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CHAUTAUQUA — Some speakers must travel a long way to get to Chautauqua Institution.

Not Dr. Jason Edwards, a history and humanities professor at nearby Grove City College, in western Pennsylvania.

While Grove City is a great place, what’s even more fascinating about Edwards is what he came to Advocates for Balance at Chautauqua, or ABC, to discuss: Board games.

Yes, board games.

And by that he means good board games: Ones that are good academically in that they’re subject specific, they’re good morally, and they teach executive function, including patience in executing a plan.

Edwards isn’t a fan of, for example, the children’s board game Candy Land, because the shuffling of the cards puts them into a particular order, which, in turn, determines the outcome of the game before it even starts.

Nor is he a fan of Monopoly, which he says was created by an opponent of free markets. More precisely, she was an opponent of “capitalism.”

The word “capitalist,” please recall, was Lenin’s mocking word for those so eager to accumulate capital for themselves that they’d sell someone the rope with which the person would hang them.

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Edwards’s encouraging the playing of board games is about something other than the selling of board games, in which he hastens to add he’s not involved. He makes no money off of board-game sales.

Rather, he sees board games as a way of bringing people together.

Edwards rightly disagrees with those who say that America is more divided now than ever. Remember, he says, the 1860s, when 700,000 Americans died.

Those 700,000 were a far greater share of the American population than are 700,000 today.

Nevertheless, Edwards notes people are divided in other ways in that they today endure broken families, broken communities, broken communication, and a broken way of life.

Edwards attributes some of those to technology.

It’s a paradox: Technology can lead to loneliness.

Television, he says, allows millions of people to laugh at the same joke at the same time and still be lonely.

He speaks of walking down streets in the evening and observing from a distance the blue light of televisions shining through windows. Often different people are alone in the same house, because they’re in different rooms with different televisions.

And it’s not just television.

Edwards has observed students on campus who are sitting next to each other yet are alone, because they — rather than interacting with one another — are all looking at their new-fangled cellular telephones.

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And it’s not just on college campuses.

Next time you’re in a waiting room, notice how many eyes are solely focused on such telephones.

Even pedestrians crossing busy intersections are looking at such telephones and seem to be oblivious to oncoming traffic. What’s more important while crossing busy intersections? What’s on such telephones, or avoiding being hit?

Even some pupils have — and to varying extents are allowed to have — such telephones in schools.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand what a distraction they can be to learning.

Or to understand they can present other challenges to schools, regardless of whatever benefits they can afford.

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ABC, now in its fifth season at Chautauqua, continues to succeed at bringing people together at the institution.

ABC programs are on Monday afternoons in the Athenaeum Hotel parlor.

They almost always begin at 3 p.m. One exception is the July 10 event, which begins at 5 p.m.

ABC was formed in 2018. Its mission is “to achieve a balance of speakers in a mutually civil and respectful environment consistent with the historic mission of Chautauqua” Institution. ABC is its own Section 501(c)(3) organization, legally separate from the institution.

Dr. Randy Elf’s Aug. 20, 2020, ABC presentation, on “How Political Speech Law Benefits Politicians and the Rich,” is at https://works.bepress.com/elf/21. He also didn’t have to travel a long way to get to Chautauqua Institution.

COPYRIGHT ç 2023 BY RANDY ELF

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