Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov says that if God is dead, anything is allowable.
One of the principal moral and psychological problems of our time is whether humane ideals can be defended. Loss of faith in the objectivity of ethics has encouraged a sense of hopelessness. The notion that no ideal is better than any other, that a humane commitment has no rational advantage over Nietzsche’s contempt for ordinary people, has been accused of leaving our civilization without self-confidence or a purpose.
This course rejects attempts to salvage ethical objectivity as futile and counterproductive. Instead, we will use philosophical analysis to demonstrate the relevance of logic and evidence to moral debate. Students will learn to defend humane ideals. These are ideals which respect the worth of all people. In this course, students will learn how to use modern social science to refute racists, Social Darwinists, Nietzsche, and the meritocracy thesis of The Bell Curve. Students will learn how to argue effectively that the great post-Enlightenment project– justice for all races and classes, the reduction of inequality, and the abolition of privilege– retains its moral dignity and relevance.
[This class owes much to James Flynn, an emeritus professor at Otago University. James Flynn is one of New Zealand’s most renowned social scientists. His work ranges widely, but he’s particularly noted for his research on intelligence. ‘The Flynn Effect’, the finding that intelligence test scores showed significant and sustained increases over the 20th century is named after him.]
OUR APPROACH TO TEACHING
Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn social sciences best by doing what professional social scientists do.
This course is designed to increase effective observation and critical thinking skills and to encourage learner interaction. We encourage rigorous (but not ad hominem) discourse, questioning textbooks and teachers alike, and tirelessly trying to improve what we do. We believe in creating a truly welcoming space, where learners can come together with understanding, dignity, and compassion, and where diverse backgrounds and life experiences are embraced.
Learning is not a spectator sport. Interaction and intellectual exchanges involving all students and the instructor enrich learning for all. Studying social sciences involves an accumulation of knowledge about the past. But it also requires that we communicate that knowledge to others. You must be ready to share your views in class. A worthwhile course depends upon active participation by all students in class discussions.
The goal here is to advance an intelligent conversation from which we all learn. The most obvious way to do that is to say smart things and say them clearly. But that is not the only meaningful way to participate. Asking a question, connecting something already on the table to another thing, clarifying something that someone else has said, and offering evidence from the text under discussion are also all valuable. Bonus points are awarded for contributions that draw on what others have said. Other things to keep in mind: aim for clarity, keep in mind the value of an amicable classroom environment, and try not to monopolize the conversation.
1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically and creatively analyze the topics covered in the class. These cognitive functions are generally not sufficiently developed until a student is 13+ years old. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.
1 hour per week in class, and an estimated 1 – 2 hours per week outside of class.
Meets once a week for 8 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-18
[NO CLASS ON MARCH 18– SPRING BREAK]
[NO CLASS ON APRIL 8]
Thrilled by the opportunity to teach cutting-edge social science scholarship to teenagers, I leapt at the opportunity to teach classes online. I enjoy old, rare books and gardening in Colorado, where even the incompetent can have beautiful roses. In addition to teaching and gardening, I remain actively involved in competitive sports, and you are cautioned not to wager against me at the ping-pong table.
I teach ancient languages, human & political world geography, history, philosophy, economics, political science …and anything else that catches my interest.