Study Groups

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Tuesday Morning Study Groups

Emotional Intelligence
9 - 11 a.m.
Tuesdays – September 12, 19, 26, October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

A person with some awareness and control of his or her emotions, a greater emotional intelligence (EI), may be able to navigate interpersonal relationships with more wisdom, influence, and empathy. We’ll examine the interactions of emotion, reaction, decision-making, and choice, focusing on emotional intelligence (EI). Our sessions will explore EI influencers, such as diet and color, mood links, and how EI effects financial decision-making or conflict resolution, from pragmatic and academic standpoints. Guest speakers will include police officials who will explain how they teach and train about EI so that it can be used to help defuse tense situations.

Conveners: Donna Benson and Lynn Neeley. Donna retired from the Illinois Department of Corrections Clinical Services, where she developed small-group and individual counselling programs introducing emotional intelligence to be used along with behavior modification to shape reactions to life situations. She has been a member of LLI since 2011 and enjoys the diverse programs offered. Lynn, a retired professor from the NIU College of Business, is an avid learner and enjoys new insights on human behaviors, which she hopes to gain from this course.

 

A Closer Look at the Civil War
9 - 11 a.m.
Tuesdays – September 12, 29, 26, October 3 (This study group meets for four weeks)

This class presents an unusual perspective on the Civil War through period documents, philatelic items, and paper ephemera. Each item tells a story of an event or personality – often little known, long forgotten, or underappreciated.

Convener: Al Ottens is a longtime Civil War hobbyist. He is also the vice-president of the Manuscript Society.

 

Guns, Germs, and Steel
9 - 11 a.m.
Tuesdays – October 10, 17, 24, 31 (This study group meets for four weeks)

Lou Pierce convened a study group in 2007 on Jared Diamond’s book Gun, Germs, and Steel. He has been praising it almost continually since and believes his current LLI classmates should have the opportunity to experience it, too. He believes that Diamond is such an engaging writer you have no reason to fear reading the book (which is NOT a requirement for taking this course – the three hour-long videos produced by the National Geographic Society will suffice), but there is very much to gain from reading it.
“[H]istory focused on western Eurasian societies completely bypasses the obvious big question. Why were those societies the ones that became disproportionately powerful and innovative? The usual answers to that question invoke proximate forces, such as the rise of capitalism, mercantilism, scientific inquiry, technology, and nasty germs that killed peoples of other continents when they came in contact with western Europeans, and arise elsewhere only to a lesser degree or not at all.
* * *
“It is impossible to understand even just western Eurasian societies, if one focuses on them [alone]. The interesting questions concern the distinctions between them and other societies. Answering those questions requires us to understand all those other societies as well, so that western Eurasian societies can be fitted into the broader context.”
— Jared Diamond, professor of (bio)geography (UCLA) and autodidact polymath

Convener: Lou Pierce is a retired corporate attorney and business executive who uses much of his time exercising his hunger for history, his undergraduate major.

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Tuesday Afternoon Study Group

Strangers in the Land:
Biblical Perspectives on the Outsider and the Undocumented
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Tuesdays – September 12, 19, 26, October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
—Leviticus 19:33-34

 In a world that’s much smaller than our parents’ world was, now that we’re part of a global economy, hundreds of thousands are fleeing their homelands, searching for better lives and opportunities far, far away from where they were born. Their reasons for leaving on foot or by boat are compelling and obvious: They hope to escape from war and poverty, persecution, hunger, and slavery. The U.S. has declared itself to be a nation of immigrants, yet we have always had conflicts about this. We welcome “foreigners” and celebrate their contributions. We also mistrust them, set them apart, and drive them away.

The Bible urges us to care for the newcomer, and our different faiths call upon us to love our neighbors. Even so, powerful popular figures insist we protect ourselves by expelling illegals and building a barrier as vast as the Great Wall of China to keep them out.
Join us for a series of discussions about the plight of people seeking sanctuary here and the ways we may respond.

Convener: Joe Gastiger is the minister at the First Congregational Church in DeKalb. He has convened many classes for LLI ranging from poetry to religion.

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Wednesday Morning Study Groups

Music and Mindsets: Performers and Audiences
9:30-11:30
Wednesdays - September 13, 20, 27, October 4, 11, 18

Many events have a musical component that invites questions about the emotions and mindsets of the performers and/or those of their audiences. An example is the extraordinary courage of the small group of musicians who continued playing on the sloping deck of the Titanic. Another example is the pride and respect of U.S.O. entertainers, performing on the front lines for our young troops, many of whom would not return home; consider their memories and thoughts as well.

Other examples include the bizarre practice of blackface and racial stereotyping on stage and screen, the phenomena of singing founding fathers and singing cowboys, and the misery of marathon dancers and the morbid fascination of their fans. Most troublesome is understanding the emotions of the inmate musicians, their fellow prisoners, and the guards in the Nazi death camps.

