One Day U Note:
The Program

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

The typical One Day University Program, I gather, consists of four lectures, each about an hour long, separated by breaks and, between the second and third, a box lunch provided by ODU. Last Saturday’s program began at nine-thirty and ended at around four o’clock.

The Times Center,* with its rear wall of glass, graced by the stand of birch trees in the atrium just beyond, makes an ideal venue for a midday of insightful talk. To the illusion of being on the campus of a major university, ODU and the Center add distinctly uncollegiate comfort and convenience. Coffee and rolls on arrival; Times Center personnel to watch over the auditorium during breaks; stout notebooks designed for writing on laps — it would probably be inappropriate for a genuine university to be so thoughtful. Steven Schragis, who runs One Day U with John Galvin, is quite frank about the fact that ODU is a “fake university.” The “students” don’t do any work and they don’t earn any degrees. It will not be the worst thing in the world if this new institution, once it establishes itself, finds a new name, because the idea of a “university” is something of a red herring here, even if the professors are indeed gifted teachers from the best schools. I shall enlarge on that statement in this and succeeding notes.  

Saturday’s program was as follows:

  • Music: The Remarkable Genius of Mozart/Craig Wright, Yale
  • Law: Criminal Justice in America — A 250 Year History/Stephanos Bibas, Penn
  • Art History: Lies, Propaganda, and Truth in Photography/Robin Kelsey, Harvard
  • Psychology: Understanding America’s Depression Epidemic/Shelley Carson, Harvard

Now, because I wanted to see what One Day University itself was like, I didn’t let the familiarity of these topics persuade me to wait for another lineup. Rather, I made a virtue of that familiarity.

  • I have thought about Mozart for most of my life, for the simple reason that his music has been a source of unending and astonishing beauty. (How lucky I’ve been to live after him!)
  • In law school, I learned that the study of criminal justice in this country involves very little black-letter law, but concerns itself chiefly with Constitutionally-sanctioned procedures.
  • As for clinical depression, I have first-hand (family-member) familiarity with its unimaginable desolation.

The only one of the four lectures that promised to break new mental ground was the third, and even there I would be bringing the thoughts inspired by Susan Sontag’s On Photography. In other words, “familiarity” was something of an understatement. If ODU’s professors could make any of this material fresh for me, I’d be mightily impressed.

Reader, they all did. I said this yesterday, and I’ll say it again: the more you know about the world, the more you’re going to get out of One Day U.

Next up: Craig Wright’s remarkable thoughts about genius — and about why Mozart’s genius was remarkable.

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