This year I joined a Harvard-sponsored group of retired people who engage in peer-led studies. I had to go through a serious application process to become one of the 500 members, including writing a personal statement of interest and submitting to an interview by members of the Admissions Committee. I guess they decided I was worthy enough because I am now embarked on my first 2 courses.
I am seeking intellectual diversion, but I also hope to make a few friends. The courses, I am learning, are a bit hit-and-miss, depending, largely, on the study group leaders (other members) who design and present them. I thought a history of the ties between cotton and capitalism would be a fascinating topic, and it is. But the study group leader (we do not say "teacher"), though well-versed in the subject, does not know how to facilitate a discussion or draw people into a conversation about the reading. So this has turned out to be a disappointment. I've been assured by other class members that I should not give up and that other classes will be better.
I hope my second course, which begins next Tuesday, will restore my enthusiasm for this project. It is about the German geologist Alfred Wegener and the theory of continental drift. I decided that for this first session, I would not sign up for literature classes, but would go with subjects that I know less about. Something of the history of slavery, cotton growth and industrialization is part of most Westerners' general knowledge. Still, I know nothing about geological theory, although I have always been fascinated by Arctic expeditions. Wegener died on an expedition to Iceland and apparently is quite a hero to some. We'll see.