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Jim Kenney at the North Shore Senior Center • Winter 2020

North Shore Senior Center

Jim Kenney Winter 2020 Schedule


TUESDAYS, 1:00-2:30 pm

January 7-28 (4 weeks)

1215: A Window on the World
Member $49; Non-Member $65

As it turns out, the year 1215 was a major turning point in world history. Although the drafting of the Magna Carta is perhaps the best-known event of 1215, anyone in Europe at the time would have told us the meeting of the Church’s Fourth Lateran Council was much more significant. Meanwhile, in Asia, a Mongol leader named Genghis Khan was embarking on a mission for world domination, highlighted by his success at the Battle of Beijing, while Islam was experiencing a Golden Age centered around Baghdad’s House of Wisdom. These seismic events were only possible thanks to a confluence of global conditions, starting with a changing climate. We’ll see how climatic changes affected the people of Europe. And while the western, European world will be our primary focus, we’ll visit other vital cultures, from the ancient Maya to the Iceland of the sagas, and from the Japan of the Shoguns to the great empires of Africa and the legendary city of Timbuktu.

February 4-March 3 (4 weeks; no class February 18)

The Four Big Issues: Health Care, Immigration, the Economy, and Climate
Member $49; Non-Member $65

This workshop will focus on four major issues that help to define the 2020 presidential and congressional races. Each scores high in polls measuring voter interests and concerns, and each is approached very differently from Republican, Democratic, conservative, moderate, and progressive starting points. Is health care a right or a privilege to be earned (and paid for)? Does immigration pose a threat to our culture or is it a wellspring of potential? Will the economy flourish under protective tariffs and an aversion to free trade or does globalism hold out the greatest hope for growth and stability? And is climate change “a global hoax” or the greatest challenge facing the human community in our time? This workshop will offer some useful guidelines for gauging the positions of the candidates and some informed speculation about likely voter response.

February 18: NO CLASS

March 10-24 (3 weeks)

Global Citizens in an Evolving World
(featuring video address by Jim Kenney)

Member $39; Non-Member $54

What does it mean to be a global citizen? Global citizens are cosmopolitans. Their world-centric outlook is a powerful antidote to the familiar variations of egocentrism: nationalism, racism, sexism, and intolerance in general. The global citizen is the cosmopolitan first and the patriot after. As Jim has so often argued, we’re witnessing the reality of global cultural evolution every day, even in the face of rampant corruption, violence, and political double-talk. It’s nothing less than the shift of our dominant values in the toward a closer fit with reality. The global citizen understands that our dominant values are changing and that the emerging global consensus of values is the text of global citizenship. The rising global consensus celebrates many things, including the self-empowerment of women, the needs of the world’s children, and the fact that the global challenge is not just one of resources but of vision. It’s a powerful and hopeful vision. Just what is needed in a trying time. A highlight of this workshop will be a video recording of Jim’s 2019 Baccalaureate Address at Dartmouth College, which addressed this same topic.


March 31-April 21 (4 weeks)

Key Turning Points in Modern History
Member $49; Non-Member $65


Our focus in this fascinating and sweeping workshop will be on the rise of the West in world history, but the essential moments we’ll zero in on are relevant today in every global setting. Our tour will take us from the 15th century through the present. Here’s a sample of the topics we’ll touch on: moments in globalization (Admiral Zheng He, the British East India Company, the Columbian Exchange, the Opium Wars in China, China entering the world stage); science and innovation (Gutenberg, the microscope, the Enlightenment encyclopedia, evolution, powered flight, penicillin, the atom, walking on the moon); international rumblings (the fall of Constantinople, the American and French Revolutions, the fall of the Berlin Wall), and the rise of social media. It’s a breathtaking panorama, but we’ll find that it all comes together quite powerfully. 



THURSDAYS, 10:00-11:30 am

January 9-30 (4 weeks)
The Madness of White Supremacy

Member $49; Non-Member $65


Charleston, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Christchurch, El Paso, and too many more! Why is the greatest terrorist threat of our time driven by white supremacist nationalism? What’s the source and what can be done about it? We’ll focus on the central myth of American white nationalism: the mad trope of “the Great Replacement” (the imagined outnumbering and subjugation of white Christians worldwide). We’ll also meet two individuals who laid much of the toxic groundwork for what may be the single greatest threat to our democracy, the early-20th-century American Madison Grant and the modern Frenchman Reynaud Camus. We’ll touch on a range of topics, from the Crusades to anti-Semitism, and from slavery and the Civil War to the Obama presidency. It’s a disturbing topic, but one we all need to know about.


February 6-March 5 (4 weeks: no class February 20)

The World in 1800: Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa
Member $49; Non-Member $65


In the year 1800, almost everyone lived very much as his or her ancestors had for countless generations. In the countryside, illiterate peasants (the vast majority of the world’s population) scratched out a living from the soil, while in the cities, merchants hawked their wares in open-air markets and nobles led lives of opulent leisure. Yet everywhere were unmistakable signs that all of this would soon change. Olivier Bernier, in his riveting chronicle of the period, offers a powerful sketch of that time, so different from our own, yet so filled with import for us as we take the measure of the 21st century. We’ll travel from Europe’s bloodstained landscape to the prosperous ports and homesteads of a nascent United States, from the Spanish dominions of Central and South America to the slave trading posts of Africa’s Guinea Coast, and on to the lavish interiors of China’s Forbidden City. It's a glimpse of civilization at the dawn of the modern era.


February 18: NO CLASS


March 10-24 (3 weeks)

God Save Texas (Lawrence Wright)
Member $39; Non-Member $54

Lawrence Wright’s new book is both an apologia and an indictment: an illuminating primer for outsiders who may not live there but have a surfeit of opinions about those who do. “One can’t be from Texas and fail to have encountered the liberal loathing for Texanness, even among people who have never visited the place,” Wright explains. “They detect an accent, a discordant political note, or a bit of a swagger, and outraged emotions begin to flow.” Which isn’t to say he thinks the outrage is entirely baseless. Liberals, he says, are justifiably fearful. “Texas has been growing at a stupefying rate for decades,” accumulating more congressional seats and electoral votes, “moving further rightward and dragging the country with it.” But that rightward tug has more to do with gerrymandering and cynical pols than with demographics. The state is becoming more urban and less white. “It should be as reliably blue as California,” Wright says. “Instead, it is the Red Planet in the political universe.” Wright rattles off the familiar stereotypes: “cowboy individualism, a kind of wary friendliness, superpatriotism combined with defiance of all government authority, a hair-trigger sense of grievance, nostalgia for an ersatz past that is largely an artifact of Hollywood.” He concedes they’re all true. But they’re not all there is. “God Save Texas” also depicts “a culture that is still raw, not fully formed, standing on the margins but also growing in influence, dangerous and magnificent in its potential.”


April 2-23 (4 weeks)

The Road to November: Campaign 2020   
Member $49; Non-Member $65


As this catalogue goes to press, the third Democratic debate (with only ten candidates) is approaching. Three more are expected in 2019, with another six in 2020. As the class begins, the field will likely be a great deal narrower after the February primaries (IA, NH, SC, and NV) and the March 2 “Super Tuesday” marathon, with 14 states holding contests. We’ll see another 14 state tests before our first session. Meanwhile, Donald Trump seems likely to face a very rocky climb to reelection. It’s too early, though, for either side to count chickens (or electoral votes or congressional seats). We’ll survey the scene, talk politics and probabilities, and address the issues (and the states) that may matter most. Don’t miss this one!



JK will be on Hiatus until May 11.