Malcom Gladwell and others have advanced our knowledge by looking at familiar topics in thought-provoking new ways. Getting a new perspective engages students and instructors, broadens our understanding, facilitates civil discourse and encourages further learning. Together we will explore seven diverse topics, guided by eight instructors whose expertise and enthusiasm will help us see the issues in a new light. Lecture (plus questions). Facilitated Discussion.
Brexit: Causes and Consequences (two sessions): On June 23, 2016, British voters surprised almost everyone—apparently, not least the top campaign leaders in favor—by voting to leave the European Union. Session 1 will cover why the EU was formed, the United Kingdom's history and relationship with it, and what led to the fateful referendum outcome. Session 2 will look at the political, social and economic options the UK now faces and their likely consequences for itself, for the EU, and for everyone else. (Russell Leiman)
Technology: Blessing and/or Curse? (two sessions): Technology has always changed lives—perhaps now more than ever. We will explore some benefits (from autonomous cars to genetic editing), some threats (from loss of privacy to the redundancy of memory), and some challenges (evolution didn’t prepare us for this). (Raymond Conroy, Gordon Pitz, Alan Vaux)
You Are Never Too Old; It Is Never Too Late: Ageism is a socially constructed discrimination that perpetuates stereotypes. We will identify familiar examples, examine their effects and discuss ways to confront this issue personally and on a societal level. (Harriet Vines, Sandy McClurg)
The Science of Magic and Unreliable Eyewitness Testimony: David Sokal will explain some of the brain's abilities and limitations that lead to (1) entertaining magic and (2) the unreliability of most eyewitness testimony. You will see a few magic tricks and learn at least one secret. You will be sworn to secrecy. (David Sokal)
The Decline of Violence: We are surrounded by violence: heart-breaking, endless civil war in Syria, ruthless terrorist attacks on innocents, senseless mass shootings, and on and on. How can one possibly argue that violence is declining? Yet, that is the argument advanced by Steven Pinker in his work, "The Better Angels of Our Nature." This work will serve as the core of the presentation and discussion--and hope for a better future. (Alan Vaux)
The United States of Wall St.: How the Financial Sector Took Over America: Thanks to 40 years of policy choices and bad decisions, the financial sector (banks, hedge funds and other investment firms) now dominates the American economy and politics. This has enormous implications for how business operates, economic growth, income inequality and political power. We'll discuss how this happened and how to respond. The recent book, Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and Fall of American Business, by Time editor Rana Foroohar, is an excellent summary. (Dick Chady)
Restoring American Democracy: How to End Gerrymandering and Improve Governing: There are at least three promising approaches to reducing political polarization and gridlock by improving our electoral system: (1) nonpartisan, independently drawn district (2) approval voting and (3) open primaries. (David Sokal)
Instructors & Bios
Dick Chady is an experienced journalist, communications director and advocate for progressive causes. He has developed materials or presented training on how nonprofits may improve their public relations efforts, health topics, the living wage and Medicaid expansion. He organized the New Lens classes for last spring and winter 2017.
Raymond Conway spent his career in technology and has helped to improve OLLI's presence on the Web. He is now trying to learn more about the humanities.
Russell Leiman grew up in South Africa. For almost 30 years, living in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York, he worked in international finance focused primarily on emerging markets in Asia. He was the executive director of the Asia-Pacific Region for The Nature Conservancy for 13 years until 2012.
Sandra McClurg has more than 35 years’ experience in Human Resource Development and Early Childhood Education at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. She founded the Somerset Academy in Troy, Michigan and attended, by invitation, the first Early Childhood Roundtable at Oxford University.
Gordon Pitz is another (mostly) retired academic. His interests cover most areas of cognitive science, which is a handy label for the interface of psychology, biology, and computer science.
David C. Sokal is a semi-retired public health expert who got interested in magic when his father taught him a sleight of hand card trick. He also teaches an OLLI course, "Magic for Grandparents," with Lee Werley.
Alan Vaux is a retired college professor and administrator. He formerly taught a survey course exploring the prevalence, form, and causal theories of numerous forms of violence--from child abuse, through disparate intimate/family and interpersonal violence, to serial murder. In retirement, he has returned to a longstanding interest in technology.
Harriet Vines is a retired college professor and author of several books. While Director of Age Smart Association, she taught OLLI classes in MA, lectured, conducted workshops, and published Age Smart: How to Age Well, Stay Fit, and Be Happy.