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

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 4-5:30 pm ET
Session II: Monday, October 23rd from 4-5:30 pm ET
Session III: Monday, October 30th from 4-5:30 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

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

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