Friday, December 7, 2018

S11E7 -- Can Architecture Change the World?

We are surrounded by architecture and design -- centuries of thought have influenced the shape of our homes, our neighborhoods, our theaters and bridges.   But does it really matter what the outside of a library or a hospital looks like?  Are the people who design them truly artists?  Can the architecture around you effect culture and the way you look at the world?

Our guest speaker this week is Dr. Ovidiu Bulzan, who was a key leader of the the Baptist church in Romania during communism where most expressions of Christian faith were strictly forbidden.  As an Architect,  Dr. Bulzan played a large role in the design of many churches that were built in Romania and other countries behind the iron curtain after communism fell.


  • A favorite quote of architects comes from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who once said "We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us".  The context was in a debate on whether to change the shape of the British House of Commons after it was destroyed by a German bomb.  The old one was configured for the parties to sit on opposite sides of a long room that was too small for all the members of the house to attend meetings comfortably.  Some people proposed adopting the semi-circular design of the US Congress, with desks for each member.  Churchill defends the wisdom of the old design here (read just the first five paragraphs) .
  • Roger Scruton is an English philosopher known for his writings on beauty.  In a recent article, he writes about how the beauty older cities like Venice were shaped by communities working together to ornament their common spaces. In this selection of that article, he observes how employing beauty in buildings fell out of favor in the 1900s and the effect that has had particularly on America.  

Use This Link to take a short survey and to ask a couple questions of  Dr. Bulzan. Your answers must be turned in MONDAY NIGHT.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Milgrim Experiment Resources

As a follow up to today's forum, here's some info on the Milgrim Experiment:

The Milgrim Experiment was the subject of a recent film, available on Netflix, or for free here:

Milgrim made the experiment into a film that can be seen here:

The BBC also replicated the experiment as part of a series here:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

S11E6 Experimenting with Good and Evil

For Forum this week, we’re going to talk about good and evil in the context of a specific experiment to be described and discussed during forum. The experiment consider's the question of why people do evil things.

To prepare for forum here are a few readings:

Read the section of Roy F. Baumeister's book Inside Violence and Cruelty labeled "A Brush With Evil" here. Think about how your view of who is evil changes in the story, and how we see ourselves differently from others.

Nobel Prize Winner Alesandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about the atrocities of Soviet Russia in The Gulag Archipelago.  In one famous passage, he makes the surprising observation that we cannot say that some men are evil and others good:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ― Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
Do you agree?

Even when someone seems indisputably evil -- like Vlad the Impaler who delighted on executing people by forcing stakes through their bodies and leaving them to die painfully -- there are people who will defend them or say that others (in this case, Bill Clinton) are much worse.  Read this dialog between a blogger and his critics who debate ranking Vlad the Impaler as one of the top 10 evil men of all time.

Sometimes unexpected heroes arise in the face of great evil. Here is a case where some high school students discovered a forgotten story of such a person and changed their community - and the world-- by writing a play to tell her story.  Read about Irena Sendler here and read about how the students told her story here.

I am not asking you to submit questions in advance this week, but I do expect you react to the presentation I show you on Wednesday with your questions and comments.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

S11E5 -- How well do you know your world?

The internet puts more and more information at our fingertips, but we still have to be interested and curious to learn what's true about our world and to correct our misconceptions. This week we'll be seeing what you know compared with some well-researched facts about our world.


First, take a short 13-question quiz at this link (your score on the the quiz will not be part of any grade, but your participation will).

Dollar Street is a terrific resource to learn how others in the world live.  It features photos of the everyday items in over 250 homes in 50 countries around the world sorted by the monthly income in that home.  Want to see what toys the poorest and richest children have? What their beds look like? What their most-loved possessions are?  There are many different things to compare.

Use the drop down menu that says Families to compare the objects in different families.  Note the right hand list and the scroll bar there to choose from ALL the categories.  Choose a few and look at the results. The pictures go from poorest to richest when you look left to right.   Use the quick tour button to see more about how to use this tool.
    • Choose a category where you think income would make a big difference and look at the results.
    • Choose a category where you think income wouldn't make a big difference and look at the results. 
    • Choose a third category you're curious about and look at the results. 
Use this link to note what categories you viewed and what you observed about the results.

Turn in both surveys by 8pm Monday Evening to get credit for the assignment.

