Presentation Descriptions

Festival of Ideas: Oct 2021 Presentations

Keynote Address (9:00am - 10:00am)

“I am the arrow shaft”: Annie Dillard, Seeing and Classical Pedagogy

Jonathan Gregg (Visiting Assistant Professor of Education and Mathematics at Hillsdale College)

Session 1 (10:10am - 11:05am)

Journeying out of the Dark Wood: An Introduction to Dante's Divine Comedy

Jared Dybzinski (Literature Teacher & Department Head, Liberty Common High School)

Most people think of Dante as the guy who wrote a poem to come up with obscure ways to torture his enemies, but Dante's Divine Comedy starts with his own lostness. It is a story of his own way out, and it still offers deep wisdom on getting out of our own dark woods. Join us for an introduction to all three parts of the Comedy, not just the Inferno.

Zero and Her Evil Twin, Infinity

Ashley McAllister (Mathematics Teacher, Liberty Common High School)

Infinity and zero... everything and nothing. They are opposite sides of the same coin. These ideas stumped Greek philosophers for centuries. Let's explore how looking into infinitely large and infinitely small quantities led to the invention of Calculus. Then we will take a look at what happens when you multiply infinity times zero. Multiplying by infinity always leads to a product of infinity. Multiplying by zero always leads to a product of zero. Who will win in this epic battle?

Rebelling Against Transience: Intentional Rebuilding through the Development of Interior Freedom

Blaise Hockel (Headmaster, St. John Paul II High School)

America's legacy is more and more becoming mass developments of cheap housing, glancing attempts in factory-styled academia, and the ever-shifting ideology of an expressive and unreflective populace. This is the time to pause and consider: what is the future that we are building towards, and does it lead to a life of true freedom (both in act and in the interior life)?

Art and Music: Best Friends Forever

Rex Seiple (Art Teacher) & Dave Lunn (Music Teacher & Department Head Liberty Common High School)

From Mozart and Jacques David to Duchamp and John Cage, art and music have mirrored trends in Western thought. We will explore how the prevailing aesthetics of both art and music reflect cultural attitudes through history. Join us on this fascinating journey through art and music.

The Electoral College: The Ideal, the Reality, and the Reform

Stanton Skerjanec (Administrative Archivist, Liberty Common High School)

The Electoral College is among the most unique, confusing, and controversial systems within the American Republic. What began as the ideal of wise citizens from each state choosing our commander-in-chief quickly became a tool of political parties to the point that the Electoral College would be unrecognizable to the Constitutional Framers. This presentation traces the history of this marvel of American political innovation and explores various reforms that run from the very good to the very bad.

Artemisia Gentileschi: 17th Century Artist... and Feminist?

Erin Grandprey, Art Teacher, Liberty Common Elementary School

Artemisia Gentileschi: one of only a handful of female names to survive throughout Art History. What about her work makes it stand up - and even stand out - against contemporary masters like Caravaggio? What about her life makes her noteworthy? And how is it possible that we are STILL, in the twenty-first century, finding her artwork presented as being created by her male contemporaries?

Dance: The Translation of Music into Movement

Meri Barber (11th grader, Liberty Common High School

Why Calvin is Smarter than You: A Deep-Dive into the Comics of Bill Watterson and their Underlying Meaning

Jack Wilde & Carter Conrady (12th graders, Liberty Common High School)
Not many people really understand the depth that Bill Watterson incorporated into his comics. Along with the humor that we have come to know and love, there is also a layer of philosophical investigation hidden in many, if not all, his comics. Topics ranging from human impact on the environment all the way to mortality and our meaning in life are interwoven in these elusive comic strips. Whether you are a lifelong reader of Calvin and Hobbes or you have never heard of the comics, there is so much to learn from this seemingly innocent young child and his pet tiger. Join us for an hour of introspection, learning, and revelation regarding Calvin and Hobbes. 

