2017 Common Reading Experience

CETL is pleased to announce that Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s 1997 essay, “Real Patriots Ask Questions,” has been selected for UW-Milwaukee’s 2017 Common Reading Experience (CRE). This final chapter from Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World tackles the timely and complex terrain of freedom of speech and the 1st Amendment while effectively connecting public debates about politics, news in the digital age, and fundamental questions of citizenship.


Sagan and Druyan in Simon Kregar's painting, "A Glorius Dawn"

Incoming first-year students will receive the article at New Student Orientation. Discussions with UWM faculty and staff will be held on Panther Academic Welcome (PAW) during Fall Welcome on Friday, September 1, 2017.

Call for Discussion Facilitators

All CRE discussion sessions will take place on Friday, September 1, 2017. Sessions will last 60 minutes. Any faculty or staff member interested in facilitating one of the CRE discussion sections can register by completing the facilitator sign-up form AND registering to attend one of the facilitator workshops offered below.

Facilitator Workshops

To help prepare volunteers to facilitate discussions, CETL has designed and scheduled three workshops with the help of faculty and staff with expertise in the themes and topics of the essay. The workshops are not mandatory but are encouraged for those who have never facilitated a CRE discussion. Facilitators need only attend one but are welcome at any or all of them. The workshop dates are as follows:

  • Thursday, August 17, 2017
  • Wednesday, August 23, 2017
  • Tuesday, August 29, 2017

All workshops are from 1-3pm and will be held in Engelmann B73. Interested persons may register for any of these three sessions by completing the following form:

Facilitators will receive a copy of the essay as well as additional resources designed to introduce you to the themes and topics of the essay. CETL will also provide a discussion guide and other resources. More details about the CRE and complimentary events can be found on the Student Success Center website.

About the Authors
Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize and the highest awards of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. He also played a leading role in several NASA spacecraft expeditions, for which he engineered the first physical messages sent into space. He published more than 600 scientific papers and was author, co-author, or editor on more than 20 books. He also co-wrote and starred in the popular and award-winning 1980 PBS series Cosmos.

Ann Druyan was the creative director for NASAs Voyager Interstellar Message Project. She is a novelist and author (with Carl Sagan) of six New York Times best-sellers specializing in the communication of science. Druyan has won both Emmy and Peabody Awards for her work on several PBS series, including both the 1980 Cosmos and its 2014 sequel.

A Commitment to Common Experience

The Common Reading Experience is a joint project sponsored by the Student Success Center and CETL. Its aim is to spark conversation about important social and moral issues; to connect first-year students with faculty and staff members from disciplines around the university; to introduce students to the nature of university work and discussion. By asking an incoming class of first-year students to read the same text, students have a rare opportunity to share how it affected them and understand how and why someone else may have read it differently.

CETL provides professional development for the selection of the faculty and staff volunteers. Discussion as a community-building activity lives at the heart of the common reading experience. In crafting these values, we draw on Discussion as a Way of Teaching by Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill:

“Democracy and discussion imply a process of giving and taking, speaking and listening, describing and witnessing—all of which help expand horizons and foster mutual understanding. Discussion is one of the best ways to nurture growth because it is premised on the idea that only through collaboration and cooperation with others can we be exposed to new points of view. This exposure increases our understanding and renews our motivation to continue learning. In the process, our democratic instincts are confirmed: by giving the floor to as many different participants as possible, a collective wisdom emerges that would have been impossible for any of the participants to achieve on their own.”