Note:  The quiz and the idea for this forum comes from Factfulness, by Hans Rosling.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rwanda Follow Up

I was glad to see how attentive everyone was for this morning's Forum on Rwanda. 

Here are the links Alphonsine provided to us in her presentation:

Alphonsine mentioned that she started a ministry, Rising Above the Storms, to work with orphaned children in Rwanda.  If you wanted to know more about this work here is the info. 

It is a struggle for her to raise funds for her work there and in Rwanda, a little donation can go a long way towards helping a child.  I encourage you to think about ways you might help support her.  

The book Alphonsine mentioned was Shake Hands With The Devil, which details how the world failed Rwanda.   Another book I can recommend is A Thousand Hills ,  which tells the story of Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda who helped stop the genocide and let the country on its recovery. 

The Movie we reference in Forum is Hotel Rwanda, which can be viewed for free on Amazon Prime .

Friday, October 19, 2018

S11E4 - The Rwandan Massacre

24 years ago, an estimated 500,000 - 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed over the course of three months. That's more than every person living in Wake County, all murdered -- often with machetes or clubs. They were not killed by an invading army, they were killed by their next-door neighbors, teachers, co-workers, team-mates.

Our guest speaker, Alphonsine Imaniraguha, was 13 and living with her family in Rwanda at the time. She lost both her parents and two siblings in the massacre and had to hide for her life for several months assuming each day that she would be discovered and killed.

How would you respond to a situation like this?  What would you expect to happen to a country that went through it?  I believe you will find Alphonsine's story of her own journey and how her country recovered from the violence to be inspiring and challenging to the questions we all ask about how much is fair to forgive.


  • Alphonsine tells her own story of what happened to her in two parts (Part 1Part 2)
  • Rwanda has achieved a stunning economic recovery in the last 20 years and had developed a presence as a technology hub.  Read about it here. 
  • Read how Rwanda is promoting reconciliation between the victims of genocide and those who were responsible for it at this link. 

Use this link to take a short survey and submit a couple questions for our speaker by 9pm Monday night.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

S11E3 Is Education Killing Creativity?

Many TED talks have gone viral, but the most popular by far (with over 53 million views) has been Sir Ken Robinson's talk on on how schools kill creativity. This week, we'll be listening to his talk and considering the questions "what is our school trying to build us to be?" and "should our school be encouraging more creativity?"

Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources and a New York Times Best selling author. He works with governments in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. You can learn more about his efforts at his website, here.

Please use this link to submit questions/observations for Forum by 5pm Tuesday.


  • Helen E. Buckley penned this poem about how a school can kill or nurture creativity in 1961.
  • A list of seven "creativity killers" appears at this site. Consider how these factors play out at Trinity or things you've seen here that avoid these killers. 
  • Not everyone agrees with Sir Ken. Critics point out that schools often do a poor job of graduating students with a knowledge of core subjects and a focus on creativity will only make things worse. Read their opinion as published in USA Today here.
  • A North Carolina teacher who was our state's Teacher of the Year in 2006 is sympathetic to Sir Ken's call, but notes how current demands by the school system makes his suggestions impossible to implement. Read his explanation here.
"How do you define personhood and what makes mankind as a species special?"

"What is the role of faith in politics?"

"How can I tell if I'm being truly objective?"

"How much should we trust the science of evolution or global warming?"

These are the kinds of questions that young adults will wrestle with as they try to understand their place in the world. Trinity Academy of Raleigh explores these and similar questions in The Trinity Academy Forum -- a bi-weekly speaker series and dialog for 9th - 12th grade students.

The class seeks to foster Socratic dialog and critical thinking skills by presenting students with thought-provoking and often controversial subjects. When possible, these subjects are presented live by expert guest speakers, but sometimes they may use a video presentation from sources like TED.

The Forums take place on Wednesday mornings. Students from grade 9 through 12 attend the forum. Parents are also invited to attend the forum. Other guests who would like to observe a forum will usually be welcome, but should contact the school for permission.

Parents should note that, because the forum is intended to foster dialog and critical thinking, it may often deal with subjects and viewpoints that may fall outside of (or even be contrary to) a Christian worldview. The views and opinions expressed by speakers and moderators in the forum class are not necessarily those of Trinity Academy or its leadership, but representative of views our students are likely to encounter after they graduate. We believe exposure to these subjects is important to better prepare our students for college and life.