I’m delighted to report that Brad Thompson’s talk at Boulder last night went very well. Unlike most campus talks, this lecture was primarily aimed at the Boulder community at large rather than at students. Since that was a new kind of endeavor, Bob Pasnau (the organizer) and I had no idea how many people would show up. Particularly since I worked mostly upon promoting the talk, I was completely beside myself with worry about the attendance. (I’ve never been so nervous about giving a talk as I was about last night’s lecture! I don’t think I’ll be so beside myself with worry ever again though.)
Happily, we had just over 100 people attend. The local ABC news station even showed up to record the first few minutes of the lecture, although I’m not sure if any of it was aired. (Since the topic of the lecture was so relevant to recent events, I sent the press release as a news tip to all the local stations.) I should call the channel today to find out.
The talk was generally well-received. (If you want to know the general line of argument, you can read this op-ed.) As apparently always happens, a number of students came up to Dr. Thompson after the lecture to tell him that his description of public schooling exactly matched their experience. Personally, the lecture unearthed my mostly-forgotten memories of the utter hell of public middle school in Maryland. Although the academics weren’t so terrible — mostly because I was in all “gifted and talented” classes — the culture of the school was relentlessly anti-intellectual and senselessly malicious. My parents saved me from that hell by transferring me Garrison Forest School, a private all-girls school in northwest Baltimore, just a few weeks before the start of 8th grade. (Sometime in August, I broke down in tears and begged my mother not to send me back to the public school. My parents somehow managed to send me to Garrison at that 11th hour.) If I’d stayed in public school, I would have lobotomized myself to make school tolerable. The process had already started. Honestly, I’m doubtful that I could have recovered from that (intellectually or emotionally) if I’d stayed in that public school for even just another year.
Judging by Dr. Thompson’s talk (and various other sources, including my experience with the students I teach), the situation is even worse for many (if not most) students in the supposedly “better” public schools today. That’s frightening.
So many thanks to Dr. Brad Thompson for the excellent lecture, to Dr. Bob Pasnau for organizing the series, and to the Collins Foundation for funding the series!
The next event will be a debate on animal rights on November 16th between David Barnett and Robert Hanna. Mark your calendars now, as it should be interesting! I am determined to attract an audience fairly balanced between supporters and opponents of animal rights. Since animal rights advocates will probably be more motivated to attend, I’d like to particularly encourage opponents to attend too. (Of course, people with unsettled views would be best of all!) As for the two debaters, I’m not familiar with David Barnett’s views. However, I did read an interesting paper by Robert Hanna on animal consciousness a few semesters ago; it made a good case that animals are not able to suffer, although they do feel pain. Also, Dr. Hanna is an animated and engaging speaker.