Session 2 (11:15am - 12:10pm)

Growth Mindset through a Mathematical Lens

Nick Weeks (Mathematics Teacher, Loveland Classical Schools)

A dangerous myth subversively permeates society: there are math people and there are non-math people. “I am not a math person" has been uttered by students, parents and even teachers. Let us consider the counter statement; “We Are ALL capable of being math people.” This discussion will focus on the differences between a Fixed Mindset (we are either born a math person or a non-math person) versus a Growth Mindset (we are all capable of being math people) by examining scientific evidence and performing a few mathematical pattern-based exercises that will highlight how our attitudes towards learning can influence our comprehension abilities as well as our retention of lessons learned.

A Precious Asset: The Role of Jewelry in Sixteenth Century Anglo-Scottish Relations

Cassie Auble (Latin Teacher, Liberty Common School)

This presentation explores how Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I utilized jewelry in political settings to construct meaning, represent themselves, and negotiate personal and political relationships. Studying the complexities of jewelry’s exchange and circulation between the courts of England and Scotland provides a more nuanced picture of early modern diplomacy and material culture. Jewelry provided a valuable resource from which rulers and diplomats regularly drew when framing their political discourse. Jewels used in diplomacy were as politically meaningful as the gestures and rituals of formal diplomatic audiences and domestic ceremonies. As an object of exchange with a variety of functions, jewelry was absorbent of meaning and memories. Thus, jewelry could forge bonds between those who exchanged it, and also bring about hostilities and complications.

Founding Fathers, Rivals, and Friends: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Dr. Joel Penning (History Teacher, Liberty Common High School)

Collaborating on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, establishing the new governments of their respective states, and serving abroad together to negotiate the new country's first treaties, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were at the center of American independence. In the process they became intimate friends. Their friendship came to an end as they found themselves rivals in a bitter partisan divide and opponents in our first contested presidential elections. Yet after more than a decade without contact, Adams and Jefferson were driven to get back in touch and, until their deaths, exchange the most remarkable series of political letters in American history, rekindling their friendship and debating the nature of the new nation they had created. This talk will examine the friendship between Adams and Jefferson in order to consider both the tensions of our founding moment and how we might construct a healthier civic discourse in the present.

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika: The noumena, phenomena, and emptiness of form

Ian Stout (Executive Director, Loveland Classical Schools)

What do an 18th-century Prussian philosopher of the European Enlightenment and a 2nd-century sage from classical India have in common? Both provide a piercing analysis of direct experience, delivering insights into the nature of the human mind and how we know the world. This discussion delves into the principal conclusions of these seminal ontologists from the human canon.

Can Human Nature Be Changed?

Bob Schaffer (Headmaster, Liberty Common School)

We will explore the origins of "Unalienable" Rights and America's experiment in self-government.  The country’s founders built a system of republican government upon the idea there are indeed moral absolutes that necessitate limiting the powers of government, and maximizing the liberty of individuals.  If rights are not created or given by government, from where do they come?  The great natural-law philosophers we learn about at Liberty pondered these profound questions.  We will unpack the line of natural-law philosophy that leads to a uniquely American ethnicity.   

Everyone is a Musician

Amy Clemens (Music Teacher, Liberty Common Elementary School)

Socrates once wrote “Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.” Music is an imperative part of any classical education, and two of the most basic musical elements that we learn about are melody and harmony. Please join Amy Clemens for an interactive session of music making! We will begin with a simple melody, and use xylophones to create layers of harmony. There is no prior music knowledge required - this session is especially great for those of you who think you can’t sing!

The Keys to the Treasure Chest: Unlocking the Secrets of English Verse

Dr. David Rothman, Independent Scholar, Writer & Poet

"Irish poets learn your trade,

Sing whatever is well made,

Scorn the sort now growing up

All out of shape from toe to top..."

Yeats's sound advice from "Under Ben Bulben" applies not only to his time and to Irish poets, but to all of us, in all times and places. It seems obvious enough that craft may not be sufficient for poetry but remains necessary, and yet it is now only taught and studied infrequently, and then often poorly. Join us as we discuss the teaching, study and practice of the trade of poetry, particularly rhyme and meter, and why it matters as much now as it ever has.

