Summer 2020 Semester

COVID-19 created challenges for colleges and universities throughout the world as faculty and students became quickly acquainted with Zoom and other video conferencing services. This rapid transition to virtual learning created serious challenges for prison education programs, which rely almost entirely on the ability to go inside and offer in-person courses. Furthermore, incarcerated citizens rarely have access to the technology that facilitated such a transition on college campuses.

The DC Department of Corrections, known for its innovative approach to education while incarcerated, alleviated much of this pressure by enabling the Scholars Program to transition to tablet-based, asynchronous learning for our credit-bearing courses during the pandemic.

This course is based on a long-running Public Broadcasting TV show called “Closer to Truth.” The show takes on the deepest questions of life, discussing them with some of the celebrated thinkers of our modern era. These individuals include Nobel Prize and other award-winners, drawn from fields like philosophy, theology/religion, and the sciences—including physics, biology, psychology etc. The show is designed, produced and narrated by Robert Lawrence Kuhn, trained in the neurosciences, but also an author, international business consultant—and a seeker of truth.

The overarching topic of this course is that of “Searching for the Self.” This is a class for individuals who are engaged in self-reflection about who they are and the direction their life has taken. The subtitle, “an exploration of consciousness and cosmos,” signals that this sense of self will be challenged and expanded in many different directions. Who are we and how did we come to

This course is intended as an overview of the psychological foundations of morality, with thematic focus on empirical approaches to morality and a moral evaluation of the foundations of psychological research and practice. We will explore obedience to authority, motivated reasoning and bias, the nature of responsibility and agency, and willpower and the weakness of will. We will consider the ways in which empirical research has been used to either criticize or substantiate traditional views of morality in order to evaluate how successful such projects are. We will also evaluate what this research implies about how we should live and act, and how we should structure our lives, environments, and institutions. 

This course is designed to expose students to the variety of political systems and institutions in the contemporary world. All material is based on the presentation and analysis of case studies based on a set of 11 countries of geopolitical and demographic importance – Brazil, China, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. By introducing students to core concepts and arguments in the study of politics though particular cases, the course seeks to deepen students’ mastery of important historical and contemporary processes and institutions, the understanding of which is necessary in order to make sense of social, cultural, economic, and political continuities and changes in today’s globalized world.