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Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute, Boston

Our Classes

Alienated White Americans: Where the American Dream is Dying


with Janet Van Zandt

Calendar Sep 14, 2021 at 10:30 am, runs for 5 weeks

Schedule: This course will take place on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM for five weeks during Session 1 (9/14/21 - 10/12/21).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

This course reviews distressing trends in the lives of working-class whites and the overlap with support for Trump. We will review work status, trends in personal lives, and the rise in deaths of despair. We will then look at societal influences and the rise of angry racial, anti-elite and anti-government responses. We will also explore the role of the more educated professionals. Finally, we will discuss possible healing directions. The course is meant to provide information that will be the basis for discussions.

The instructor may send one or two articles ahead of some of the classes which would enhance class members’ understanding of the topic to be discussed. She will also include a bibliography of books and articles so that if people are interested, they can pursue any of the subtopics of the course.

Enrollment Limit: Unlimitted

Course Leader:

Janet Van Zandt: Janet has a master’s degree but not in an area related to this topic. Her professional work was in mental health, low-income housing and international development. For the past 5 years she has read extensively about the topic of this course, ever since being shocked by the dramatic rise in deaths of despair in this country and then discovering the overlap with support for Trump. She did a first attempt of this course for friends last winter.

Janet has been running a current affairs discussion group for the past four years which addresses a wide variety of topics.

10 Lessons for the Post-Pandemic World


with Jessica Bethoney

Calendar Sep 14, 2021 at 3 pm, runs for 5 weeks

Schedule: This course will take place on Tuesdays at 3:00 PM for five weeks during Session I (9/14/21 - 10/12/21).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

How will the Covid-19 epidemic transform our lives and impact our future? How did different countries respond to the crisis and which responses were most effective? How does this pandemic compare with those of the past?  What can we learn from our current experience to prevent future epidemics?

In this course, we will discuss the changes wrought by the pandemic to human life and the implications for the economy, medicine, the environment, government and technology. We will also learn about surprising advances in medicine and public health that had their origin in past battles against pandemics and brainstorm about any silver linings that may emerge from our current dark cloud.

Students will read Fareed Zakaria’s book “10 Lessons for the Post-Pandemic World”. Two chapters in the book will be covered each week along with other articles. Students will be sent guided questions for the discussion prior to each class. This is a participant-centered class in which students are expected to be actively engaged and therefore, need to complete the assigned reading prior to class.

Enrollment Limit:  Unlimited 

Course Leader:

Jessica Bethoney: Jessica recently retired from her position as professor at Bunker Hill Community College, and has two masters’ degrees – one in intellectual history from Brandeis University and the other from Tufts University in counseling psychology. During her last 20 years at the college, she taught culturally related honor’s seminars. She has also taught several courses at the lifelong learning programs at Brandeis as well as Regis College, which focused on understanding human behavior in different sociological and cultural contexts. Most recently, for the Lifelong Learning Independent Collaborative, she facilitated a “Great Decisions” course which focuses on major global foreign policy issues.

What Makes Sondheim Great?


with Gail Leondar-Wright

Calendar Sep 15, 2021 at 1 pm, runs for 5 weeks

Schedule: This course will take place on Wednesdays at 1:00 PM for five weeks during Session 1 (9/15/21 - 10/13/21).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

Stephen Sondheim is commonly thought to be the most important musical theater composer and lyricist of the past fifty years, and the single most influential force in bringing the Broadway musical into the modern era. What makes him great?

We will unpack some of Sondheim’s major works including Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George, looking for evidence that he is a “playwright in song". We’ll see how Sondheim has elevated the genre ushering in the musical’s modern era. We’ll have opportunities to appreciate and analyze “Send in the Clowns” and “The Ladies Who Lunch,” among others.

Optional, short reading assignments and suggested viewing and listening will be sent to participants as PDFs or links. No purchases will be necessary. Participants will be invited to play pen and paper games and to share their answers.

