Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Topics for 'Conversations'

Getting down to the business of this blog, we need to start thinking about topics for the reunion program I've chosen to call "Conversations." We want to revive the discussion we began on that Sunday morning at the 25th. It was a wonderful, open exchange of feelings about Amherst, careers, family and life at the mid-point.

We're thinking that we might spread the topics out this time, over two or three sessions -- maybe one on Friday evening and a wrapup on Sunday morning. I'm also thinking about drafting discussion "leaders" to help stimulate the conversations.

Obvious topics are "life changes" around family and career. But there are other practical, or even medical, topics we could open up, such as retirement planning, mental and physical health, etc.

Let's hear what you think.


Blogger Peter Alfvin said...

Here are some conversations I'd love to have with my Amherst brethren:

* Learning - Lots of subtopics. M. Scott Peck view of learning/growth as health and commitment to learning/growth as love, so learning is really "everything". Blurring of the distinction between "school" and "work" from a learning perspective, with learning needing to consume a greater and greater percentage of one's time. Similarly, striking a balance between sawing the wood (work) and sharpening the saw (learning) a la Stephen Covey. Finally, how the Internet has changed everything. Literally all recorded information becoming accessible and the challenge become one of filtering. The tremendous democratizing effect this has.

* The Political Divide - Gave Coulter's "How to Talk to a Liberal" to my conservative brother for Christmas. Took solace in Lakoff's "Don't Think of An Elephant" and started his "Moral Politics". The breadth and depth of the gap is amazing, as is how we got here and how things might evolve. Could be limited to the current U.S. political context or expanded to address all sorts of "divides" across the world.

* Addictions, Health and Personal Discipline - So many seductive/addictive forces out there in the form of food, drugs, sex, television, Internet and gambling (traditional and Wall Street style). The consequences are nasty, all making you "sick" in one way or another. (You have to see "Super Size Me" if you haven't already.) Again, citing Peck, health is not really the absence of disease, but putting up the good fight. So how does one put up the good fight? Personal discipline is the answer, but so tough to implement. Religion seems to work for many, but are there other effective approaches?


9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to talk about formal education more, and what works to produce whatever outcomes we seek (critical thinking, morally rich people with a love of life is my preference).

I've got children in school, and I care about what Amherst does. I'm delighted that my kids are so skeptical of authority and so desirous of improving humanity, but I wonder how Amherst can promote those attributes without locking itself into serving solely the "liberal" minority of America.

In particular, I think it's a scandal that of 143 Amherst faculty only one is Republican (as I hear it) - how can we expect an Amherst student/grad to even begin to handle the divide Pete Alfvin just referred to? What happened to the cross-divide phenomenon of our era? (I saw on the Grammy Awards show last night 1970-vintage film clips showing Janis Joplin, the Staples Singers, and others who all seemed to appeal across such divides - and in a very divisive era, too.)

In short, I want to look at whether we are conscious of, and working on, the gaps between our ideals and our reality in this regard.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Andy von Salis said...

Sorry. "Anonymous 1:28pm" is me, Andy von Salis.

Hint to all: Even if you don't choose to post as "Anonymous", that's apparently how your Comment gets signed unless you fill in the optional name. The webpage won't trace your arrival by itself.

4:31 PM  

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