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Discussion: Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience"
Facilitator: Mark M Teacher bio: Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” Henry David Thoreau asserts in the beginning of perhaps, his most famous and influential essay, “Civil Disobedience”: “That government is best which governs least”…Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe- “That government is best which governs not at all” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.’ Thoreau meant to provoke debate. We’ll let him do that for us in this discussion. In our time of political and social turmoil where many are questioning whether the individual can have any significant influence on her government, Thoreau addresses such questions as: What should the role of the individual in society and government be? What should be the limits of government? Is it the individual’s duty to resist a government that she deems to be immoral or unjust regardless of the consequences? In this piece Thoreau also addresses such questions as the importance of voting, and the importance of individualism in American society. This essay was an inspiration to many, including Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in their efforts to effect change in their governments. Together, we will read through key passages of this text and discuss Thoreau’s various views and whether we believe his ideas are still relevant and useful in our times, or whether they are merely the outdated musings of an eccentric, unrealistic dreamer. Complete text:

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What we're about

We offer a weekly academic seminar on Mondays comprised of two events:

5:30pm - 7:30pm: an academic discussion

7:30pm - 9:00pm: an academic lecture

On select Thursdays, we also offer:

6:00pm - 9:00pm: The People's Stage, a platform for people in Portland to share their ideas before an engaged audience

Our events adhere to a semesterly theme. Our semesterly theme for October 2018 - March 2019 is "Theory, Criticism, and Society." Description:

"During this semester, we’ll explore ideas from theory and criticism focusing on art, literature, music, and culture, with the further intention of applying such ideas to the creation and organization of society. Our goal is to deepen our understanding of theory and criticism, and to broaden our perspective of the world we live in—and the possibilities open to us."

Guidelines for Participation:

Discussion and lecture syllabi: (Syllabi can also be found on

We're part of The People's Colloquium, a community nonprofit providing free education in the arts and humanities. To find out more about us, please visit our website at (

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