Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lecture at Franklin & Marshall College

What a busy week! My wife and I just signed the lease for a new apartment (down the street from our current one) and then the following day, we took a train out to PA where I gave a lecture on The Secret Peace at Franklin & Marshall College.

I want to thank Professor Michael Penn for hosting me and allowing me to present to his class, The Nature of Hope. I gave a presentation entitled, "Filling the glass half-full: Forming an optimistic evidence-based worldview." It covered how I came to write the book, beginning with my interest in critical thinking, and how my worldview changed as I did more research. It delved into one of my book's chapters in detail - the one about war and world conflict giving way to nonviolence - and looked at how to reach that conclusion using evidence from the mass media and other sources.

What I really enjoyed were the students' reactions and especially their questions and opinions. They asked a ton of smart questions, including (all paraphrased by my poor memory):

  • "How will we solve our resource problems and overcrowding as population increases worldwide?"
  • "What do we do about rising inequality and economic stratification?"
  • "If spreading information is the catalyst for peace, what about the countries like China that are blocking access to information?"
  • "Why are scholars so pessimistic? Why is it generally considered more mature to be pessimistic, and more naive to be optimistic?"
  • "Do we need pessimism? Isn't discontent what motivates us to make changes? Will too much optimism makes us complacent?"

All great questions, from very insightful students. Again, thanks to Professor Penn and his class for having me!


James said...

hey what were your thoughts on China? I was reading a great article on my flight from Stockholme to Newark about China and their progress over the last 30 years, including a piece on a College they have for public officers. Apparently they have a College where they send high level officials to learn and improve their skills in public office, and IN that instutition there is no censorship. It's fascinating. The concept that they are struggling with finding a balance for controlling communication while fostering healthy growth. I'm fascinated by China's journey as a nation. It's so completely different from America's

Jesse Richards said...

China is a huge part of the Secret Peace, in that they are the country that has made the most material progress in the last few decades. Because the population is so large, China's success in reducing poverty is a big chunk of the overall world's success in reducing poverty. Vietnam is also interesting in that it is following an identical path, also with success.

Their chosen path to success certainly has problems, but because they are different problems than we have it's interesting to watch how America reacts to them.