Current Courses

Current Courses

Our goal is to enhance the intellectual, social, and cultural life of adults by providing challenging, diverse, and relevant courses on academic topics. Most of our classes are four to six weeks long and meet once a week for 1-1/2 or 2 hours. Our volunteer instructors are motivated by their desire to share their knowledge and facilitate thoughtful discussions on academic topics.

We have two semesters: Fall and Winter/Spring.

Winter/Spring 2023 Courses

We have an exciting list of courses lined up for Winter/Spring 2023. Registration will open at 10:00 AM on December 5. At that time, once you have decided which courses you want to take, click on the “Register for Courses” button. It will take you to the course registration program.

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This winter/spring, DavidsonLearns is excited to offer a fascinating selection of in-person courses in both our traditional format and our new, shorter mini-course format. Before registering for any of these courses, you first must have a DavidsonLearns account and be a current DavidsonLearns member. We encourage you to take care of both of these requirements now in order to avoid a delay when you register. If you need to create an account or become a DavidsonLearns member (or renew your membership), click here.

To register for courses, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. During registration, you will be asked to affirm this. We rely on participants to report their vaccination status accurately. At this time, masks are optional but encouraged. However, this policy is subject to change.

If you would like to take a course that is full, please add your name to the waitlist, and we will contact you if a seat becomes available. Please do not contact the instructor directly.

In-Person Traditional Courses

Adventures in Genealogy

Status: Open

What did Great-grandpa do for a living? How big was his family? Were they rich or poor?  What was their religion? Did their characteristics match the majority of the local population’s?  Can you discover genealogy’s “Holy Grail”: Great-grandma’s hometown somewhere in the world? A timeline for your ancestors will connect you with the geography, history, and culture in which they lived, bringing together your own family stories with the powerful search engines of the internet.

 

We will sample the most popular genealogical websites as well as some unusual ones. This seminar is open to all, from beginners to professionals, and encourages an interactive exploration of your ancestors as well as their lives and times.    

Participants are encouraged to use personal laptops in class, working on their own projects while learning from conversation with others in the group.

Suggested Readings

Several suggested texts will be available for examination at the first class. Students may want to obtain a copy of one of them.

Cost

$55

Location

Enrollment

Min 6, Max 12 students

Day

Wednesday

Time

1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Dates

Feb. 22; Mar. 1, 8, 15, 22

Status: Open

Around the Charlotte Region in Five Days

Cost

$55

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 20 students

Day

Wednesday

Time

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Dates

Feb. 22; Mar. 1, 8, 15, 22

We live in one of the fastest growing areas in the United States—Mecklenburg and its surrounding counties. Using Dr. McCoy’s personal experience working directly with city, town, and county governments in the region and using information from the regional archives of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, we will explore the history of the region and how it fits into the state’s context. This examination will include issues stemming from Charlotte’s rapid growth (jobs, housing, crime, education, transportation), from historical development patterns in the surrounding eight counties, and from the way rural surrounding areas connect to Charlotte. Also, because tourism plays a major role in the region’s economy, we will discuss what to see and do around the region.

 

This course is primarily lecture but includes some group participation.

Suggested Readings

The instructor will suggest articles from the UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute’s Website, https://ui.charlotte.edu/articles-research, and provide a short bibliography of books..

Instructor: Bill McCoy, PhD

Status: Open

Born in the USA: American Popular Music in the 20th Century

Cost

$77

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 25 students

Day

Tuesday

Time

6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Dates

Jan. 24, 31; Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28; Mar. 7

America's music in the 20th century tells the singular story of how people from different backgrounds and experiences have come together to create a uniquely American art form. In this course, we’ll explore the ways popular music influenced and was influenced by the remarkable events of “The American Century,” a time when the United States was the dominant nation in the world in terms of politics, economics, science, and popular culture. We’ll consider the American musical scene through the lenses of civil rights and racism, feminism, technological change, and national politics.

 

This course is primarily lecture but includes some group participation.

Required Readings

There are no required readings, but students are encouraged to create a Spotify account to listen to playlists of music relevant to each lesson (available for free with ads and other limitations or by subscription with no ads and more features). Instruction for using Spotify will be provided. The instructor will provide a list of readings, films, videos, podcasts, sites, and music that can be accessed via the internet from sources such as AllMusic.com and the podcast A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs.

 

Suggested Readings

Starr, Larry and Christopher Waterman. American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to Mp3. Oxford University Press, 2021.

 

This book may also be available from other sources.

Instructor: Rachel Stewart

Status: Open

The End of Globalization: Where Does the World Go from Here?

