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Please help refine the potential topics for 2011 and then vote on them. Here's the schedule:

Dec. 21 - 27: Refine Topics (or add new ones)
Dec. 28 - 29: Vote on Topics
Dec. 29 -31: Confirm Topic Hosts and assign topics to specific 2011 dates

The topics as they were submitted or discussed in our December Think Again are below. The topics may seem a bit muddled because I took very rough notes during the conversation and tried to include those notes below. Hope it's not too confusing.

Anyone can refine any idea, whether it was originally your idea or not. Just take the topic idea and shape it into something fairly narrow in scope (so it can be covered in a 2-hour session). Post your refined version as a comment. Any of these topics could be approached from different angles, so it's okay if one of the ideas gets "refined" more than once - it will just give us more choices for the vote. For simplicity sake, I recommend this format:

1 - 3 sentence description of the specific question or concept or phenomenon you want us to explore. If you already have some ideas about source materials or a guest expert or other "feature" you want to include, feel free to mention it. If you want to host the topic (i.e. get all the prep materials together and facilitate the discussion), indicate that, too. You do not have to host the topic you suggest.

On the 28th, I will post the new, revised list for voting. If you want a topic to make it into the final vote, make sure you refine it and re-post it. Thanks!

1) Children and population trends. Demographic shifts in the developing world versus industrialized nations.

2) National debt and the deficit. What is the difference? Does it matter as much as people think?

3) Labor Unions. Relevance in today’s economic environment?

4) Tea Parties and Marijuana: Why the right stole the show in 2010.
a. Rick’s tea party friend who could come share perspective

5) Generally, what brings people happiness?
a. What is NOT happiness? Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Bhutan – Gross National Happiness

6) What is social entrepreneurship and does it work?
a. Where a market is applied. Market-driven incentives in healthcare, for example.

7) What determines intelligence and who gets to decide? We could talk about IQ tests, the multicultural dimensions of IQ scores, other models of intelligence, like Musical and Athletic intelligence, etc.
a. For-profit colleges? Explore ideas about intellectual capital. Rick has a book on IQ (talent is overrated). Focus on IQ test. What is it blind to? Attitudes about intelligence.

8) "Numbers in Nature" Mathematical patterns show up all over in nature. It would be interesting to become familiar with some of these patterns and why scientists think this happens.
a. Philosophy of science. Music and math. Dana, Philip, Laura know some people.

9) The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Builders, Generation X, Generation Y, and the E generation. What differentiates these generations and what aspects of growing up in different times affects us? We could have representatives from each age group give opinions.
a. How advertising/media affects our perspectives, myth-making, the phenomenon of having nostalgia for a time you did not experience

10) Prescription vs. Restriction: The advantages and disadvantages of government regulation.

11) Fashion

12) Left-Handers: What is up with them? Left-handed people are disproportionately represented in high-ranking political offices, corporate boardrooms, and in influential art circles. Is this just a strange coincidence or is there more there?

13) Meditation. Buddhism. Mindfulness

14) Is wealth redistribution a good thing? And, if so, what methods of redistribution are best?
a. Earned-income tax credit

15) I would like us to explore the connections between the food we are consuming, how we obtain it, and what it is helping (or not helping) us become physcially, spiritually, and socially.
a. Raw milk - Brian

16) Interpreting the Constitution: Does our current government overreach the powers granted to them therein?

17) Rape as a weapon of war

18) The United States Constitution:is it a Bible or a general guide book? How does the constitution impact our government? What has allowed it to last for over 200 years? (my dad used to work at the National Archives, and I could ask him to moderate)
a. Civil rights law, 10th amendment, immigration and the states vs. federal government

19) One more idea that just came to me as I was working, listening to NPR and then some fun folk music came on. I started moving to the music, tapping my foot, and practically dancing with my butt in my chair. What's with that? What is it about music that makes it a body mover and mood changer? I'd like to know the science behind this.

20) Paradox of sexual freedom. More rights. More pornography.

21) Field Trip ideas (During the discussion, people talked about having prep materials and a short discussion as part of the field trip. Or to study and dialogue about a topic one month and then do a relevant field trip the following month.)
a. Music studio
b. Backstage of a theater or the opera (sets, costumes, lights, etc.)
c. Interactive craft/art creative night
d. Urban design (study up on Greenbelt, Maryland and maybe visit Daybreak or other designed community)
e. Nature hike with an expert
f. Gilgal gardens
g. Hawk watch
h. City dump/recycling or other waste processing facility
i. Kennecot
j. Masonic temple
k. Factories in North Salt Lake
l. Ben Behunin (potter). He has made his living doing this for the past 15 years. He has just published his third book in a series about a young potter. They are delightful and thought provoking. He has a whimsical home and studio in Sugar House. It would be worth your time to see the studio and the art he creates. It is both irreverent and inspiring. His love for live and art is fun and infectious. Yet he is also very practical. I have heard him speak to a group before and he can share some remarkable insights about following your dreams and passions while staying true to your ideals.


