Thursday, March 06, 2008

Book Discussion

I work in a gov't building as a contractor and one of the events they had here for Black History Month was a round table discussion of Carter G. Woodson's The Mis-Education of the Negro.  I don't know that I had ever seen any kind of widely publicized event in the workplace (gov't or otherwise) that centered around the reading of a book, it was actually kind of weird.  I mean seriously, when was the last time that you weren't in school or taking some sort of training class and someone offered you a book to read and opportunity to discuss it?
When I got the e-mail back at the beginning of February, I responded to the point of contact and was instructed to come down and get a copy of the book.  Thinking that I had three weeks to read the book, I promptly stuck it in a drawer in my desk and forgot about it until I saw a broadcast e-mail to the entire building reminding everyone about this event.  Fortunately the book is relatively short so I was able to just read it in the couple of days leading up to the discussion.
Anyway, last Thursday was the day of the originally scheduled discussion and, because everyone felt like so much was left unsaid and unexamined, we got together today again for a follow up session.  It has been pretty interesting (and cool) to see two dozen people sitting around a table sharing thoughts outside of an academic setting a couple of weeks in a row.  It seems like I see a lot of complaining about how dumb everyone is getting or how little people read or whatever, but the enthusiasm in the room both weeks made me think that people are hungry for this kind of interaction but we simply don't have any kind of framework to support it.  I dunno, maybe that's why Bible study is so popular among the church going types.
The discussion itself was nothing spectacular, but it was definitely earnest.  Of course you had to have one person who totally got off topic and wanted to ramble on about segregation and whatever, whatever; but thankfully the woman leading the session was a very able facilitator/moderator (F/M) and was able to wrestle control back pretty quickly before the rambler caught a verbal beatdown.  The discussion was good in large part because the F/M was very adept at asking questions about specific aspects of the book, stepping back and allowing people to answer and participate, but then stepping back in before people started getting too far away from the book. 
Both times after the sessions broke up, the other young guys and I found ourselves having a sidebar.  I took the time to get everyone's information and sent out an e-mail to everyone urging us to get together again without quite so many people, we'll see how it goes.  It's always kind of weird trying to start a new friendship; for me, it's like getting your mack on.  You don't want to come on too strong, but you still have to show that you're interested.