Cost

$66

Location

Enrollment

Min 10, Max 25 students

Day

Thursday

Time

6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Dates

Feb. 16, 23; Mar. 2, 9, 16, 23

Does globalization help world trade by making it cheaper, faster, better, safer? What is the historical context for globalization and world trade, including its benefits and costs? How have the pandemic, geopolitics, demographics, economics, and supply chain issues disrupted and changed globalization? What is the future of globalization – is it the end of the world as we know it or has a new era begun? What are the geopolitics of China vs. the West (and the US)? We will explore these issues through lectures and some group discussion.

 

Suggested Readings

The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, and Financial Times.

 

The instructor will bring selected books to class and will e-mail relevant articles for each student to read.

Instructor: Greg Knudson

Status: Open

An Exploration of Davidson History

Cost

$44

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 20 students

Day

Tuesday

Time

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Dates

Feb. 28; Mar. 7, 14, 21

This course, which will be taught by several members of the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections staff, will open the door to the hidden stories found in the Davidson College Archives, Special Collections, and Community Department. Together, we will explore primary sources (photographs, manuscripts, artifacts, etc.) to understand the history of the town of Davidson in a personal way. In addition, we will engage in “close reading” and other techniques to uncover evidence about major events in Davidson’s history. We will also invite you to contribute to the historical record of the Davidson community.

 

Required Readings

Instructors will provide a curated selection of readings via online links or in a packet. The following are representative readings:

 

Status: Open

Gender, Literacy, and Power: How Southern White Women Learned to Claim the Pen

Cost

$55

Location

Enrollment

Min 8, Max 20 students

Day

Monday - Friday

Time

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Dates

Apr. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21

Twenty-five years before the American Revolution began, barely a third of White southern women could read; fewer still could write. Yet, by the 1820s, they were starting schools, writing books, and insisting on their right to the life of the mind. What explains such extraordinary changes? This course will address such questions as Why was it so important to limit the education of women in the early modern era? Why did southern literacy rates lag behind New England’s? What difference did the Revolution make to the expansion of female education? How does race help to explain struggles for equity in education – in both the 19th century and today?

 

This course will be primarily lecture, but it will include some group participation.

Please note: This class meets every day for one week.

Required Readings

PDFs of articles and/or documents [approximately 10-30 pages per class] will be provided.

Suggested Readings

Kerrison, Catherine. Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South. Cornell University Press, 2006.

Status: Open

Memoir Writing Workshop: It’s My Story and I’m Stickin’ to It

Cost

$55

Location

Enrollment

Min 8, Max 10 students

Day

Wednesday

Time

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Dates

Mar. 29; Apr. 5, 12, 19, 26

Ever realize that you have a priceless slice of the past to donate to the future? You do -- it's called the story of your life. In this course, we tap our memories to chronicle the vivid lessons and life experiences that molded us into who we are. Funny, poignant, heroic, or embarrassing, our lives are a bundle of stories that deserve to be recorded either as a private exercise or a gift to future family generations. This dynamic workshop releases the not-to-be forgotten tales of your life on earth.

Suggested Readings

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. 20th ed., Scribner, 2020.

 

Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. Random House, 2018.

 

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. Edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler, translated by Susan Massotty, Bantam, 1997.

 

These books may also be available from other sources.

Status: Open

The Mexican Revolution as Seen Through Literature

Cost

$66

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 15 students

Day

Monday

Time

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Dates

Jan. 23, 30; Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27

The 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution – a bloody struggle between landless peasants, indigenous people, and the aristocracy – inspired many Mexican authors. This course will concentrate on three renowned Mexican novelists: Mariano Azuela, Juan Rulfo, and Carlos Fuentes. We will read three of their acclaimed short novels to see what they can teach us of the chaotic history and the legacy of this 20th century event. Other Mexican authors will be introduced to help us understand the forty years prior to 1910 and the impact of the Revolution fifty years after its end.

 

This course will be primarily lecture, but it will include some group participation.

Required Readings

Azuela, Mariano. The Underdogs. [originally published,1915]. Translated by S. Waisman, Penguin Random House, 2008 or Translated by E. Munguia, Jr., Penguin Random House, 2013.

 

Rulfo, Juan.  Pedro Paramo. Grove Press, 1994. [hyperlink to free pdf].

 

Fuentes, Carlos.  The Old Gringo. Translated by C. Fuentes and M. S. Peden, Macmillan FSG Classics, 2007.

 

These books may also be available from other sources.

Suggested Readings

Additional readings will be suggested during the course.

