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Politics and Civics at the Jefferson Market University

By Nancy Aravecz

In anticipation of this November’s midterm elections, the Jefferson Market Library is offering three courses on political themes that will be free and open to the public. These classes are geared toward helping members of the Greenwich Village community and beyond brush up on American civics, politics, law, and history.

First up is a six-session, lecture-based course on the Constitution of the United States. “Ruling Ourselves” is taught by Christine Curtis, a graduate of Stanford Law School who has extensive experience working in all three branches of the U.S. government, including writing, interpreting, and enforcing laws. Curtis’ class takes a methodical, step-by-step approach to the basics of the Constitution, including history, context, and landmark Supreme Court cases. The class will run on Thursday evenings from October 4 through November 8, 6:00-7:30pm in the library’s Willa Cather Room on the first floor. Sign up for this class begins on Thursday, September 20.

Next, Jefferson Market is offering “Democracy and Voting Rights in the United States: A Contested History” on Saturday afternoons October 6 through November 10, 3:00-4:30pm, also in the Willa Cather room. This course will interrogate the history of democratic participation in the U.S., with an emphasis on disparities in access to the ballot, racial discrimination, and violence, which continue to exclude voters from the franchise. This class is taught by Christopher Famighetti, a PhD candidate in Public and Urban Policy at The New School. Famighetti’s studies focus on the intersections of democracy, race, and political power. He has worked as a Policy and Research Analyst at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, and has authored several works on the topics such as voting rights and voting technology for a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR. Registration for Famighetti’s course begins Saturday, September 22.

Later in the season, a five-session, seminar-style political philosophy class on the origin and meaning of tyranny in the 21st century. “The Birth of the Tyrant” is being offered in the third floor Mae West Community Room on Thursday evenings from 6:00-7:30pm, October 18-November 15. This course draws from theoretical accounts of tyranny by Plato, Hannah Arendt, and others in order to understand what leads a society to embrace a tyrannical leader, and how citizens of a society ensconced in tyranny can resist the totalitarian actions of such a leader. This class is taught by Erik Zimmerman, a PhD candidate in philosophy at The New School. Zimmerman teaches courses in gender and sexuality studies and philosophy, and serves as an editor at Routledge Press. He is a regular contributor to publications such as Into and Out Magazine. Registration for this class starts Thursday, October 11.

To register for any of the above classes, prospective students may sign up online, in person at the library’s second floor circulation desk, or call Jefferson Market at (212) 243-4334.

In addition to the classes being offered, Jefferson Market’s popular Current Events Cafe program is expanding to meet twice a month ahead of the midterm elections. Held from 6:00-7:30 on the first two Tuesdays of the month (through November), this lively, informal, political discussion group meets regularly to talk about current events and issues related to the upcoming elections. Moderated by a trained facilitator, Current Events Cafe is an opportunity for Villagers to exercise their right to free speech, to process the news cycle by thinking out loud, and to hear their neighbors’ perspectives on critical issues in America today. Also: refreshments are served! No registration is required, and participants are encouraged to bring a topic they wish to discuss, and a strong opinion! This program takes place in the Mae West Community Room on the third floor of the library.


Nancy Aravecz is a Senior Librarian at Jefferson Market Library.

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