Why Teach for LLI?


When Peter Scheckner asked questions of class members in his first course for LLI, several hands went up, and a lively discussion ensued. He was delighted. Teaching LLI classes was a pleasure. 

Before teaching at Bard, he had taught undergraduates at Ramapo State College of New Jersey, and it had been a challenge to sustain a good discussion. It was frustrating, stepping into his undergraduate classes and finding everyone deep in their cell phones, not interacting with each other. “I don’t think young people in high school are generally taught to engage critically with one another and with their teachers, and communicating with cellphones doesn’t encourage class participation.”

Path at Bard

Discovering LLI

Peter and his wife split their time between Manhattan and their home in Dutchess County. When the pandemic began, the balance of time shifted to 80% in Clinton Corners. His neighbor, who works at Bard, told him about the Lifetime Learning Institute. Peter, a Bard graduate, was interested in LLI. In a Zoom call with Curriculum Chair Linda LeGendre and Fern Fleckman, he realized that they and he were “on the same wavelength—the primary responsibility of education is to serve humanity.”

Dystopian Literature and Cinema

His first course, in the fall of 2022, was Something Wicked This Way Comes: Visions of Dystopia in Film and Literature. Students were assigned contemporary dystopian short stories and films like Snowpiercer, Blade Runner, and Parasite. The course description explains: “As social systems fail to serve basic needs, cinema and literary fiction worldwide turn to apocalyptic and dystopian forms to illustrate these concerns, portraying the world as it is—or is about to become.” His first class was a success, and he was happy to observe LLI members interacting with each other and participating in class discussions.

Mean Streets: Crime Films

Peter returned to LLI in the spring of 2023, with Mean Streets: Representations of America through New York City Crime Films. The premise of this course is that crime films say a lot about American society, in particular its class and social contradictions. To quote the course description, Crime movies, with nuance, visual and narrative excitement, portray the contradiction between the ideals and values of democracy and the realities of capitalism.” The class watched movies set in New York City like American Gangster, On the Waterfront, The Pawnbroker, and Gangs of New York. The overriding objective was to explore what exactly these cinematic works were critiquing about contemporary American society. The students’ responses were enthusiastic and engaging.

What's Next?

Peter feels strongly that we live in an age characterized by social injustice and that protest is essential to maintaining our humanity and democratic institutions. The title of his next course, in the fall, is “Rise Like Lions After Slumber:” Films and Poetry of Protest, Resistance, and Empowerment. The title comes from an 1819 poem “The Mask of Anarchy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, written in response to the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, England, in which cavalry killed 18 workers and wounded hundreds who were struggling for parliamentary reform.

Bard in Spring

So, Indeed, Why Teach for LLI?

“It’s a great post-work experience.” Exploring ideas with an engaged, lively audience is immensely enriching for Peter—and for his LLI class members. Peter told his class: “If my Ramapo students had been like you guys, I would not have retired.”