Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Seminar Report: iSymposium on Gun Control
By David Saussy On January 23, 2013 · Add Comment

On Monday January 21st, iSymposium convened to discuss the constitutional, social and political issue of gun control. The opening question for the discussion was “Should the Amendment be Repealed?” based on an article by Kurt Eichenwald in Vanity Fair (Jan 3rd 2013) ”Let’s Repeal the Second Amendment”. Other readings on the table were:
  • George Will, “Repeal the Second Amendment” The Dispatch March 1991
  • Jeffery Goldberg Atlantic Monthly December 2012 “The Case for More Guns (And More Gun Control)”
Monday’s conversation was the first part of a two part series. In two weeks, on February 4th, the group will get together again to discuss the Supreme Court ruling DC v Heller (2008). Those who could not make the first seminar are welcome to join the second. I’m looking forward to the discussion – this is a great opportunity (it gives us a convenient excuse!) to dive into the actual arguments and concrete words of the Supreme Court Justices themselves – an opportunity to read a text which otherwise we wouldn’t on our own.

The series “Taking Aim” is part of broader interest of Symposium Great Books Institute to foster intelligent discussion, in particular discussion concerning the United States Constitution and all of the rich and complex ramifications the document has in the life of the American people. The Constitution is itself -as it were- a great book or core text.

Supreme Court Cases – especially landmark cases – serve as touchstones for lively discussions on matters of common interest as they pertain to Constitutional questions.

In the case of our series “Taking Aim”, the intention of Symposium GBI is to facilitate a discussion on the Constitutional issue of gun control. We are not promoting the opinions of a particular author or a particular political perspective.

The first part of the series was a little unconventional for us – we offered articles instead of primary source texts, so the readings were less substantial. But we regarded the first session as preparation for DC v Heller – a way to open up the conversation, to explore some opinions, than perhaps we would otherwise been able to achieve.

One of the things we try very hard to keep an eye on – what we understand as our job and the one thing of integrity we offer – is to provide opportunities not just to have any old discussion – not to have a “bull session” – but to have fruitful conversations which advance our understanding of issues and important questions. We want our participants to be able to walk away from the table with an enlarged perspective on the complex problems and questions raised by the great books.

Socratic seminars do a very effective job at allowing this to take place – because participants enter into the conversation openly and freely, but also the text in common is always kept in clear view.

The seminar coming up on the 4th of February will not be anything you see on cable news networks or elsewhere. We’ll be pursuing an understanding of the arguments and counterarguments of the Supreme Court Justices based on our own questions. What a great way to kick off the week, don’t you think? It adds just a little more goodness to our lives.

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