Convener: Paul Pawlowski, a retired attorney, is a longtime LLI member who has convened a number of diverse courses.

 

 

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Wednesday Afternoon Study Groups

Food in History
1 – 3 p.m.
Wednesdays – September 13, 20, 27, October 4, 11, 18, 25, November 1

Topics include origins of Old World and New World farming, the Columbian Exchange, the spice trade, the rise of commercial company-states, and food transportation and preservation. We’ll watch and discuss a provocative DVD in which author Michael Pollan defends foods that you are probably NOT eating, as well as the movies Julie & Julia, Ratatouille, and Tortilla Soup.

Conveners: Retired NIU history professors Elaine Spencer and George Spencer have convened many LLI study groups.

 

Hollywood Looks at War
1 – 3 p.m.
Wednesdays – September 13, 20, 27, October 4, 11, 18, 25, November 1

Lights! Action! War! Hollywood has brought war home for millions. To measure its impact over the generations, we will watch the Civil War classic Shenandoah and the western Broken Arrow, both starring James Stewart, and some less well-known movies about the Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam. We will also watch Why We Fight, the 2005 Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary that details the birth and growth of America’s military-industrial complex. Inspired by Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation in 1961, this film features John McCain, William Kristol, Chalmers Johnson, Gore Vidal, and Richard Perle, among others.

Convener: Pat McKinley is a movie buff who enjoys finding films for us to share, some that we’ve seen before and some that may be unfamiliar.

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Thursday Morning Study Group

Religion and the Constitution
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Thursdays – September 14, 21, 28, October 5, 12, 19, 26, November 2

The class will begin with a close reading of how the original Constitutional text deals with religion, non-religion, and religious dissent; e.g. its oath/affirmation requirements, its Christian Sabbath provision (“Sunday’s excepted”), its “no religious test” clause, and even its two calendar dating systems (“in the year of our Lord” versus “in the year of the United States”). Then we will turn to studying how the Supreme Court has dealt with religion over time and try to figure out the relationship of that to the Constitutional text itself.

The Supreme Court did little with religion for some 150 years (the three Mormon cases of 1879-1891 excepted) until it began (in the 1940s) to read the First Amendment’s “establishment clause” as requiring removing religion from public institutions beginning with prohibiting official prayer (1962) and Bible reading (1963) in public schools, and by excluding religiously based moral teachings from public law when those teachings contradict non-religious/secular morality/ideas of freedom.

We will try to figure out if this mandatory public secularism is what the Constitutional text bequeathed to us or whether it was derived from extra-constitutional (progressive or liberal) philosophical ideas held by justices of the post-1940s Supreme Court. We will also try to figure out what this has to do with the Court introducing the new Constitutional language of "civil liberties" in connection with this development.

Convener: Gary Glenn is a retired political science professor who has convened several thought-provoking LLI classes based on the US Constitution.

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Thursday Afternoon Study Groups

Starvation Island
1 – 3 p.m.
Thursdays – September 14, 21, 28, October 5, 12, 19, 26, November 2

Despite a national war plan calling for defensive operations only in the South Pacific, in August of 1942 the US Navy launched the first US offensive of World War II by invading a small jungle-covered island with no natural resources, named Gaudalcanal. The fight for that island would last until January of 1943. One of the land battles (Bloody Ridge) would become a legend to the US Marine Corps.

Amongst the Japanese the place would become known as Starvation Island. The body of water off the island would be called Iron Bottom Sound because the ships of two navies would line the ocean floor. Yet the struggle for that piece of real estate is seldom discussed today. This study group will examine the reasons for the battle, US and Japanese strengths and weaknesses, what actually happened and why. We will also consider what the battle tells us about how US defense policy is formulated today.

Convener: Dick Dowen has convened many LLI study groups ranging from aviation to economics to Civil War history. He is a professor emeritus in the NIU Department of Finance, which he chaired for seven years.

Musicals from Stage and Screen
1 – 3 p.m.
Thursdays – September 14, 21, 28, October 5, 12, 19, 26, November 2

Musicals have been a part of Broadway and American culture for almost a century. They dominated the New York stages from the 1940s to the 1960s. Are we seeing them reinvented now with Hamilton? Come enjoy a variety of musicals from everyone’s list of the 100 most popular, including some jewels that you don’t hear about very often. From The Wizard of Oz to Oliver, Singin’ in the Rain to Annie, we’ll discuss directors and composers, but mainly hear wonderful music and watch some of the best singers and stories.

Convener: Pat Vary has convened several LLI courses, including climate change, good bacteria, and musicals. She is a distinguished research professor emerita in the NIU Department of Biological Sciences. She saw her first musical on Broadway at age 5 and has been in love with musicals ever since.

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