Readings will include:

  • Sections from The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia (Pender), Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hat (Sondheim)
  • Reviews and articles from mainstream media sources.

Enrollment Limit:  Unlimitted

Course Leader:

Gail Leondar-Wright: Gail is now retired, spends her time studying and teaching about the works of Stephen Sondheim. She facilitates the online national “Sondheim Study Group,” and gives periodic webinars comparing the works of Sondheim to those of other composers and lyricists. She has lectured about Sondheim at an MIT intersession course. She has conducted two brown bag presentations about his work for the Rainbow Lifetime Learning Institute. Gail has a Masters in Performance Studies from NYU and a BA in Drama from UC Berkeley.


Journeys in Deep Time - The Call to Pilgrimage


with Michael Connolly

Calendar Oct 26, 2021 at 10:30 am, runs for 5 weeks

Schedule: This course will take place on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM for five weeks during Session 2 (10/26/21 - 11/23/21).  This course will be in Person at the First Parish UU Church of Arlington (630 Mass Ave. Arlington).

Course Description:

A pilgrimage is a (hopefully) transformative journey to a place of spiritual, moral, or esthetic significance. It may last weeks (the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain) or a single day (climbing Mt. Fuji, Japan). The journey is as important as the destination and the pace is deliberate: one settles into slow travel; clock time is left behind; conversations become...fuller.

As we view and discuss 3 films about spiritual and secular pilgrimages (The Way, MindWalk, and The Trip to Bountiful) and read the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, we will reflect on past travels and explore sites of interest around the world.

Homework will include viewing 3 films (2 hours each); reading a few short excerpts from literature; and researching a destination of interest online for an hour or two, total. Including film viewing time, homework will be 2 1/2 hours a week or less.

Enrollment Limit:  Unlimitted

Please Note: Although in-person instruction is planned, based on pandemic status instruction might change to Zoom. Students will be notified as soon as possible.

Course Leader:

Michael Connolly: I lean towards the offbeat. I've studied in France; worked in Munich; lived in a squatters' commune in Geneva; hitch-hiked in West Africa; driven around Central America and Central Africa; bicycled through the Cotswolds and the Loire; traversed the Czech Republic with a busload of elderly Australians....

I am interested in creativity and the history of cultures and ideas. I love stories that capture moments of insight. I hold a BA in Romance Languages and an MBA in "Planned Change." At Boston College, I lead meditations for staff, as well as programs on mindfulness and leadership and cross-cultural communication.



A BACH Bacchanal: If It's Baroque, Don't Nix It!


with Liz Diamond

Calendar Oct 27, 2021 at 10:30 am, runs for 5 weeks

Schedule: This course will take place on Wednesdays at 10:30 AM for five weeks during Session 2 (10/27/21 - 11/24/21).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

This course will provide a virtual bacchanal/overview of the music of arguably the greatest composer of all time: J. S. Bach (the instructor’s personal favorite), as well as a framework for what to listen for. The goal of this class is for students to discover the joy and genius of Bach! Students with no musical background or lots of musical experience are welcome. Each student will be asked to give a brief presentation on a Bach piece of their choice—a list of resources will be provided. Class discussion encouraged. There will be a short Bach Gem of the Week for home listening and discussion.

Enrollment Limit:  Unlimitted

Course Leader:

Liz Diamond: Liz received her BA from BU with a concentration in Music, and a Masters from Lesley College in Education/Integrated Arts. She plays flute, piano and guitar, and taught music K-8 in the Salem (MA) Public Schools. She created Women’s Educational Media, Inc., and produced Straight Talk About Lesbians that was nationally distributed, and The Lesbian Primer, carried by New Words Bookstore….Liz  represented Steinway pianos at M. Steinert & Sons in Boston, and is delighted with not working, and finding community in Rainbow LLI,  including others who are interested in classical music. Liz’s passions include Bach, photography, talking with kids, and walks in beautiful places. 

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