What We're Reading
Each year’s Tecolote session is structured around a theme, many of which are framed by the American experience. Previous topics have included political theory, nuclear physics, classical and New Mexican literature, educational theory, and modern American history. The Tecolote Group continues to explore new topics for upcoming program years. Below are themes from past years:
Democracy in America (2002–03, 2010–11): Readings included selections from Alexis de Tocqueville’s book of the same name, selections from the Constitution, some of the Federalist Papers, and Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
The Phenomenon of Learning (2003–04, 2011–12): We explored what happens in the mysterious process of teaching and learning, and tried to do it in a way that allowed the process to remain mysterious. For the seminar we read Plato’s Meno, one of Montaigne’s essays, and a selection from Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct. For the tutorial, we examined some of Euclid’s Book One, adapted for our group.
Books that Change Lives (2004–05 and 2013–14): We concentrated on Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony during the fall sessions, examining the poems during the tutorial and the novel during the seminar. In the winter we read Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, likewise examining short poetic passages in the tutorial and whole plays in the seminar.
Radiance of a Thousand Suns: The Hope and Peril of Atomic Energy (2005–06): For the seminar we read selections from Richard Rhodes Making of the Atomic Bomb, and selections from Seeking Security in an Insecure World, a book that dealt with the state of affairs (at the time) with respect to nuclear weapons. We also read a pair of papers that defended and criticized the atom as a source of electric power. In the tutorial we worked through “Nuclear Primer,” a set of papers that David Curtis and Steve Van Luchene wrote for the occasion that provided a brief but scientifically accurate account of nuclear physics for the non-specialist.
Knowing and Believing (2006–07): The seminar readings were taken from Plato’s Republic. The tutorial focused on the Preface and Introduction to Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, broken into four short readings. The underlying question dealt with how “knowing” is distinguished from “believing.” Kant and Plato offer distinctively different approaches to this question.
Slavery and Its Aftermath in the United States (2007–08): The seminar readings were from William Faulkner’s Go Down Moses. The tutorial addressed landmark Supreme Court decisions including Dred Scott, Plessey v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Education as well as selections from the W.E.B. Du Bois book, The Souls of Black Folk, to view these issues in the context of black social history.
The Earth and Us (2008–09): The issues surrounding global climate change involve a bewildering array of expert domains, and it can be perplexing for lay observers to establish a footing and develop sound views regarding the fundamental questions. Tecolote focused on papers that present some of the important underlying points of view or philosophies of the conflicting analyses. The tutorials sampled some of the basic elements of climate science while the seminars examined a different approach to the question of mankind’s relationship to the earth, through selections from James Lovlock’s 1979 book, Gaia, and Bill Mc Kibben’s more recent book, Deep Economy.
Economics: The Dismal Science (2012–13): We hoped to get underneath the current political and economic stalemate in the United States by looking carefully at some important founding ideas that underlie the competing slogans in Washington. We discussed papers that exhibit some of the best-argued and most durable contributions from different parts of the philosophical economics spectrum, with readings from Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, and F.A. Hayek.