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Braver Seminars


Welcome to Braver Seminars, the newest addition to Braver U!

Braver Seminars are meant to provide adults with easier access to higher education on topics surrounding polarization. We strongly believe that opening a space for healthy discussion and learning can bring us one step closer to understanding each other better and depolarizing America.

Braver Seminars are seminar-based discussion groups led by professors, experts, and leaders in Braver Angels and beyond. Braver Angels will bring together a small group of individuals for an online seminar consisting of three 90-minute sessions over the course of three weeks. Seminar leaders will choose the topics they want to discuss!

We must all do our part to end the threat of polarization; doing so will bring us closer to that goal. Do your part and sign up for the courses today!*

*All students must be Braver Angels members

Fall 2023 Course Offerings

How Faith Communities Can Bridge the Political Divide

In this seminar, Bishop Mark Beckwith explores the role of faith communities in bridge-building. Discussing the history of reconciliation; need for religious communities; and sharing ideas and plans brings forth the impact of faith communities in our political and ideological divide.

Professor:  Bishop Mark Beckwith

Session I: Thursday, November 2nd, from 4 pm - 5:30 pm ET.
Session II: Thursday, November 9th, from 4 pm - 5:30 pm ET.
Session III: Thursday, November 16th, from 4 pm - 5:30 pm ET.

The Philosophy and Practice of Constructive Nonviolence

This seminar reclaims the philosophy of nonviolence based on reconciling public love. It will describe how constructive nonviolence has powerful resources for the work of depolarization. It is a third way between those who argue for a position of “principled nonviolence,” opposing violence under any circumstance, and those who advocate “strategic nonviolence” as an approach that puts aside the philosophy.

Nonviolence animated movements for change like civil rights in America, aspects of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and the movement for Indian independence, but nonviolence in such movements is often remembered in incomplete ways, as simply civil disobedience without violence. In fact, these movements had philosophical and constructive dimensions, aiming to build beloved communities across great differences while struggling against injustices. Developing constructive nonviolent dimensions has great relevance for our polarized and fractured world, teaching how to see the public talents and worth even of our enemies in order to build a common life. Using Martin Luther King’s writings and other resources, we will look at how to advance constructive nonviolence for our times.

Professors: Harry Boyte and Marie Ström

Session I: Monday, October 16th from 5-6:30 pm ET
Session II: Monday, October 23rd from 5-6:30 pm ET
Session III: Monday, October 30th from 5-6:30 pm ET

Our Polarized Politics Lessons from the Gilded Age

Several similarities between the Populist/Progressive period (1880 – 1920) and our current (1980 – 2020) political-economic-social challenges are striking; both are times of societal transformation, political polarization, especially as measured by partisan voting in Congress, is very high for both periods and lastly, both periods also display profound social turbulence. More importantly, the socio-economic flux and partisan animosity in each period exemplifies an acute legitimacy crisis. Constitutional norms, federal – state relations, our common understanding of rights, and the integrity of electoral and representative institutions all are in question…and a besieged Supreme Court is at the center of these controversies. The Populist/Progressive period launched a swing from classical liberalism, a system in which government is thought to pose the greatest threat to the individual’s pursuit of happiness, to modern liberalism (aka progressivism), a system in which government is seen as the critical guarantor of the individual’s pursuit of happiness. This swing amounted to a fundamental reconstruction of our Republic to re-establish its legitimacy. Could we be in a similar, but as yet undetermined, reconstruction? As David Blankenhorn has suggestively noted, calling Braver Angels’ local chapters “alliances” was inspired by the 19 th century Farmer Alliances, a backbone of bottom-up reform in the Populist Era. If we are, what role might Braver Angels play?

Professor: Richard Harris

Session I: Tuesday, October 17th from 4pm - 5:30pm ET
Session II: Tuesday, October 24th from 4pm - 5:30pm ET
Session III: Tuesday, October 31st from 4pm - 5:30pm ET

How to Star-Man: Arguing from Compassion

To straw-man is to caricature, misinterpret, and misrepresent an argument making it easier to tear down. To steel-man is to engage with the best and most charitable version of an argument.
Steel-manning is far too rare, however. This is in part because we aren’t merely straw-manning each other’s arguments, but also each other.
That’s where star-manning comes in.
To star-man is to not only engage with the strongest and most charitable version of your opponent’s argument, but also with the strongest and most charitable version of your opponent, by locating and explicitly acknowledging the fundamental human values undergirding their perspectives, motivating their ideas, and informing their opinions—values that we all share. In this three-part course, you'll develop tools for being mindful and measured in difficult conversations, and learn the key strategy for a more constructive engagement with your political or ideological opponents: An explicit recognition of not only our opponent’s arguments but their humanity.

Professor: Angel Eduardo

Session I: November 8th from 5:30 - 7:00 pm ET Session II: November 15th from 5:30 - 7:00 pm ETSession III: November 29th from 5:30 - 7:00 pm ET * Skips Session for Thanksgiving

Self Made: Creating Our Identities, from Da Vinci to the Kardashians (NYC)

How has our society been curated? From Da Vinci to the Kardashians, this course explores how we, as a society, have arrived at a moment of fervent personal-branding. Individualism has become increasingly relevant as the forces of capitalism and social media collide. Modeled after her book with the same title, Self Made: Creating Our Identities, from Da Vinci to the Kardashians, Burton explores how our collective mindset has evolved alongside changes in attitudes towards religion, politics and society.

Professor: Tara Isabella Burton

Session I: Wednesday, October 4th from 12:00pm - 1:30pm ET
Session II: Friday, October 20th 12:00pm - 1:30pm ET
Session III: Friday, October 27th 12:00pm - 1:30pm ET

The Age of Spectacle: Connecting the Dots of American Politics

Why does American politics in our modern day seem so stupid? Why do we recall a time of higher standards of discourse and statecraft and citizenship, and look around our own contemporary ruins and find them wanting? The fact is our times have declined; the foundations of American civilization are rooted in a. faith in every human being’s capacity to shape themselves towards higher levels of reasoning and self-command, the Enlightenment ideal broadened to democratic citizenship and institutionalized in political order. The numerous trends against this—the decline of deep literacy, the general affluence and decadence of our material culture, cyberaddiction and the retreat of the physical world, and more—all combine in the great social cancer of Spectacle, a malady infecting our media and our politics and our daily lives in ways all too familiar. But for all the structural and cultural gloom of our age of spectacle, it is possible to counter its insidious effects enflaming polarization and social division. We can start with ourselves, with our approaches to knowledge and discourse. We can build social movements committed to older ideas of truth and practice. We can even adjust our institutions in the direction of a saner view on political possibility and reality.

Professor: Adam Garfinkle

Session I: Monday, October 16th from 5:30pm - 7:00pm ET
Session II: Monday, October 23th from 5:30pm - 7:00pm ET
Session III: Monday, October 30th from 5:30pm - 7:00pm ET

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