Photo courtesy of Humanities Washington | Johann Neem, professor, Western Washington University, will discuss “What Happened to America’s Public Schools?” on Oct. 5.

Photo courtesy of Humanities Washington | Johann Neem, professor, Western Washington University, will discuss “What Happened to America’s Public Schools?” on Oct. 5.

Timely topics, towering themes: Humanities Washington lecture series promises meaty talks for eager ears

The fate of American public schools, the ethics of climate change, and having civil conversations in an angry age — these are the light and frothy topics set to be tackled by the latest trio of experts set to visit Bainbridge Island courtesy of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau.

Library U and Humanities Washington are inviting the Bainbridge community to a series of engaging conversations on three important issues facing Americans today beginning at 10 a.m. on three Saturday mornings — Oct. 5,

Oct. 12 and Oct. 19 — in the Bainbridge Public Library large meeting room.

Members of Humanities Washington’s renowned Speakers Bureau will lead audiences through an interactive, multimedia examination of their respective speciality topics.

The programs are free and open to all. Refreshments are provided and reservations are not required.

The October sessions are:

Oct. 5: What Happened to America’s Public Schools?

Presented by Johann Neem, professor, Western Washington University.

Once an innovative idea and a source of national pride, American public education has since become a deeply polarized topic. Using his personal story as an immigrant attending public school, along with extensive historical research, historian Johann Neem explores the original purposes of public education in forging a nation.

As Washington, like all states, debates pressing matters of education, including charter schools, private school choice, and funding concerns, Neem asks us to step back, take stock, and understand the past of public schools so we can improve their future.

Oct. 12: Heating Up — The Ethics of Climate Change

Presented by Brian G. Henning, professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University.

With larger, longer wildfire seasons, accelerating species extinction, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise, it’s increasingly clear that climate change isn’t something that’s about to happen — it’s here.

But while the laundry list of problems wrought by climate change is well-known, few talk about how our moral beliefs about nature have led us to the brink.

In this presentation, ethicist Henning discusses how global warming itself is not the only problem — it’s a symptom of a larger issue concerning how we conceive of ourselves and our relationship to the natural world.

Oct. 19: Civil Conversation in an Angry Age

Presented by David Smith, professor of philosophy and religious studies at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington.

At what point does a conversation become a battle?

Why do some opinions inflame our emotions, leading to anger, fights, and even the end of relationships with family and friends?

Smith, a philosopher, takes a deep look at those moments when civility breaks down. By mapping the structure of how we converse, and digging into the root causes of both civility and incivility, Smith explores how we can have meaningful, respectful conversations on notoriously difficult topics like politics, religion, and morality.

In our increasingly polarized political environment, Smith provides participants with the tools needed to embark upon more thoughtful, fruitful discussions.

Speakers Bureau is one Humanities Washington’s oldest and most popular programs. A roster of 33 cultural experts and scholars provides low-cost, high-quality public presentations across the state, encouraging audiences to think, learn, and engage in conversation. These diverse and engaging speakers cover a variety of topics, including popular culture, photography, architecture, literature, food, film, and history.

Library U is a program of the Bainbridge Public Library that offers a variety of free lifelong learning opportunities throughout the year. More information can be found at www.BainbridgePublicLibrary.org.

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