Fall 2021
Tuesday, September 13 - Thursday, November 18, 2021

Virtual Learning

Our new reality now includes the wonderful Zoom classes that allow us to see each other while maintaining distance and keeping safe. Based on our success to date, we may continue to offer some Zoom classes when our normal in-person meetings resume.

We definitely look forward to the joy of learning and socializing together again face to face.


Tuesday 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.

The Men Who Built America

At the end of the 19th century, America was suffering from the devastating effects of the Civil War.  Yet, within 30 years of unbridled capitalism, we became the world’s greatest economic and technological superpower.  This was accomplished by a handful of men who built the key pillars of industrial America – steel, railroads, oil, finance and the motor car.  Primary among these men were Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan & Henry Ford.  They were assisted by others who played a major role – Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Nicola Tesla, Jim Fisk,  Henry Frick, etc.  The methods these men used to gain ascendancy are often morally and ethically questionable. (They also make for some very good stories!)  We will discuss their innovations, accomplishments, setbacks and rivalries with each other.  These men have come down to us as poster children for uncaring capitalism.  Maybe their later philanthropy washed away some of their sins.  The goal of this class is not to canonize them but rather to acknowledge their monumental achievements while recognizing their human flaws. 

The Year of Decision, 1846

1846 began in crisis.  It was the pivotal year in the story of Manifest Destiny. The strong possibility of two wars, with Britain and Mexico, loomed.  The far northwest – today’s Oregon, Washington, Idaho, parts of Utah, Montana, Wyoming and a large chunk of Western Canada – was known collectively as “Oregon,” and was disputed territory with Britain.  South of Oregon, from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide was an even larger territory claimed by Mexico.  The U.S. had only just annexed Texas.  Americans were not sure what they meant by “California” and were very insecure about our borders and European designs on North American land.  The British, Mexican, even French and Russian intentions were ominous and inscrutable. 

Tuesday 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Great Rivers of the World

This course will provide a journey around the world to explore the nature and history of its great rivers. We will look at how these rivers have affected civilizations throughout history, how they have been impacted by development, and their continuing evolution today and tomorrow. Examples could include the Nile, the Amazon, the Euphrates, the Mississippi, etc.

Saints, Sinners or Both in the Bible

The Bible has as many sinners and saints.  At times sinners and saints can be the same person. We will each pick a person in the old or new testament, tell about their lives and decide if they were sinners, saints or both at different times in their lives.  In a way, we will put them on trial. Some of the people we could pick are: Adam, Eve, Moses, Saul, David, Samson, Rahab, Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, Jezebel and many others.

Wednesday 9:30 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.

100 Years Ago: 1921

The class participants will research and present on topics of interest that happened during that year. Topics might include: The formation of the Irish Free State; US Emergency Quota Act; Tulsa Race Riot; Sheppard-Towner Act; Ireland War of Independence; Soviet-Georgian War; Treaty of Berlin; Russia; the Great Famine; first religious radio broadcast; founding of Science Service; International Working Union of Socialist Parties founded; Inauguration of Harding; Chanel No.5 launched; first BCG vaccination against TB; Communist Party of China; Sacco and Vanzetti Trial opens; discovery of Insulin; first radio baseball game broadcast; FDR diagnosed with polio; White Castle opens; Bloody Night; The Sheik, Link River Dam, Adolph Hitler’s Brown-shirts assault the opposition; Gucci founded; and much much more.

21st Century Genetics 

Let’s explore genetics!  DNA is an encyclopedia of traits that can reveal your ethnicity; your ancestry going back thousands of years; your propensity for disease; RNA is a component of the COVID vaccine.  DNA technology is amazing! Scientists have invented the CRSPR tool that can delete or add genes to DNA.  DNA bots can target and remove undesirable cells to fight disease, and produce artificial tissues and organs, which can replace damaged ones.  Let;s look at the implications of bio-engineering, police use of DNA samples, gender identity, tracing our ancestry, etc. and discuss ethical and political issues related to these topics.

Wednesday 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Ken Kesey’s bracing, insightful novel about the meaning of madness and the value of self-reliance.  This novel is boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Turning conventional notions of sanity and insanity on their heads, the novel tells the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her.  ISBN 9780670023233

Thursday 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Great Crime Movies

Do you love solving crimes and discussing the twists and turns of a great crime movie?  Which ones would you watch again and again? Which have stood the test of time?  Which had an ending you didn’t expect or one that totally surprised you?  What elements created suspense, confusion or changed your mind about what crime was really committed?  Join us in viewing and discussing some of the great domestic and international crime movies or introduce us to a lesser known one you have discovered.  

The Great American Songbook

The “Great American Songbook” is the canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century that have stood the test of time in their life and legacy. Often referred to as “American Standards,” the songs, which were published during the Golden Age of this genre, include those popular and enduring tunes from the 1920s through the 1950s that were created for Broadway theater, musical theater and Hollywood musical films. A variety of composers contributed to the “songbook” including Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Frederick Loewe, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jule Styne and many more (for complete list go to American Songbook).  Choose your favorite composer and tell us about their life and the “standards” that they contributed to the “Great American Songbook.”

Thursday 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.

History of the CIA: Atrocities, Successes and Failures

The CIA has a history of hundreds of immoral actions and widespread human rights abuses that some rationalize as pragmatically needed.  Most of our presidents have crossed the line on morals and approved many CIA actions, and many presidents have been tricked into approval by CIA lies.  Just how to administer the CIA, and how to appropriately define its mission has been a continuing problem for our government. Many of U. S. leaders have claimed that the CIA cannot be reformed – it is institutionally and culturally corrupt. Due to the advances in information technology today, the information available on past CIA atrocities, successes, and failures is very plentiful, as many of its files become public information. Some of the many subjects that could be studied by the class for presentation are: The Bay of Pigs, Iran/Contra Scandal, Operations PAPERCLIP, MOCKINGBIRD, CHAOS, and PHOENIX, Radio Free Europe, etc.   


The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende was born in Peru to Chilean parents. She worked as a journalist in Chile until she was forced to flee to Venezuela after the assassination (1973) of her uncle, Chilean President. Salvador Allende.  In 1981 she began writing a letter to her terminally ill grandfather that evolved into her first novel and many think, her greatest book to date.   This novel is an example of magic realism, in which realistic fiction is overlaid with elements of fantasy and myth. She has written at least 21 books and magic realism is featured in most of her earlier works.  She is the best-known female Latin American writer. The House of the Spirits is a multi-generational family saga.