Status: Open

Northern and Southern Women and the Civil War

Cost

$44

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 25 students

Day

Thursday

Time

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Dates

Feb. 9, 16, 23; Mar. 2

Too often, women are slighted when discussing war. Yet before, during, and after the US Civil War, women in both the North and the South played pivotal roles. This course will examine their actions and how they influenced the war’s outbreak in 1861, the important roles they played throughout the conflict, and the impact both Black and White women had in the years following the War’s conclusion.

 

This course will be primarily lecture, but it will include some group participation.

Required Readings

The instructor will provide handouts of primary source readings.

Suggested Readings

The instructor will distribute a suggested reading list to the class.

Status: Open

Pandemics: The Path from Smallpox to Monkeypox and COVID

Cost

$55

Location

Enrollment

Min 10, Max 25 students

Day

Thursday

Time

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Dates

Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23; Mar. 2

Pandemics! During the 20th century, we made remarkable strides in our efforts to control infectious diseases. Smallpox was eliminated. Polio and measles seemed to be not far behind. Indeed, some argued that the war against infectious diseases had been won. Of course, we all now know that the battle has not been won. Since the 1980s, roughly 40 million people have died of HIV/AIDS. Polio still has not been eliminated. Measles cases are on the rise. And in just the past three years, over 6 million people have died of COVID-19. In this course, we will examine past and present pandemics. We will address several topics, including what factors lead to pandemics and what strategies can be used to prevent or limit them. Finally, we’ll speculate on what the future might hold.

Required Readings

Assorted readings will be provided as PDFs or web links.

Instructor: David Wessner, PhD

Cost

$44

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 10 students

Day

Tuesday

Time

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Dates

Apr. 18, 25; May 2, 9

A first aid station for poems.  Bring your poems to share with fellow poets – a tried and true method to find out what is working in your poems and what may need to be re-examined. Fellow writers are often the best and most careful readers.

 

Participants must complete the course Poetry: The Best Word in the Best Order before registering for this course.

Required Readings

All materials will be provided by the instructor.

 

Suggested Readings

All materials will be provided by the instructor.

Status: Open

Poetry Critique Workshop

Status: Open

Poetry: The Best Word in the Best Order

Cost

$66

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 10 students

Day

Tuesday

Time

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Dates

Jan. 17, 24, 31; Feb. 7, 14, 21

This class is a dialogue between students, poems, and materials provided by the instructor to help all participants find, as Samuel Coleridge put it, “the best words and the best order” for their own poems. Whether you’re an experienced poet or a novice, you will learn from reading selected poems, examining the work of each poet, creating your own poems, and engaging in conversation with other students about their work – all activities designed to enhance the development of your own writing through the lens of selected poets and class feedback. Poems will be from the work of W. H. Auden, Robert Frost, W. S. Merwin, John Balaban, Eleanor Wilner, Jamal May, Betty Adcock, Marilyn Nelson, Claudia Emerson, and others.

Required Readings

All materials will be provided by the instructor.

Suggested Readings

All materials will be provided by the instructor.

Status: Open

A Political History and Virtual Tour of the Panama Canal

Cost

$44

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 25 students

Day

Tuesday

Time

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Dates

Mar. 28; Apr. 4, 11, 18

This course surveys the history of political debate over the Panama Canal – a monumental engineering feat that signaled America’s rise to world leadership. For some, the Panama Canal has long symbolized American greatness; it testifies to the nation’s strength, ingenuity, and perseverance. For others, the canal symbolizes something very different: an imperialistic foreign policy that is both anachronistic and morally wrong.  This course focuses on the political rhetoric that imbued the “Big Ditch” with these larger symbolic trappings – from the national celebration of the Canal led by Theodore Roosevelt to the “Great Debate” over Panama between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. We’ll conclude with an update on more recent developments in Panama and a virtual tour of this marvel of human creation.

 

This course will be primarily lecture, but it will include some group participation.

Suggested Reading and Film

McCullough, David.  The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914.  Simon & Schuster, 2004.

 

This book may also be available from other sources.

 

Kelly, Jack and Mark Baker, dir.  “Panama Canal: Prized Possession.” Miami: Community Television Foundation of South Florida, Inc., 2015.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFxYPgzhOQk

 

Baker, Mark, dir.  “Panama Canal: Post Panamax.” Miami: Community Television Foundation of South Florida, Inc., 2015.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzCULxAmkRU

Cost

$66

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 25 students

Day

Tuesday

Time

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Dates

Jan. 24, 31; Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28

This course analyzes the Reconstruction period (1865-1877) after the Civil War and the impact Reconstruction had on subsequent civil rights struggles. Although African American slaves were freed from slavery, they found that freedom did not bring about racial equality. For a short time, Blacks in the former Confederacy received the right to vote and participated in southern governments. However, White southern resistance to Black participation in government was fierce, and northern Whites came to prioritize reuniting with the White South and resolving economic crises of the 1870s and 1880s over protecting the rights of southern Blacks. In the end White southern opponents of Reconstruction and of Black rights seized power in the South with the tacit approval of most White northerners, and southern Blacks were effectively denied the rights and privileges they had been guaranteed by federal law and the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The stage was set for the next phase of African Americans’ history, where they would fight to actually exercise the rights and privileges of American citizens.

