Saturday, April 21, 2018 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Stephen Whitfield / Brandeis University
Published by The New York Times in 1971, The Pentagon Papers divided an already deeply fractured nation with startling and disturbing revelations about the United States' involvement in Vietnam. The Washington Post called them "the most significant leaks of classified material in American history" and they remain relevant today as a reminder of the importance of a free press. Indeed, they are a focal point of The Post, a new film by Steven Spielberg about that era.
This timely class will focus on how the necessity to ensure national security must be reconciled with the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment – a democratic dilemma that continues to demand public attention. That challenge certainly reached a flashpoint when the press leaked the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret account of the origins of the Vietnam War – while it was still raging.
No constitutional case in American history became more urgent or more important in testing how free the media were (or are) in revealing to the citizenry what the U.S. government intended, while pursuing a war, to keep secret. Nearly five decades later, the political and legal issues that the episode exposed deserve to be pondered and evaluated again.
Stephen Whitfield is an American Studies professor emeritus at Brandeis University. His teaching awards include the Brandeis Student Union Teaching Award and the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Professor Whitfield has taught as a Fulbright visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and as a visiting professor at the Sorbonne and the University of Munich.
Carol Berkin / Baruch College
Most of us know that America's Founding Fathers attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia and drafted the Constitution of the United States. The delegates decided to replace the Articles of Confederation with a document that strengthened the federal government, with the most contentious issue being legislative representation. Eventually, a compromise established the bicameral Congress to ensure both equal and proportional representation. But a lot more happened as well – much of it underreported or misunderstood. That's the focus of this insider's look at the birth of American Government as we know it today.
The fact is, the Founding Fathers were ambitious. Also grouchy, scared, and hopeful. They told jokes. They fought. They schemed. They gossiped. They improvised. Occasionally, they killed each other (sorry, Alexander Hamilton). Only by seeing the Founders as real people -not icons- can we appreciate the full story of the nation's founding with all of its drama, humor, and significance intact.
Carol Berkin is Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty of the Graduate Center of CUNY. She has worked as a consultant on several PBS and History Channel documentaries, including, The “Scottsboro Boys,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. She has also appeared as a commentator on screen in the PBS series by Ric Burns, “New York,” the Middlemarch series “Benjamin Franklin” and “Alexander Hamilton” on PBS, and the MPH series, “The Founding Fathers.” She serves on the Board of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Board of the National Council for History Education.
Christopher Chabris / Union College / Geisinger
Modern life is complex, and to navigate this complexity and make reasonable decisions, we tend to rely on intuition. For most decisions, we just "know" what the right choice is, usually without even thinking about it. But psychological research has shown repeatedly that we miss a lot of crucial information – information that would make a big difference if we had it and knew how to use it. This seminar will review the ways our intuitions deceive us, focusing on how we trust our perception, memory, and confidence much more than we should. It will then discuss about ways we can overcome these faults and see what we are missing.
The talk will weave familiar news stories (Donald Trump, Anthony Weiner, Bernie Madoff) with less familiar characters (Boston police officer Kenny Conley, the Driscoll Middle School football team) and entertaining research studies by Professor Chabris and other cognitive and social psychologists. Students will leave with a better appreciation of how and why we miss so much that is important, and some ways to think about what they are missing in their own decision-making processes.
Christopher Chabris is a Professor at Geisinger, an integrated healthcare system in Pennsylvania, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, France. He was a professor at Union College for ten years, during which time he was shortlisted for the college-wide Stillman Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and also gave the Distinguished Lecture at the Association for Psychological Science Teaching Institute. His research focuses on attention, intelligence (individual, collective, and social), behavior genetics, and decision-making. His work has been published in leading journals including Science, Nature, PNAS, Psychological Science, Perception, and Cognitive Science. Professor Chabris is also co-author of the bestselling book “The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us,” published in 20 languages.