Punishment, Politics and Culture

A National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for K-12 Teachers

July 1 - July  26, 2019 (4 weeks) 

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Location: Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts

Director: Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science

Meetings: 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, and 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 8, Monday, July 15 and Monday, July 22
 

 This was a fantastic experience. It was an incredibly interesting, informative, and intellectually challenging seminar. Additionally, it was wonderful to be amongst colleagues that are passionate, brilliant, kind educators and citizens. I leave the seminar feeling refreshed and invigorated in my profession. I would recommend this seminar to any teacher, no matter what content or age group they teach. Not only did this seminar make me a better teacher, but it challenged me to clarify and affirm some of my deepest held beliefs about punishment, hate, love, compassion and how to move forward when people make mistakes.  Austin Sarat organized a brilliant seminar. Each week built beautifully off of the content and questions from the week prior. All of the readings were challenging and thought provoking. Austin facilitated profound and thought provoking dialogue between the group members each day, truly making sure that each voice was heard equitably.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2018

The seminar was an incredible chance to become a student again. Aside from the amazing content that helps me think critically about my own teaching practice, just the experience of being a learner in a group setting has greatly improved my ability to reflect on the experience my students have in my own class. This has built so much empathy for my students that I hope will continue to impact the way I approach teaching…. Austin is incredible and puts so much effort and care into facilitating thoughtful, respectful, and reflective dialogue among participants. The syllabus is carefully curated and allows a variety of perspectives to be unpacked and explored, and reflects a mix of genres that fostered a holistic approach to the seminar topic.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2018

This was an incredible intellectual experience - rejuvenating; stimulating; relevant. Austin was an excellent instructor who managed the seminar well and I appreciated the mix of perspectives and ideas the group brought to each session. These topics will make their way back into my classroom and will continue to inform my personal life (ethical commitments, intellectual interests) for a long time to come.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2018

My four weeks at Amherst will be a treasured memory in my career as an educator. The privilege of engaging in intellectual discourse that is (at least on the surface) completely unrelated to the nuts and bolts of teaching will, I believe, make me a better educator…. Austin is a master facilitator, one that inspires not only desire to learn but deep curiosity about the questions and issues that we grapple with in class. I leave Amherst in hope that I will be a more compassionate and thoughtful educator as a result of Austin's example and the association of my fellow seminar participants.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2017

 This experience was completely fabulous! It was refreshing and challenging to dive into complex texts and conversations with our group. The facilitation style will be informing my work with my students next year. The director is a highly skilled facilitator. Every class was engaging, thought provoking, challenging and fun. Quite a feat! The host institution was great! The housing is comfortable and close to the classroom. The library, dining hall and gym are convenient and welcoming. It is close to town and there is a lot to do.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2017

 This seminar has been a real shot in the arm for me. It has been a pleasure to take on the role of student in a room full of thoughtful and intentional teachers. The past four weeks have been a clinic on how to work through difficult topics in the classroom with generosity and a growth mindset. I hope to incorporate a number of the readings, discussion topics and group projects into my history classes. But more broadly, I can imagine incorporating Austin's pedagogical approach to enrich discussion in my high school classes. Austin Sarat is a fantastic program director. Clearly he is a master of the seminar's content. But his ability to facilitate deep and dynamic seminar discussions has proven to be just as important to the success of each class. Austin's assistant, Megan Estes, handled any and all logistical questions in a snap. It is apparent that Amherst College works extremely hard to make its campus user friendly for students and visitors. This fact, coupled with the added care that our NEH program provided, made Amherst quickly feel like home. Austin and Megan work extremely hard to ensure participants have a great experience!

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2017

 Our program director, Austin Sarat, is a charismatic and wise teacher who makes everyone part of the class discussion. His teaching style…made for serious but lively debates. We tackled dark subjects (punishment, torture, the death penalty), which I had not deeply questioned until this summer. Our weekly group projects every also gave us the opportunity to incorporate our own interests into the seminar, and it facilitated our discussion of these topics during our free time. The program was very well organized thanks to Austin and Megan. The expectations were laid out clearly from the beginning and everything ran on time. This was a good model for how an effective class runs. Amherst College made me feel welcomed to the town and institution.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2017

 What a fabulous experience! It's been a pleasure to stretch myself intellectually under the guidance of a master educator and in the company of a diverse group of thoughtful, reflective teachers. This is by far the most hospitable, well-appointed professional development opportunity I have ever participated in (and I have participated in several). Every detail was anticipated and met. Both Austin and Megan have been very communicative, friendly, and generous--from the application process, to helping us get settled in the dorm, to repeatedly checking in with us, to creating opportunities for social interaction, to introducing us to campus facilities--seriously above-and-beyond caliber.

An awesome experience!

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2017

 This seminar has been completely transformative. Austin's deep knowledge, generosity of spirit, and his fair-minded pushing of each of the individuals in our group, together these elements have made for both an exemplary model of inquiry, and a dynamic group experience where the whole has been greater than the sum of the parts, which are significant in and of themselves. The material is rigorous, very rigorous, but the group has risen to the demand and we are all better for it. The curriculum is VERY well organized and the group has dug deep in this difficult and important subject.

 Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2016

Fabulous! The material was fascinating and enlightening. I think I can use not just some of the material but also some of the approach: the pedagogy, not just the content. We all felt intellectually challenged and stretched. We were asked to think in rigorous, logical ways. I loved the use of hypothetical cases to lead in to a close look at the texts. The director was caring and helpful and funny, but he also kept us all on our toes and fully engaged.

I particularly admired how the director structured the readings so that they built on each other and seemed to be having a discussion with each other. We kept adding layers of understanding and nuance.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2016

 

This seminar was excellent. Austin is a fabulous teacher and he chose a great mix of teachers/ students. The readings were provocative and the discussions were deeply engaging. After the seminar, I will think back on how Austin conducted the class as a model for my own teaching. I will strive for the same evenhandedness he consistently displayed.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2016

 

The seminar was wonderful. It provided an array of opportunities to explore a fascinating topic that is not usually studied on its own. The seminar broke down punishment as a driving factor in many different disciplines including history, literature, and law. But most importantly, from a personal perspective as well as the lens through which I will focus my students' treatment of the subject, the seminar led us through an examination of our own perceptions of power, control, retribution, and mercy. These are the themes which will appear often in conversations with my students as I incorporate the seminar content into my classroom. I have participated in several NEH summer programs for teachers, and "Punishment, Politics, and Culture" stands at the head of the list. Amherst was a wonderful setting for this seminar. Megan did a wonderful job of handling all logistics seamlessly. The rooms and accommodations at Drew House were great - and the common room was a perfect space for relaxing or reading and getting to know the other seminar participants. The library was quite easy to navigate and copying privileges were very much appreciated.

Participant, Punishment, Politics, and Culture, Summer, 2016

 


 

 


 

*Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.*