This is a history-meets-psychology class that explores the phenomenon of witch hunts.
If you've grown up in Massachusetts, you're no doubt familiar with the Salem Witch Trials. But witch-hunting goes back to the beginnings of modernity in Europe, and continues even today in some Asian and African countries. Why? What fears and stresses do societies face before a witch hunt occurs? Who is targeted? And how can they defend themselves?
In addition to studying actual witch hunts, we'll also look at metaphorical witch hunts such as the "Red Scare" in the 1950s, the demonization of HIV-positive individuals in the early 1980s, the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military, and modern-day acts of internet trolling such as "#Gamergate."
The main question in this class will be: "When is skepticism warranted?" It's important to think critically, of course, but sometimes societies can become too suspicious, seeing devious motives and sinister agendas where none exist. In times of uncertainty, how do we strike a balance between healthy risk assessment and hysterical overreaction?
Suggested age range: 13+
Outside work: Main text is Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. Read/watch other media as assigned. All Rise Out classes are homework-optional.
When & where: Fridays at Voyagers in Chelmsford (directions) from 11:00-12:00, Sept. 15-Dec. 8, 2017. No class Nov. 23.
Fee: $200 for the semester + a Netflix subscription. (Please read our media policy.) Includes the cost of books. $10 discount for Voyagers members. Payment plans available. Fees waived for families with financial need. (Waivers and payment plan information.)
Note: Most semesters, Rise Out classes at Voyagers are standalone classes. This semester, uniquely, all three classes complement each other (example: reading Orwell's 1984 in Dystopian Literature, Animal Farm in The Cold War, and Arthur Miller's The Crucible in Witch Hunts). While you can still enroll in each session separately, there is a $50 discount for students who enroll in all three.