On Being More Human

September 3, 2016

Project and book talks are part of this year’s Common Read

The Human Being Project asks “How does education make you a better human being?”

The English department at Johnson County Community College is sponsoring Common Read’s The Human Being Project, which debuted during Cav Kickoff. This year, composition classes are reading Fareed Zakaria's “In Defense of a Liberal Education.”

The project is asking the question, “How does education make you a better human being?” Everyone is invited to write a response to this prompt and post it on the project wall, which is located in the Commons stairwell leading to javajazz@jccc. Classes are encouraged to contribute as well. Project responses will be accepted through Friday, Sept. 9.

“The Common Read started eight years ago with a desire to include rich and robust literature in composition classes while providing a shared experience for students,” said Lorie Paldino, adjunct associate professor of English and business communications.

Why a Common Read?

Common Read programs have grown in popularity in communities across the nation. Colleges and universities have used such programs to infuse fresh academic and social experiences, promote critical thinking and reflection, and bolster reading beyond the classroom.

Integrating such a program at JCCC offers unique opportunities for both students and faculty, increasing sustained reading, adding richness to writing instruction and creating greater unity on campus.

“I value the supplemental enrichment activities that go along with the Common Read,” Paldino said. “We offer lectures, movies, and activities like the Human Being Project to give students a true college experience.”

Defense of liberal education

In his book, Fareed Zakaria argues for the importance of an education that includes liberal arts, such as English, philosophy, theatre and even the natural and social sciences. From his book page, Zakaria asserts, “A liberal education teaches you how to write, how to speak your mind, and how to learn – immensely valuable tools no matter your profession.”

He also points to two factors – technology and globalization –  that are making these skills even more valuable. “[R]outine mechanical and even computing tasks can be done by machines or workers in low-wage countries. More than just a path to a career, a liberal education is an exercise in freedom,” he postulates. “Above all, it is an expression of the most basic urge of the human spirit – to know.”

For questions, contact Lorie Paldino or Staci Petrillo, faculty in the English department.

Great Books Mini-Lecture Series

This year, the English program is also hosting a series of short talks on books everyone should read presented by interdisciplinary faculty and staff. This semester’s presenters are:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 14 – noon in Collaboration Center (OCB 120), Anthony Funari on “Paradise Lost”
  • Wednesday, Oct. 12 – noon in Collaboration Center, Dan Owens on “Slaughterhouse Five”
  • Wednesday, Nov. 9 – noon in Collaboration Center, Kristy Howell on “Fire Season”

Common Read keynote address

Finally, the department will offer a Common Read Keynote by Lee Pelton titled “The Value of a Liberal Education” at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in Polsky Theatre.

Lee Pelton, president of Emerson University in Boston, grew up in a working-class home in Wichita, Kansas. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University in English and psychology, he continued his graduate education at Harvard, where he received a PhD in literature.

His career has taken him to Colgate, Dartmouth, Willamette (Oregon), and now Emerson, where he has continued to be an advocate for the value of a liberal education.