Archive for the ‘Brainiacal’ Category

One Day U Note:
The Lyceum

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Times Center, One Day U’s New York City venue. Couldn’t be nicer.

Perhaps, in some dusty corner of your memory, there lurks the recollection of an institution, named — after the Lyceum, Aristotle’s school in Athens — that was popular in Nineteenth-Century America. The Lyceum was all about what we might be tempted to call “self-improvement,” except that Lyceum programs were more community-oriented. The idea, which I’d give anything to recapture for this country, was that by improving one’s own mind one improved the community’s.

In the wake of World War I, the Lyceum, like most betterment schemes, got swept into the dustbin. After World War II, knowledge was professionalized as never before — and, schizophrenically, popularized as never before, too, in the form of alluring television programs, such as Nova, that created the mirage of learning without pain. Contact between university professors and laymen was mediated, during this benighted period, by bursars.

When I signed up for One Day U a couple of months ago (well in advance, that is), I wondered where the experience of sitting through four lectures on significant topics would stand in relation both to the Lyceums and the Novas. Would it be lite & trite? Would I already know it all?

In its own little way, the prospect of attending One Day U was terrifying. It was very much like wondering how a first date would pan out. First dates? How about first days at school?

You can put me down among the kids who didn’t want to go home when the first day of school was over. I came away convinced that, the more you know about the world, the more you’re going to get out of One Day U. So, although I did, rather, “know it all,” the program was the very opposite of lite & trite.

More anon…