Saturday, August 1, 2009


This course is intended to open and change minds—yours and mine—because minds need to be changed about important things now.

In studying the topic of “Human Frontiers,” you might guess that this theme implies exploring new territories and facing new challenges, as did American frontiersmen and women in the early years of this country. In our case, our frontiers are mental not geographical: territories of new thoughts, new behaviors, and new customs, based on new values.

In Huck Finn’s terms, why in this course are we “fixin’ to light out to the territories” this semester? Because, like Huck, we need a fresh start, and we need to leave behind a lot of truck, a lot of cultural and historical baggage that has been troubling the world for too long. We need to explore some new ideas and perspectives on how all human beings can prosper better on a prospering planet.

Frankly, as I suppose you already understand to a degree, we’re not doing so well these days as a race. As the most potent and noxious species on Earth, Homo sapiens sapiens is far from sapient, or wise, in managing our personal and communal affairs, or in tending the planetary garden (our ecosphere) that sustains us and all Earthlife.

But rather than just conceding that all this trouble is to be expected of a “fallen race,” cursed with innate depravity (as Puritans and others believe), I assume that, as an evolving species, we’re developing analogously to the growth path of an individual human being but have only reached, to date, our adolescence. Adulthood lies ahead for our still immature species.

What, then, would it mean for the human race to grow up? That is the wide frontier we’ll be exploring this semester. In which directions (we’ll ask) must we proceed so as to reach the higher potentials of human being and to realize feats of individual, social, cultural and political wisdom befitting Homo sapiens sapiens? That’s what we’ll be asking and will be working together to answer .

Two texts to guide our explorations will be Duane Elgin’s Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity’s Future and David C. Korten’s The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.