Jonathan Miller-Lane loves a good question.
“A really good subject can hook anyone,” Miller-Lane said. “You have to have a question that you yourself are truly interested in.”
He poses one both pointed and timely when he asks a panel of Bainbridge youth and adults Oct. 24 how Americans perceive their national values – as opposed to what the rest of the world understands them to be.
The Youth/Adult Forum: America’s Image Abroad is the first of a series of six community discussions to be held throughout the year on “Rethinking Citizenship.”
The new series was inspired, Miller-Lane says, by the panel discussion he moderated to wrap the five-month long Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council “Humanities Inquiry” last spring.
“That forum seemed to highlight the need for more discussion like this,” Miller-Lane said, “because of how rare it is and how important that we talk to each other about things that matter.”
The really meaty issues, Miller-Lane says, should inspire one to gather information, learn dates and study history to better understand the context of world events.
To consider an international take on America, Miller-Lane, who was himself born in Beirut, Lebanon and raised in the Middle East and North Africa, has assembled a group of international Bainbridge youth and adults and one panelist with roots in Islam.
While he will moderate, Miler-Lane says he will not presume to direct the discussion but try to keep an open mind.
“If you believe in a democratic society, you need those reasoning skills; you must suspend judgement until you can listen to diverse points of view,” Miller-Lane said.
“You don’t want to be like one of those lousy teachers who know the answer before they ask the question.”
Miller-Lane was himself a celebrated teacher of American Studies at Bainbridge High School before leaving to pursue a doctorate at the University of Washington.
He retains a special appreciation for high-school age students.
“There’s a certain sense of irreverence that’s really fun and there’s this idealism,” Miller-Lane said. “I love the interplay between the cool, the cynicism, the idealism and the irreverence.”
Miller-Lane claims to share an adult version of those same qualities with the kids.
“it’s just a big sandbox of emotions, the tensions of those different states of being,” he said. “It’s a gas to work it out with the kids, because I’m also working it out for myself, too.”
Jonathan Miller-Lane moderates the “Youth/Adult Community Forum: America’s Image Abroad” 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at Bainbridge Commons.
It is the first of six forums addressing “Rethinking Citizenship,” that are co-sponsored by the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, the Bainbridge High School PTO and It’s About Time for Kids.
The discussions are free to the public. Call 842-7901 for more information.