Required Reading

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction (Updated Edition). Harper Perennial, 2015.

 

This book may also be available from other sources.

Status: Open

Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution

Cost

$55

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 25 students

Day

Thursday

Time

11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Dates

Mar. 23, 30; Apr. 6, 13, 20

Noted Civil War historian Dr. James McPherson has written, "The Civil War is the central event in America's historical consciousness.  While the Revolution of 1775 to 1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861 to 1865 determined what kind of nation it would be."


This course will cover the military, political, constitutional, economic, diplomatic, and social aspects of the US Civil War from 1861 to 1865. North Carolina's role in the war will also be discussed.

Suggested Readings

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War EraOxford University Press, 1988.

 

This book may also be available from other sources.

Instructor: Eric Hight

Status: Open

They Unspooled the Mysteries of the Heavens

From ancient times to the 21st century, human history is speckled by the occasional gifted seers (and lucky kooks) who figured out the great mysteries of astronomy, how the planets moved, why the stars sparkle, and whether there are thirsty canal-builders on Mars. We look at 10 of the most influential and daring astronomers of all time, their amazing discoveries and occasional big blunders. No degree in physics is necessary; this historical tour is geared for a layman's understanding of astronomy and a modern ear for peculiar personalities.

Required Readings

(none)

Suggested Readings

(none)

Instructor: Mark Washburn

Status: Open

The US Civil War: A New Birth of Freedom

Cost

$66

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 20 students

Day

Tuesday

Time

1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Dates

Apr. 11, 18, 25; May 2, 9, 16

In-Person Mini-Courses

Status: Open

Unpacking the 2022 Midterm Elections: Democracy under Threat?

Cost

$33

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 25 students

Day

Wednesday

Time

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Dates

Feb. 1, 8, 15

Discussion in the fall of 2022 centered around which party would gain or retain control of the House and the Senate. Following the elections, attention has turned to policy and party ramifications. In this course, we will analyze the results of midterm elections and speculate on implications that extend beyond the electoral outcomes. Do we have faith in our democratic elections? Is our modern democracy moving in the correct direction? Most importantly, we will try to understand the hyperpolarization and extreme antipathy that permeate our political environment and may well threaten our democratic institutions.

 

This course will be primarily lecture, but it will include some group participation.

Required Readings:

A few short, high-readable articles will be available online.

Status: Open

Introduction to Basic Game Theory

Cost

$22

Location

Enrollment

Min 5, Max 25 students

Day

Monday

Time

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Dates

Mar. 27; Apr. 3

What do the pricing of soft drinks and police interrogation of criminal suspects have in common? What is the best strategy for winning a game of chicken? What can politicians learn from new car dealers? The field of game theory offers insight for answering these and a variety of other questions. This course introduces students to basic elements of game theory with applications to business, economics, and public policy. Among the topics covered are zero sum games, the prisoners’ dilemma, and Nash Equilibrium. The course assumes no prior knowledge of game theory, but the material is of a somewhat technical nature.

Suggested Readings:

The instructor will provide suggested readings prior to the first scheduled meeting.

Instructor: Ted Amato, PhD

This winter may prove to be a deciding factor in the war in Ukraine. Russia is limiting the supply of critically needed materials, especially natural gas and oil, to those countries supporting Ukraine. Those countries in turn are seeking to wean themselves off Russian products. This two-session course – a continuation of The Economic Effects of the War in Ukraine, which just concluded – will examine how these dueling strategies have played out over the winter months.

 

In the first class, the instructor will explain how important the export of oil, gas, and other materials are to Russia’s fortunes and how dependent on these products Europe had become. It will be an advantage to have taken The Economic Effects of the War in Ukraine course, but it is not necessary to have done that to enjoy this course.

 

This course is primarily lecture but includes some group participation.

Suggested Readings:

Students should be reading reports on this war, especially its economic implications with Europe and the developing world. The instructor will also send students newspaper and periodical articles related to each week’s class discussion.

Instructor: Joe Papovich

Cost

$22

Location

Enrollment

Min 10, Max 20 students

Day

Monday

Time

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Dates

Mar. 20, 27

Status: Open

Update on the Effects of the War in Ukraine