Lectures. The very mention of the word is enough to put most people to sleep, or at least generate a good yawn. It is the kind of word that revives memories of that required course you had to take, that overheated classroom with the slowest clock in the world, or that absent-minded professor with the two speed monotone voice — slow and slower. It was that type of class lecture that put real joy into the last day of school. It’s unfair to educators to imply that boring lectures are only limited to the classroom or that all classroom lectures are boring. It is equally unfair to turn off to lectures just because of negative memories based on old experiences.
Lectures have come of age! Lectures today come in the form of lecture series, individual lectures, courses, and programs. And many are neither static, stale, nor boring. Today sponsors of programs engage some of the finest talent around. They in turn, are eager to share their knowledge or expertise with the participants in the program. Group discussion is sought and encouraged, and some of the most modern educational techniques are employed, in addition to visual aids, guest lecturers and field trips.
Two excellent examples come from just one such source — the catalogue of lectures at the New School (see ROUTES listing). The first one entitled Going Out In New York, is given by Howard Thompson, who writes the daily column, Going Out Guide in the New York Times. The catalogue lists it as a lecture in “how to enjoy New York from cathedral to cabaret. Does it sound like a classic classroom/blackboard type situation? Far from it! As an authority on New York, Mr. Thompson, along with guests, will recommend some of the little known “best buys·” in entertainment in the city. Walking and discovering lesser known night spots and bargain movies are all part of the information he will give.
Or, the second lecture entitled, Essence of the City … presented by Henry Cohen, the Dean of the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. Rather than being a lecture in how New Yorkers live, it is in actuality an opportunity for the participants to question people like Michael Burke, Paddy Chayefsky, Betty Friedan, Red Smith, Anne Meara, and eight other prominent New Yorkers about their reaction to living and working in the city.
The diversification of lectures, courses and programs in the metropolitan area is mind boggling. Regardless of what a person’s interests or needs may be, there is a course or lecture out there to satisfy almost any interest, and have some fun besides.
The growth of adult programs over the last 30 years has been dictated by the demand of inquisitive minds to ” know more” about this world in which we live. Once this curiosity is aroused, then it needs to be satisfied. We constantly hear from Madison Avenue that consumers dictate the products that appear on the market. And in this case the public demand for more knowledge has been answered with an offering of courses and lectures by a variety of organizations across the country. Be it pottery making, a history of jazz, law or a foreign language, there is a course or lecture just waiting for attendance.
Although the primary reason for attending a course or program is to gain new knowledge, many people attend for a myriad of other reasons — from meeting new people with the same interests, to just getting out for an evening of constructive activity.
The ROUTES listings are but a “drop in the bucket” of the hundreds of offerings that exist throughout the TriState area for the month of November. A phone call to most local high schools, colleges or museums, however, will bring a response of catalogues and brochures listing lectures and courses for the full year or the current season. The following lists should not be construed as being the institution’s only offering — rather, it is just a sample of some of their many courses [The New School Bulletin, for instance, has over 200 pages of lecture courses, seminars and programs].
So, for those who have not experienced the pleasure of today’s lectures, go out and try one. Treat it as a form of entertainment and see if you won’t enjoy it. And, for those who have already tried it, be expansive and try something new. Regardless of which category you choose — TURN ON TO LECTURES. You’ll be glad you did.