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About Us: Dear Habermas

jeannePat Holding Us All Together Susan

From California to Wisconsin

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 19, 2003
Latest Update: January 5, 2007
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"I just want to know the last time you saw a unicorn . . . " Leo Buscaglia

jeanne's variation on a photo of Leo Buscaglia on his site.

We believe in unicorns. jeanne studied with Leo Buscaglia, long, long ago, when unicorns in institutes of higher learning were not yet on the endangered species list. (Reference: Living, Loving, and Learning)

Added January 5, 2007:

I'm always surprised when I go back to an old file just how much I believe in unicorns. It's not so much that I believe in magic, as that life is magical. It's magic that Pat and Susan and I were able to form a collegial group that has carried on way longer than any of us ever expected. It's magical that our efforts at saving the endangered species of unicorns have resulted in some clear understandings of just how to do what we set out to do. And it's magical that we are steadfastly continuing to set up materials to let anyone share our work who chooses, under a Creative Commons License that let's you use our work to teach and to share, as long as you aren't using it for profit. Unicorns and flying good dogs made it all happen. I believe, I believe, I believe.

Jeanne and Pat and Susan have been together for so many years we think we came that way. Ours is a story of an unexpected teacher (Gee, I never thought I would do that; I trained for atomic physics!) and a once-devout Catholic with six children, and one of jeanne's first students who went off to Berkeley, and then, one day returned to create Dear Habermas.

We live where we landed in this crazy postmodern world of corporate mobility. Jeanne lives in the Hollywood Hills, Pat lives in San Pedro, and Susan lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We meet at professional meetings, and are grouchy when others take away our time together. We usually bring students with us to all the professional meetings, so that one day, in Chicago, one of Susan's students blurted out: "But when you went to your first professional conference with jeanne in 1975, I wasn't born yet!"

What a wonderful history we've created over the years! Since her early days at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), with me, Susan and I have never managed a prolonged period of time together. The computer became our constant connection. Telephones help. But the harder we work, the less time we really have for much talking. Pat and I, since our retirement together at CSUDH, have more time together. Not nearly enough, because we still teach every Fall semester for a few more years, and neither of us has the heart to turn a student away.

Susan, who trained at Berkeley in Criminology, ultimately founded a Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. And Jeanne, who became a Criminal Defense Lawyer in the midst of her teaching, joined Susan in teaching law and criminal justice. No, we weren't together. We just taught together over the Web.

Pat, upon retirement, planned to go to People's Law School, until we found Dear Habermas growing so quickly it took both of us here at CSUDH to keep it going. We didn't initiate this project of peace and social justice to welcome our local communities to academic and political dicussion; the project initiated us. And now we're not so sure we want to let go.

Our collective goals are that life-long education should be real, "really real," as Susan puts it, and free. Collectively, we are appalled that schools and universities spend more on "certification" and short-term, short-goal employment training than on the liberal arts of our founding universities for clerical training and for the "elite."

Someday I'll add here what Frederick Jackson Turner (of the now-infamous Frontier theory) said about the state land colleges. We have much to learn from him in that respect. Susan and Pat and I reflect Turner's insistence that we must educate all the people without letting what he called the "masses" dictate the curriculum. Turns out it was the corporate world and profit that dictated the curriculum, but that change in players doesn't alter much in the way of Turner's thought. He saw a future in an educated populace. And education to him meant as it does to us, a liberal arts education in critical thinking and social justice. And he knew that we must not let that education be dictated by what was fashionable or what would simply meet short-term goals and thinking.

Our philosophy of the Site is based on our determination that our students shall learn: as freely, and openly, and with as much respect for that learning as we can manage to afford them:

  • social justice
  • peace in the interst of neither harming nor exploiting others
  • social theory as it informs our understanding of how on earth we are to live a good life in these times
  • social methods in the interest of those tools science does afford us despite the arrogant elitism of positivists
  • philosophy and aesthetics as keys to our culture and our growth as humans
  • art and music as alternative tools for expression of our lived experiences
  • an understanding of social welfare as a safety net within social justice
  • an understanding of privilege as social welfare beyond the safety net
  • an understanding of the limits to human knowledge and the responsibility that imposes to respect the Other who may "know" differently
  • a mix of disciplines that we have been led to cover over the twenty-five years or so we have worked together:

    • learning theory
    • social theory
    • social methods and analysis
    • modernism, postmodernism, and critical theory
    • epistemology or "knowing"
    • history of the social sciences
    • the philosophical roots of the past as reflected in contemporary social theory
    • race, sex, and gender
    • law and social justice
    • criminal justice
    • religion, morality, and ethics
    • the young, the elderly, and the increasingly confused middle years
    • writing, both academic and creative
    • art, both academic and public and personal
    • and whatever the future drops in our lap, which we're sure it will do

Of course, we all have lives. So you can see how this program left us little discretionary time to learn new computer methods, do our own tech stuff, and cope with the general departmental refusal to accept our site in any valid way at CSUDH, except by our students. Still today, despite our begging, there is no link through our department through to our site. Wisconsin loves us, and links to us. But we're a stepchild, unloved and unwanted at CSUDH. That took energy, too. Hey, it happens. Pat and I are pretty visible and rarely complacent. Hence, our decision for fairly early partial retirement. Teaching only one semester a year gave me more time to write and plan and work with our students, and gave Pat the opportunity she had wanted for so long to focus more on teaching than on the ever more blatant paper trail of academic advisement.

This summer has afforded our first chance to step back and restructure the site. Until now, we've put up material as quickly as we can. Because we believe that students must learn to be aware of the world and its events, we link conceptuatlly in all our courses to world events. It took us a long time to see how to do that effectively in a way that promised to be effective for those who might seek to go on for Ph.D.s in one of the disciplines and for those who sought general liberal arts understanding. We considered, and still do, for that matter, that it is important for those groups not to be educated separately with no communication. So we struggled to develop common language, common conceptual understanding so that effective public discourse could take place between students with many different career objectives and the community of life-time learners.

The restructuring of the site this summer should provide us with a chance to test our results so far. Feed back and participation are welcome.

Jeanne Curran, Ph.D., Esq., Professor Emeritus of Sociology, CSUDH
Patricia A. Acone, B.A., A.B.T., Community Adjunct, Emeritus, CSUDH
Susan R. Takata, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Criminal Justice, UWP


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