophical and
cosmological questions about reality, faith, love, truth, the supernatural, and the power of ideas and prejudices. It is one of the greatest novels, in any
language, written during the twentieth century.
For obvious reasons, it was not published during Bulgakov's lifetime. An incomplete version of the manuscript was published in English translation in 1967 and more complete translated versions in 1973 and 1989. There are six translations currently available. We will use the one by Diana Burgin and
Katherine Tiernan O’Connor (Vintage International).
Jun 20 to Aug 1
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Paul Sailer
Co-coordinator: Geralin Clark
The Multitudes of Microbes within
Us, A Grander View of Life: We are All Ecosystems
The Amazing, And Only Recently
Discovered Story: How the Microbes Living
in and on Us Shape the Development, Growth, and Survival of All the Plants and Animals on the
For most of human history the
existence of microbes was unknown. When they
finally surfaced in biological studies, they were cast as disease causing rogues. Only
recently have the study of microbes moved from the neglected fringes of biology
to its center. Even today many people think of microbes as germs to
be eradicated. But those that live within
us and on us--- our microbiome --- are invaluable and necessary parts of our
Our core book and this SDG lets us
peer into this world, allowing us to see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are
to us, and every other organism on the planet. How they
sculpt our organs; defend us from disease, break down our food, educate our
immune systems, guide our behavior, bombard our genomes with their genes, and
grant us many of our abilities. While much of the prevailing
discussion around the microbiome has focused on its implications for human
health, our core book and this SDG, broadens this focus to describe how microbes
effect the entire animal kingdom—how each animal is an integrated traveling ecosystem onto
itself -- giving us a much grander view of life.
Almost all of this information is
new to science, so any microbiologists among us will also have much to learn.
Among the many amazing tidbits we’ll uncover, are: the fact that every single individual is a complete and totally unique ecosystem
of bacteria different from that of every other individual; that the number of bacteria in 1 gram of our dental plaque is
greater than the number of humans that ever lived, how within us there are 500 times more
bacterial genes than human genes, how the microbes on our left palm
differ from those on our right palm, and those in our left armpit differ from those in our right; that bacteria are necessary for many higher organisms to develop proper bodies; that much of
the content of human breast milk is not digestible by the human infant but instead sustain bacteria necessary for the infant’s digestive system; that bacteria constitute most of the mass of living
organisms on the planet; and that 99.999 % of them are totally unknown to biologists.
Our readable core book by a
distinguished micro biologist, reads
almost like a detective story. And we’ll
supplement it with relevant videos.
So come join us in a fascinating 7
week exploration of the amazing world of microorganisms, that shows us how every larger
organism is a complete ecosystem, and the new perspective this can give us on our
lives and the lives of every creature on the planet. And bring your microbiome along
for the ride.
After this SDG you’ll never again see yourself as an isolated individual, instead recognizing that we and all the other humans and animals are all colonies: walking islands of interconnected life.
of the incredible universe that exists within the bodies of all living creatures: our microbiome. How microbes
became visible in the 17th century by the invention of the microscope by Antony
van Leeuwenhoek, master lens maker. How other investigators who followed focused on the role
of microbes in disease-- but the bigger, more common story is one of symbiosis
between microbe and host.
How symbiotic bacteria can play an important
role in animal development and sculpt animal bodies. That microbes
are beneficial to us, but they are still their own entities. They
can be our partners, but they are not necessarily our friends.
The Origins of the relationships between microbes and their
hosts. Disrupting those relationships. Consequences of the intimate
partnerships between microbes and their hosts for the fates of entire species. How
bacteria, unlike higher animals, can carry out horizontal gene transfers from one individual to another.
How even buildings develop a microbiome as its occupants give off microbes with
every breath, every touch. How buildings can be intentionally manipulated to benefit beneficial bacteria.
May 2 to Aug 1
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Leo Roos
Co-coordinator: Peter Hantos
"Nothing is safe. Not your email, your personal information, your photos, your files, If it is stored on line, it's theoretically accessible to anyone with the skills and wherewithal to grab it" (1)
The skill to get the wherewithal to grab it is called hacking, the art of creative problem solving, whether that means finding an unconventional solution to a difficult problem or exploiting holes in sloppy programming.
Hacking in the age of the Internet can be broken down into three distinct categories: Personal (hacking of your home computer for nefarious reasons, mostly financial but also setting up botnets), secondly, hacking of commercial entities (mostly for financial gain and information or intimidation, for example utilities) and thirdly, hacking of government entities. (military or government agencies, mostly to influence national policy). Although these are distinct categories, they overlap in many cases. For instances, using personal computers via botnets to Distributed Denial of Service (DDos) that in theory could shut down worlds stock markets with horrific financial consequences. In case of military use, Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm believed to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyberweapon that shut down Iranian centrifuges. Benign hacking has been used show weaknesses in the computerized instrumentation in cars, hospital equipment, planes and normal household items. For instance the Nest thermostat. These weaknesses can be triggered not only by hackers but also stray EMF radiation.
in the area of Computer Software has existed since the first DOS Program was
written. It has given resulted in numerous text books
and actual classes for the “White Hat” hackers and numerous articles but few
books regarding the Black Hat Hackers.
this SD/G we will try to answer the question of what hacking really means in
our daily lives and how our entire privacy has become non-existent as well as
it can now affect our health, privacy, personal finances and safety.
