Harper College Honors Society
Harper College Honors Program Meetings


Spring, 2011 Honors Society Meetings

Wednesday, Jan. 26
            Welcome back, and happy spring.

Wednesday, Feb. 2
Wednesday, Feb. 9
            Topic: "The Maniac."  Guest: Professor Charlie Johnston, from Harper's Psychology Department.  As all of us know, there has been yet another infamous and deadly shooting spree, this time in Arizona.  And despite ancient arguments about the Second Amendment (gun rights), and despite arguments regarding whether the shooter in this instance was motivated and encouraged by extremist talk-radio hosts, blogs, and hate-charged political rhetoric, surely only a profoundly disturbed person could do what Jared Lee Loughner did outside a Tucson supermarket on Jan. 8.  Our purpose in this Honors meeting will be twofold: a) to leave our political affiliations and any emotional biases at the door, and b) to try, in an hour or so, to understand as much as possible the skewed mind of the sociopath.
Wednesday, Feb. 16
          Dr. Michael Bryson, Professor of Humanities and Sustainability Studies at Roosevelt University, will visit us on Wed., Feb. 16.  Dr. Bryson will basically do two things in our meeting: a) explain Roosevelt's new and very 21st-Century major, Sustainability Studies, and b) make a pitch for you to consider transferring to Roosevelt, once you've finished at Harper.  There are some scholarship possibilities for Harper Honors Program students considering Roosevelt, and if Roosevelt has been on your radar, you should definitely try to join us on Feb. 16.
Wednesday, Feb. 23
            For a small portion of the meeting (from 3:45 until 4:05 p.m. or so), we'll have a visitor, Jill Izumikawa, from Harper's International Student Office (F-340).  Ms. Izumikawa is heading the International Friendship Program at Harper.  The goal of the program is to provide a partnership between students from the U.S. and international students at Harper.  The idea is that the American (or Harper Honors Program student) would be paired with an international student.  An interested student would meet once a month on campus at Harper for lunch or coffee/tea to chat with his/her international partner -- with the aim, obviously, of creating a bridge between cultures.  If students choose to meet outside the Harper campus, they can do so on their own time.  However, the requirement is simply to meet once/month on campus.  Ms. Izumikawa is seeking students who have background knowledge about Harper's classes, the campus, and the community.  

            After Ms. Izumikawa's departure, we will have another visitor, Yvonne Gardner, from a nearby non-profit called the Society for the Preservation of Human Dignity.  SPHD is located across the street from Harper at 1610 Colonial Parkway, at the corner of Euclid and Roselle (website: www.sphd.org).  The group provides free professional counseling for new and low-income parents. They also provide new moms with free education about child development while assisting with the costs of baby food, clothes, formula, and so on.  Ms. Gardner is looking for several volunteers in several different areas, and once more, she'll stop by and give us the scoop on the program and invite volunteers.

            Then . . . it's "The Sophist versus the Philosopher."  Professor Josh Sunderbruch, "the sophist," will debate Professor John Garcia, "the philosopher" on the matter of teaching "intelligent design" in the public-school science classroom.  That debate should last maybe 20 or 30 minutes, tops. Afterward, attendees will discuss the question of what's more persuasive when trying to choose between competing theories: a) a well-styled, beautifully or artfully phrased argument (i.e., sophistry), or b) a well-supported and well-reasoned argument (i.e., a philosophical argument).

Wednesday, Mar. 2
            On this day, a recruiter from Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, Indiana) will visit our Honors Society meeting.  Valparaiso has PTK-friendly scholarship opportunities for transfer students, and it's pretty local -- right on the Illinois/Indiana border, just an hour or so away.  It might not be the most exciting meeting of the year, discussion/debate-wise, but it's definitely nice for you guys to broaden your sense of transfer options as much as possible. 

Wednesday, Mar. 9
            Topic: Is the Political System Broken (. . . reprise)?  Guest: Professor Bobby Summers, from Harper's Political Science Department.  Roughly a year or so ago, Professor Summers visited us, hosting a debate on whether there's any hope in America for reconciliation between the political parties, or even any hope for meaningful political progress, given the intense animosity between Dems and Repubs.  Given recent events, this seems worth another look, and Professor Summers will return on Mar. 9 to help us sort things out.

(Saturday, Mar. 12)
            Inspiration Cafe, 3:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; sign up with Mr. Wilson

Wednesday, Mar. 16
            PTK Film: "The Democratization of Information in an Age of Terror," featuring Dina Temple-Raston, prize-winning author and counter-terror correspondent for National Public Radio.  This film is part of the PTK "Honors Seminar Series," and as some of you already know, this year's PTK discussion topic is "The Democratization of Information."  In this installment, Ms. Temple-Raston leads a truly interesting discussion on the dangers of having too much information at our disposal, particularly when U.S. intelligence agents are conducting ongoing investigations of terror suspects, terrorism plots, and more.  I (Mr. Wilson) previewed this film and liked it.  While Ms. Temple-Raston is herself a journalist, she seems pretty fair in her understanding that journalists -- with so much information at their fingertips -- are not always as careful as they should be in their reports and articles.  On the one hand, reporters have a sworn duty to reveal the truth, of course; on the other hand, journalists sometimes get in the way of meaningful investigations, and human lives hang in the balance.  We'll watch the film for bit, then turn it off and discuss it. 

