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Inaugural Festival of High-Watt Light Bulbs


by Jerome Weeks 4 Nov 2008

The Dallas institute of Humanities and Culture presents its first “Festival of Ideas” this weekend. What in the world is a “festival of ideas”? Basically, it’s a quartet of public panels, each anchored by a guest speaker who is either a journalist-pundit (The New York Times‘ David Brooks, for instance) or a policy advocate (Maya […]

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The Dallas institute of Humanities and Culture presents its first “Festival of Ideas” this weekend.

What in the world is a “festival of ideas”?

Basically, it’s a quartet of public panels, each anchored by a guest speaker who is either a journalist-pundit (The New York TimesDavid Brooks, for instance) or a policy advocate (Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion). Each panel is augmented by local public figures (Mayor Tom Leppert), academics (SMU poli sci professor James Hollifield) and journalists (Glenn Arberry of Park Cities People, KERA’s Krys Boyd). All four panels will gather this Saturday at the Meyerson Symphony Center for introductory speeches, a lunch, and then they’ll head off to different Arts District venues where the”festival teams” will debate their separate topics. In the late afternoon, they all gather again for roundtable talks.

The Big Idea, as with all Dallas Institute programs, is to stimulate intelligent public discussion.  Each festival of ideas will be centered on one topic — in this case, that very Dallas issue of The Future: the future of the environment, the future of American cities and suburbs, the future of race, class and the law and, finally, the future of global issues and local impact.

Can’t get much bigger ideas than those, unless they were God, the Universe and the Meaning of It All. The plan clearly seems to be to offer a wide enough umbrella to attract a decent-sized group of ordinary participants (could anyone draw a good crowd with just “the future of race, class and the law”?) with enough ‘name’ appeal from the guest speakers and enough specificity in the topics to generate some passionate talk. The Institute has always tried to bridge the academic world, ordinary business folk and interested citizenry like this. It’s really more of an educational project than a full-blown think tank — like a continuing-ed lyceum (in the ancient sense of an open school/urban discussion forum, not the modern European one of an institutional school). (Fuill disclosure: I’ve taught there and have appeared in public discussions.)

Tickets for individual Saturday sessions start at $45 (although teacher and student tickets are $25).

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