(1) Data downer: Hackers will grow increasingly bold in 2017. David Lazarus, LA times, Friday, December 30, 2016
May 1 to Jul 31
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Bob Glasser
Co-coordinator: Ed Keane
I read The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon last after reading an extremely favorable review of the book in The New Review of Books (August 18, 2016). Two sentences from the last paragraph of the review, written by William Nordhaus, are. "To summarize, Rise and Fall is a magnificent book on American economic history of the last century and a half. . . . If you want to understand our history and the economic dilemmas faced by the nation today, you can spend many a fruitful hour reading Gordon's landmark study."
If we discount some of the flowery language, I believe the publishers blurb on the inside of the paper cover of the hardcover edition fairly summarizes the book:
"In the century after the Civil War, an economic revolution improved the American standard of living in ways previously unimaginable. Electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, and television transformed households and workplaces. With medical advances, life expectancy grew from forty-five to seventy-two years between 1870 and 1970. Weaving together a vivid narrative, historical anecdotes, and economic analysis, The Rise and Fall of American Growth provides an in-depth account of this momentous era. But has the era of unprecedented growth come to an end?
"Gordon challenges the view that economic growth can or will continue unabated, and he demonstrates that the life-altering scale of innovation between 1870 and 1970 can't be repeated. He contends that the nation's productivity growth, which has already slowed to a crawl, will be further held back by the vexing headwinds of rising inequality, stagnating education, an aging population, and the rising debt of college students and the federal government. Gordon warns that the younger generation may be the first in American history that fails to exceed their parents' standard of living, and that rather than depend on the great advances of the past, we must find new solutions to overcome the challenges facing us."
May 1 to Jul 31
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Stanton Zarrow
Co-coordinator: Elliot Goldman
Government is not the solution, it is the problem; stimulate the economy by cutting taxes on the wealthy; increase freedom by reducing the size of the federal government and its role in the lives of Americans; and characterize America's adversary, the Soviet Union, as the Evil Empire. These were the slogans and sound bites of the Reagan presidency.But taxes were raised, the federal government grew larger, arms treaties were concluded with the Soviets and the "Cold War" ended.
These contradictions and achievements were all part of the iconic presidency of Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. Characterized both as an 'amiable dunce' and as a transformative president, this SDG, by examining the events during Reagan's presidency, will try to determine his proper role in the pantheon of American presidents.
May 3 to Jul 5
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Sheri Ross
Co-coordinator: Barry Mc Grath
"It was the
rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war
One view is that
a perilous historical pattern exists whenever a rising power challenges one
that has been dominant. In that vein, we will analyze instances of
analogous challenges in world history, most of which resulted in war between
the rising and established powers e.g. Athens vs. Sparta and Germany vs.
Britain. In "Destined for War" by Harvard professor and defense
analyst Graham Allison, he seeks to understand the distinct characteristics of
China and of the US and the flashpoints that might lead to conflict.
second view is that
China's growth actually enhances Western commercial supremacy. By seeking to
realize its dream of modernization by integrating itself into the Western
economic order, China is playing by our rules, reinforcing the dominance of our
companies and regulatory institutions. In ‘Playing Our Game: Why China's Rise
Doesn't Threaten the West” by Edward S. Steinfeld, the author asserts that China has in many
ways handed over--outsourced--the remaking of its domestic economy and domestic
institutions to foreign companies and foreign rule-making authorities and
China's economic emergence is good for America.
We wise PLATO members will
analyze both views, debate the pros and cons and arrive at a sound conclusion
to advise our government on how to proceed in this SDG.
May 9 to Jun 20
- 12:00 PM
Coordinator: Susana Schuarzberg
Co-coordinator: Ros Wolf
Following the excellent book by Richard V. Reeves, we will analyze the reasons why it is the upper middle class, not the 1%, who are the main beneficiaries -and the principal cause - of inequality in America. There are certain characteristics in the group defined as "upper middle class " that insures that their children will continue to thrive in the same way and enjoy the advantages that class assigns to them. We will discuss the main explicit and implicit ways in which America's richest 20% having grabbed their piece of prosperity are fighting like hell to keep it. This is what Mr. Reeves defines as "dream hoarders". Also, we will focus our attention into possible areas of improvement in order to turn around the vicious circle of poverty.
May 7 to Jul 16
- 3:00 PM
Coordinator: Judith Taylor
Co-coordinator: Tom Loo
Since the inception of photography nearly 200 years ago, women have played an important role in its development, often pushing boundaries and defying social
convention. These great women photographers stood their
ground in a man’s world to establish reputations as photojournalists and fine
art photographers. They paved the
way for succeeding generations of women who today play major roles in the
profession. Our course begins in the 19th century and moves through the 20th to the present. Some of the artists we will study: Julia Margaret Cameron, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Daine Arbus, Vivien Maier, Cindy Sherman.
Our primary focus is to look closely at the
photographs themselves—to analyze their formal characteristics (light,
composition, line, etc.) as well as subject matter. To ask: Why is this photograph effective? How does it make us feel? What does it want us to see? We also want to understand each artist's place in the history of photography and in the context of her times. And to ponder: Are there "woman's' subjects?" Do women photograph women differently than men? In individual cases, were
these women helped or hindered by the man around them? And, of course, there are the ever-evolving issues on the nature of photography as medium and art.