Wednesday, Mar. 23
            Spring break . . . no meeting.

Wednesday, Mar. 30
          Topic: A Hard Look at Hard Science.  Guest: Professor Joe Wachter, from Harper's Chemistry Department.  People -- Americans, at least -- seem these days to assume that recycling is always a good thing.  In fact, it usually is good to recycle, but to say that this is always so betrays an incomplete understanding of (or an indifference to) hard science.  With his deep knowledge base and his Buddhist-like calm, Professor Wachter will discuss why recycling does not, in every instance, square with environmental fitness.  As well, Prof. Wachter will shed light on unproven assumptions, most notably those related to vaccinations and their alleged role in causing Autism and other disabilities.  At last, our Mar. 30 meeting will underscore the scientific method and help us tell the difference between myth (no matter how persuasive or "right" it sometimes seems) and fact.

(Friday, Apr. 1)
            Second Annual Honors Variety Show, 7:00 p.m. in Harper's "J-Theatre," J-143.  Please try to come and support both the performers and the Honors Program; all proceeds will be donated to the Lydia Home, a home for dispossessed children on the NW boundary of Chicago.  It's a fundraiser, so there will be a small admission fee of $5 for every human soul. 

Wednesday, Apr. 6
            On this day, L-329 will be transformed into a mini-concert hall, and we will have a very special classical guitar performance featuring Professor Steve Vasquez, from Harper's Music Department.  As you will see, Mr. Vasquez plays with heartbreaking beauty.  He will play for about forty minutes, and there should be a bit of time for a few questions and/or a little discussion of music -- not only guitar music but, rather, all music.

Wednesday, Apr. 13
          On this day, Professors Perry Pollock and Stephany Rimland, from Harper's Art Department, will help us discuss/debate the always-changing, always-controversial world of contemporary art, especially the fairly recent decision by the Smithsonian Institute to shut down a video installation, titled "A Fire in My Belly," by deceased artist David Wojnarowicz.  Wojnarowicz's piece -- which shows many images, one of these being a multitude of ants crawling over a plastic crucifix -- had been on display in the National Portrait Gallery; under pressure from the Catholic League and various political conservatives, it was removed.  We may wrestle with questions like, What is art?  Should Wojnarowicz's video count as bona fide art?  Who gets to decide what is/isn't suitable for public viewing?  (And more.)  As you will see, the professors visiting us on Apr. 13 are thoughtful folks with unique perspectives on those and other questions.  Of course we will see a clip of Wojnarowicz's contentious video. 

Wednesday, Apr. 20
            PTK Film: "The Democratization of Information and Human Rights," featuring Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  While the Mar. 16 PTK film attempts (very justifiably) to illuminate the problematic side of the democratization of information (see above), today's film takes a more positive view.  A devoted human-rights advocate, Ms. Hirsi Ali tells her own story of living in exile and resisting forced marriage; in doing so, she argues for the democratization of information, so that more and more people around the world are moved to know about injustices . . . and respond to them.  Ms. Hirsi Ali is very gentle.  However, with soft-spoken power, she emphasizes gender inequities under the strict application of Islamic law, this film therefore has the potential to upset some viewers.  That, of course, is partly why we should have a look. 

Wednesday, Apr. 27
            We'll be visited by Harper Pride, the college's club to support and raise awareness for gay, lesbian, and transgender students.  As I write this, I'm not 100% sure what we'll discuss, exactly.  Most likely our visitors will share a few of their personal stories, and we'll simply discuss/debate the issues of homosexuality, the legalization of gay/lesbian marriage, the repeal of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell," among other things.  The Apr. 27 meeting is "by request"; Honors students have been wanting to have more of Harper's other clubs visit our meetings.

Wednesday, May 4
            Professor Wilson and Garcia will play "devil's advocate" and attempt to make the case that the push for global consciousness in college & university classrooms and campuses is over-rated.  What's so great, in other words, about being informed about issues and problems around the world?  To what degree is global consciousness actually problematic?  Is there any merit to the claim that it's better, actually, for one to live blithely in his/her little bubble of middle-class contentment?  This will be our attempt to wrap up our intermittent discussion throughout the 2010/11 on "the democratization of information."

Wednesday, May 11
            Food and Fun, and sayonara . . .

(Saturday, May 14)
            Inspiration Cafe, 3:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; sign up with Mr. Wilson