Minerva Academy of Lifelong Learning

About Minerva and Our Passion for Lifelong Learning

Welcome to Minerva Academy of Lifelong Learning, an online hub for stimulating, dynamic, engaging and informative lifelong learning courses. We start from a variant of George Bernard Shaw’s famous quip, “Youth is the most precious thing in life; it is too bad it has to be wasted on the young.” Why does formal education end for most of us when we’re in our early 20s, so that the joy of encountering new ideas and perspectives is limited to the young? Lifelong learning, including active engagement across the entirety of lives considerably extended by the ongoing lifespan revolution, has been demonstrated to have numerous advantages:
  • Lifelong learners study for their own reasons, following their curiosity where it takes them rather than jumping through hoops or meeting expectations set by others. 
  • ​A large body of research concludes that continuing education preserves and develops mental sharpness, acuity and cognitive functioning later in life.
  • ​Continuing engagement with ideas that enable us to understand and analyze current trends and developments in society, culture, technology, politics, etc. assists lifelong learners in maintaining a sense of purpose, meaning and engagement once they are no longer in school and after they retire.
  • ​Lifelong learners report that they better understand a variety of current trends in knowledge and society and feel better equipped for conversations with colleagues, relatives and friends.
Minerva’s offerings are designed to draw learners of every age into sophisticated, critical dialogue. We address learners who do not want to be condescended to and instead appreciate exposure to current scholarship and new, challenging ideas, especially when it is relevant to understanding the world around us and when the material is presented in accessible but detailed and intelligent ways. 

Just a Little History

Minerva came into being as a response to the forced closure of many lifelong learning communities at the outset of the global pandemic in the spring of 2020, when it was unsafe to hold in-person meetings and many centers were not in a position to offer online courses to replace their regular programming. Having taught in such settings for nearly 20 years, and with some experience in online teaching for undergraduates, Prof. David Peritz (PhD Oxford University, Professor of Political Science, Sarah Lawrence College) reached out to some of his regular students in these communities, and from there the word spread quickly. To date, David has offered two courses through Minerva, “Inequality Rising: The Nature, Causes and Consequence of the Rapid Increase in Social Inequality in 21st Century America,” and “Race and Justice in America in the 21st Century Historical, Critical and Ethical Perspectives,” attended by roughly 250 online students from all over the United States and the world in the spring and summer of 2020. The courses are recorded and available via our online archive at the links below.

The Future of Minerva's Offerings

Minerva has been dormant for the fall of 2020 as David shifted his focus to his regular teaching duties at Sarah Lawrence and also offered on an online course on “Urgent Issues, Extraordinary Politics: National Elections at a Time of Intersecting Crises and National Polarization” via the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco. With the national elections now behind us but the coronavirus still very much at large, we will resume courses in January of 2021, looking to continue our focus on the urgent political issues facing American and world citizens today, as well as examining the larger social, economic, cultural and technological contexts that allow for a deeper understanding of these issues. But as we enter the new year, we will also look to expand our offerings, bringing in new instructors to cover a broader range of subjects, and also offering a weekly lecture on contemporaneous political developments.

If you would like further information about Minerva and to be contacted as we develop our new offerings, click the button below to fill out the form to be placed on our email list. 

Information on Past Courses:

Inequality Rising: The Nature, Causes and Consequence of the  Rapid Increase in Social Inequality in 21st Century America
(Spring 2020)

This lecture series surveyed the extensive literature on contemporary social inequality, taking in turn its economic, geographic, racial and generational dimensions. We then turned to efforts to understand why inequality rose so suddenly, how it is affecting our society, and what kinds of policies we could adopt to reduce it if we conclude that it is unhealthy for us as individuals as well as for our society and democracy.

Race and Justice in America in the 21st Century
Historical, Critical and Ethical Perspectives
(Summer 2020)

This lecture series charted the remarkable transformations the American racial order has undergone over the last century, as the Jim Crow system was gradually dismantled, and a substantial African American middle class and elite emerged. We focused on understanding how recent gains do not mark the end so much as the reorganization of the American racial order, with race remaining the most salient predictor of social fate for Americans, while most of us, at least until quite recently, appeared quite indifferent to the glaring inequalities in our midst.

What People Are Saying

-David Peritz seems close to the frontier of social science but applies the latest research to popular social topics. Also a clear lecturer who clearly loves to explore things with his students.

-David is so knowledgeable, objective, well organized and a great presenter. He was well prepared, & enthusiastic about the topic.

-Professor Peritz was stellar at creating a rich classroom learning environment even within the constraints of Zoom.

-Amazing depth of knowledge, powerful ability to communicate, sharing of wonderful resources, good humor, integrative understanding and beyond timely. Learning to think in a more structured way about all that breaks my heart about this time, helps me right-size my concerns and live a more joyful life.

-Professor Peritz's classes (I think this is the 4th one I've taken) address subject matter of great interest to me. He's an exceptional lecturer, with both a broad and deep grasp of the subject.

-I have taken many courses from Dr. Peritz and he always gives a thorough, detailed presentation based on the most recent research. He has a gift for structuring the material so that we are able to make objective sense of what are often difficult and emotional topics.

-Knowledgeable, non-partisan, well read with great resource recommendations, well organized and enthusiastic

-This is my fourth class with Dr. Peritz and he is one of my favorite instructors. He is brilliant, articulate and well read, including interdisciplinary research outside of his PoliSci field. His approach centers on focusing on recent academic books on a focus social science topic. He is just remarkable at integrating questions without interfering with his chain of presentation.

-David is articulate, never speaks down to the audience, is approachable and well informed about the subject. He can rationally discuss multiple perspectives. 

-I am 85 years old and live in a retirement facility and I work hard to maintain my mental facilities. A one-hour lecture from David is worth more than one hundred hours of mental therapy. What he is able to do for elderly people is without parallel.”

-“Dr. Peritz' classes are among the most stimulating I've ever taken...I will always sign up for his courses. My head is spinning when I leave class!”
About David Peritz
Prof. David Peritz (PhD, Oxford University) is a thought leader in the field of lifelong learning. His lectures and webinars cover a wide range of topics in contemporary politics, philosophy, culture, society and technology, and are described by those who attend or watch them as “dynamic…engaging…brilliant…systematic…deep…profound…informative and educational.” Prof. Peritz perfected his craft with over 20 years of experience, lecturing at some of best lifelong learning institutes in the nation (including OLLI UC Berkeley and SFSU and the Fromm Institute at USF) and also at many of the premier retirement communities in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. Prof. Peritz is the senior member of the Politics faculty at Sarah Lawrence College and has also taught at Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, UC Berkeley, and Deep Springs, and has won numerous teaching awards.
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