Classes in designing a new society (Day 9 of Learning road trip)

Today we sat in on two classes at the School for Designing a Society.

The first class was called The Gaze.  People listened to an OpEd from the Nation about the execution of Troy Davis, wrote for 10 minutes, then read their writing aloud.  The participants had been active in drawing attention to shortcomings in the judicial process and had clear, powerful thoughts to convey.

The second class was on ecological design in a series on Liberation ecology, taught by Rafter Ferguson.  The basic principles of permaculture were presented through an interactive lecture.  One of permaculture co-founders, Bill Mollison, defines it as “conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems,” but Rafter spoke more generally of “meeting human needs while increasing human health.”  Either way, four principles emerge:  reciprocity, multi-functionality, unintended consequences, and edge (see longer list).

It was clear from the two classes that SDaS attracts young activist students, who are prepared to come to Urbana for an intense semester.  They wouldn’t have funds for living in Boston and paying for a graduate degree such as CCT.  CCT students are usually working, raising families, etc. and wouldn’t be able to give away a semester to come to Urbana.  However, they should be aware of endeavors such as SDaS which push the envelope more than CCT’s courses.  Let’s see if we can make that happen.

(back to Start of road trip; forward to Day 11)


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

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