  1. 1. What determines how many children people chose to have and how does this “child choice” change nations (their environments, economies and cultures)? How do income, education, cultural norms influence the “child choice”? What are the impacts of decreasing reproduction on the industrialized world? Perhaps compare Japan, the US and Brazil as case studies.

    2. What about the national debt? Should we be concerned about the size of the national debt and does it matter who owns the debt? Is it advisable to continue to increase deficits and the debt in the short-term? Economists seem to have various opinions on the debt and I envision selecting readings from economists with differing opinions on this topic to start the discussion.

  2. From: Matt Connelly

    1) The role of theology in religion: Theology plays a critical role in every religion, at both the institutional and individual levels. How do different faith traditions and their adherents understand their theologies? How can these understandings be healthy or unhealthy? What are the pros and cons of orthodoxy? To what degree should theology be "flexible," and what do we mean by "flexible"? Part of my presentation would propose an understanding of theology as an inspired framework, as a touchstone that points us to deeper truths that connect us more closely to God. I'm concerned these days with "healthy" theology as well as the effects that "unhealthy" theology can have on people. My overriding concern is does theology help us become closer to God, or does it drive us away? What assumptions do we make about theology, and where do those assumptions lead us?

    2) Field trip to a mountain spot where we do nature writing (a la Rachel Carson in the personal essay vein), then we read our essays to each other at the next group meeting. So fun!

  3. #5 I would really like to discuss ways to MEASURE happiness if possible. That seems to be the struggle now. There's this movement called the Fun Theory. Is someone having fun a sure indicator of happiness? If so can that be measured. The Fun Theory tries to measure it.

    #8 The Golden Section is one of the more studied and proven theories of umbers or fractions in nature and how it repeats itself. Too bad we can't get Leonardo Da Vinci to come speak to us.

    #11 would be interesting to see exactly how we are influenced and where that influence is really coming from. Do those crazy expensive designs we see on the runway really have an impact on popular fashion and who decides what the trends are.

  4. New: Legalized Marijuana in the U.S. Is it's illegality having the same effects that prohibition had on alcohol--increased crime and crime prevention costs. AND a look at the drug itself: Is Marijuana really a "gateway drug"? Is it more/less dangerous to use than alcohol.

    New: Intersex, some individuals are born with ambiguous female and male physical characteristics. Early 20th century doctors sometimes chose the gender without consent of the parents and performed an operation immediately. How do these individuals cope today? are they attracted to both sexes as adults?

    1. Child Choice--Are men or women making the reproductive choices in these various countries? Does it change from country to country? I've heard from a sociologist that wealthier people in the U.S. tend to have fewer children, is this true in Brazil, Japan.

    5. Happiness Option: I think how we spend our time brings happiness--do we in the U.S. need to slow down and make more free time? Is it possible to support a family or yourself by living an "alternative lifestyle" and work less than 40 hours a week (without being rich already) taking more time for socializing, being outside. Compare the typical full-time American adult to a traditional 1950's hunter gatherer in remote Africa. Who works harder--time wise? Who is more happy/healthy?

    5. Another Happiness Option: I saw a piece on Stephen Colbert featuring a book called "The Story of Stuff". It encouraged reducing materialism. Our physical possessions take time, and money, could owning less make us happier, less stressed out, more available for desirable pursuits? Could we use a "possession cleanse"?

    I would be willing to prepare for/moderate any one of these.

  5. 1. Food—the stuff life is made of. How, what, and where food is grown, processed, and delivered effects us economically, environmentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. But few believe it.

    2. Music theory. Why and how is music the most common and powerful mind altering drug next to sex?

    3. Fibonacci Numbers and the Golden Spiral. They were in the Da Vinci Code. They are in sunflowers, seashells, and artichokes to name just a few. What do such common natural mathematical patterns say about us and the nature of the world we live in?

    4. Prohibition and it's consequences. What can it teach us about legalizing Marijuana?

    5. Theology, religion, church, and spirituality—defining terms. How do these tools help and hinder people understand God and his will?

    6. Children. Why having them is not about economics; Not about the environment; Not about fashion and self fulfillment; Not about self perpetuation. Having children is about self-realization.

    7. Why has mandated wealth redistribution consistently failed over and over throughout history? What, if any alternatives work better?

  6. My favorites: Emily
    1. Manliness and masculinity: Is masculinity dead? Do men need a clear-cut sense of masculinity? Are rigid gender roles harmful or are they important for a sense of identity?
    2. Theology, religion, church and spirituality. Religion and spirituality can be different constructs. Every religion has a sense of spirituality. It would be interesting to learn more about comparitive religions.
    3. What differentiates the generations: Boomers, Builders, Generation X, Generation Y and Millenials? I was most interested in looking at the different generations' approach to work, expectations and materialism.
    4. Urban planning: how does urban planning affect a quality of life for a community?
    I would like to discuss trends in urban planning. Talk about Greenbelt, MD, as an example of a planned community, European cities, and Daybreak. Field trip?
    5. I would like to talk about children, and the economic aspects. People with the most money have the least children. What does that mean for the future?
    these are my votes/ideas for topics

  7. My vote:

  8. My vote:
    11, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20m, 10, 7, 4, 5

  9. 20j - masonic temple (no 20m)


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