Philosophy and Human Potential

Philosophy and Human Potential

Why read philosophy? The short answer: philosophy helps us discover what it is we value and believe. This response may sound counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t I already know my own thoughts? Aren’t they my beliefs? Undoubtedly. But values and beliefs are often like the air we breathe – we rely upon them to live without giving them much thought. Philosophy offers us a mechanism for paying closer attention, for seeing ourselves anew.

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A Text at Work: Kurt Vonnegut’s “2BR02B”

A Text at Work: Kurt Vonnegut’s “2BR02B”

Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical, often dark and usually humorous novels are both popular and complex. His somber yet fantastical vision of the world was born out of harsh personal experience. Most notably, as a young man Vonnegut enlisted to fight in World War II, where he was captured by the German army. As a prisoner of war, he survived the fire bombing of Dresden. This experience would become the source material for Slaughterhouse Five, one of his most important works.

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The Power of a Professor: Busting a Few Myths

The Power of a Professor: Busting a Few Myths

When we started Books@Work, a surprising number of people questioned the potential impact of professors in the workplace. “Won’t they be intimidating?” asked one skeptic. “Will people really want to read the stuff they want to teach?” worried another. “Aren’t professors too expert to be really open-minded about what adult learners would have to say?” The lack of confidence was frankly dispiriting.

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Toward a Theory of True Workplace Learning

Toward a Theory of True Workplace Learning

As I have read these early blog posts from Books@Work, the notion of lifelong learning comes to mind. It’s a phrase that is used in so many different ways that it has lost any genuine shared meaning for those interested in learning outcomes for adults of all ages. This is particularly true for learning in the workplace, which sometimes uses lofty language about learning, but often is targeted at imparting skills that will contribute directly to the bottom line. Felix, in an earlier blog post, suggested that Books@Work has hit on an approach that serves the individual’s needs and desires for personal growth and learning AND the needs of the workplace for engaged and competent employees.

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“Shakespeare Got a Lot Better Since High School…”

“Shakespeare Got a Lot Better Since High School…”

On day one at Swagelok I asked the Books@Work participants why they signed on for the program:

“The program was a natural. I love to rip through books to find out what happens.”
“I don’t read much besides work-related stuff anymore and thought the program would be a good way to get back into it.”
“I just thought the idea of talking about what I read is cool.”

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Can Shakespeare Really Improve the Bottom Line?

Can Shakespeare Really Improve the Bottom Line?

A few years ago, my wife, Ann Kowal Smith, facilitated an education initiative in Northeast Ohio. She shared with me many an idea. One night she came home quite excited. She had observed that everybody focuses on increasing college attainment rates and on reducing high school dropout rates, but nobody thinks about the rest of the adult population – the nearly 60% of American adults who have a high school degree (and even some college) but no BA. They most likely have kids and a job and a full slate of responsibilities. That many of them may find the time and the money to go back to college is a pipe dream. By creatively engaging this group to become life-long learners and critical thinkers who grow personally and professionally, might we have an opportunity to help shape and nurture the learning environment for their children and their communities?

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Books@Work is working!

Books@Work is working!

In his most recent Topics letter – a periodic communication to his followers using “old world” means: print and snail mail – President Thomas V. Chema of Hiram College shared his excitement about the progress of Books@Work: “Like many good ideas, this is a simple one. But it’s one I believe can grow into a national opportunity.”

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Do Books Help Us Accept Others?

Do Books Help Us Accept Others?

In a recent interview published in the New York Times Magazine, editor Joel Lovell made a trip to Syracuse, New York to meet with the much acclaimed novelist and short story writer George Saunders. The article’s title, “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You Will Read This Year” sums up the basic tenor of the piece: a reverent ode to Saunders’ talent and success. Saunders’ work is a bizarre mix of nerdy science fiction à la Kurt Vonnegut and trendy post-modernism in the style of Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace. The article is peppered with conversations about death, capitalism and the negative effects of western society. To end, however, Lovell writes, “The last time we met, Saunders waited in the cold with me until the bus for New York came along. We were talking about the idea of abiding, of the way that you can help people flourish just by withholding judgment, if you open yourself up to their possibilities, as Saunders put it, just as you would open yourself up to a story’s possibilities.” Suddenly any conversation over the evils of free market economy is erased. The ending refocuses Saunders at the very base of his craft and reveals that, beneath whatever the trend of the day is, fiction has, and continues to, concern itself with the basic question of empathy.

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How does reading affect the brain?

How does reading affect the brain?

There is nothing quite as engaging as getting lost in a good book. We talk about becoming one with the characters, absorbed in the story – even feeling an odd sense of loss when we have finished the book and our lives move on. As we absorb ourselves in the story, what is really happening inside our brains?

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Welcome to the Books@Work Blog

Welcome to the Books@Work Blog! In this space, we share news of the program and its development, as well as interesting thoughts and ideas at the intersection of workplace learning, critical thinking and lifelong personal growth. Highlighting interesting research, relevant news, issues and insights, we seek to inspire debate and discussion with our weekly posts. Featuring our own thoughts as well as the ideas of a variety of interested contributors, we aim to become an important source of food for thought! Please let us know how we are doing!  

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