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Local Conferency Goodness

If you get tired of all those coastal people having conference after conference that it just costs too much for you to get to, next weekend is the weekend for you. You have two choices in the region, and both are free.

The Madison Area Coalition of Reason is hosting Freethought Festival 2012 from Friday, April 27, through Sunday, April 29. The schedule is packed (and I do mean packed) with well-known speakers on topics from human sexuality and evolution to anti-religious activism to creating a secular society to building our political movement. There are a few names on the schedule you might not recognize, but they’re all people you should hear from.

Also, the conference is in Madison, at the campus. This is an ideal place to end up when your event isn’t providing meals. You can probably find bad meals in that town, but I haven’t managed it yet. So register if you haven’t already.

Or maybe a full weekend of conference is too much for you or Madison too far from the Cities. If that’s the case, the Secular Student Alliance at Winona State University is hosting a skepticamp on Sunday, April 29. From 1 p.m. to 5:30, there will be faculty and student speakers with Q&A in the skepticamp format.

We learn not so much through passive absorption, but rather by actively engaging the subject matter. In composing a presentation we must grasp a subject at a more intimate level than merely reading about it. We anticipate questions and prepare to offer thoughtful answers. We also learn through focused discussion where we ask questions and listen to answers with the benefit of context. Some domains, including skepticism, require a mastery of skills, where we benefit from rich opportunities to practice and refine those skills.

Open events build squarely on these principles by emphasizing participation and interaction. This includes asking that speakers take questions during their talks, not only to make the most of the context of a question, but also as a mechanism of quality control.

After the talks comes a dinner break with skeptical crafts (no, I don’t know what they are, but I’m curious) and games, then a showing of Religulous. It’s a smaller, less formal event than the Madison conference, but that’s exactly what some of us need to make these events accessible.

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