Water, Water, Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

John Parsons (Science Teacher, Liberty Common High School)

The convenience of potable water is something we all take for granted. Would you know how to make safe drinking water in times of an emergency? Learn about the sources of water source contaminants and modern treatment techniques used for reduction/removal. Find out about readily available ways to make safe drinking water for outdoor recreation and/or emergency needs.

Synesthesia: Taste (or Hear?) the Rainbow

Chloe Young (12th grader, Liberty Common High School)

Session 3 (1:00pm - 1:55pm)

The Divided Self: Duty and Desire in Literature

Heidi White (Teacher and Author, Circe Institute)

All stories are about characters who make choices, and those choices distill down to a conflict between what characters want to do versus what they ought to do. In this talk, teacher and podcaster Heidi White will explore literature's enduring obsession with duty and desire -- which is mirrored in our own divided selves.

A Whirlwind Tour of the Art History of the World

Tracy Boberg Nichols (Art Teacher, Liberty Common Elementary School)

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” - Michael Crichton

Inspired by E.D.Hirsch's brilliant Core Knowledge sequence, join me for a look at the masterworks of Art, Architecture, and Sculpture in the last 5,000+ years of recorded history. What makes these masterpieces worthy of our attention and their place in the timeline of history? Let’s discover what makes them timeless representatives that tell the story of culture and civilization.

The History of Reading and How We Got Here

Jeffrey Siener (4th Grade Teacher) & Paige Gowing (Librarian, Liberty Common Elementary School)

Veteran teacher, Jeff Siener, combines forces with our fearless librarian, Paige Gowing, to share the history of reading and trends in the world of teaching reading. They will also share data on the most effective strategies for teaching reading.

The Virtue of Wonder and its Necessity for a Good Life

Trent Kramer (Headmaster, Ascent Classical Academy)

In classical circles like ours, we often use words like Justice, Prudence, and Wonder, but if I asked you to define them for me, could you? If we truly believe that living a good life is dependent on leading a life of virtue, then we must understand what virtue is and why it plays such an important role in human flourishing. If we affirm with W.E.B. Du Bois that “the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men”, then we must give ourselves to the study of virtue, both in theory, and in practice.

In his talk, Mr. Kramer will highlight the virtue of Wonder, arguably the highest of all of the virtues. It is also a virtue that is especially connected to the work of Classical Education.

Dare to Step into the World of the Play

Natalie Scarlett (Literature Teacher, Playwright, and Director, Liberty Common High School)

Live performance is flipping. Audience members, discontent passively viewing, want to affect theatrical events, be immersed in the art, and contribute to the narrative. This seems like a complete rejection of the classical origins of Ancient Greek theatre. But many of the groundbreaking immersive theatre productions of the last 30 years have been based on literary works from the Western canon, like Macbeth, Alice in Wonderland, and Moby-Dick, and participants often experience catharsis without sitting quietly facing a proscenium in the dark. Why? What about this new genre of multimedia and multi-sensory theatre is appealing because it's very new, or maybe because it's very old? By analyzing several famous immersive theatre productions we will explore this new performance art phenomenon.

Keeping the Song Alive

Andrew Wallace (Music Teacher, Liberty Common High School)

In this class, we will learn how music can provide meaning to a person’s thoughts, and wny preserving that thought is important. We will learn how to interpret the music with the text and, by understanding it, how it can help us understand ourselves, and the world around us, better.

Scholar-Athletes and the Childish Nature: Remaking Sports as Co-Curricular

Chris Reynolds (Athletic Director, Liberty Common High School)

Plato said that “the childish nature needs sports.” At a majority of academic institutions, however, athletics has been relegated to extra-curricular status or promoted as the primary target. A robust vision for the role of athletics in developing virtue and “rightly ordered affections” within scholar-athletes fortifies classically-oriented schools in building the foundation for a flourishing life.

The Genetics of Jurassic Park

Audrey Poirot (12th grader, Liberty Common High School)
Have you ever wondered whether we could reproduce actual dinosaurs? Join us in evaluating the theories of DNA preservation and genetics that underpin the cinematic classic Jurassic Park.



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