Platform for Pedagogy is a group that publicizes and promotes public lectures, symposia and related cultural events in and around New York City. We aim to cultivate cross-disciplinary lecture attendance and open institutions to larger and more diverse publics. We work with organizations to develop and expand outreach for high-minded and serious programming.
We are inspired and enabled by New York's many academic and cultural organizations, and in turn enable New Yorkers expanded access to these sites. Since 2008, we have published a weekly email bulletin publicizing the best of the city's cultural programming and public discourse. Our focus has been the humanities and social sciences, contemporary art, architecture, literature, technology, philosophy, social justice, politics and world affairs. We have produced several events under the Platform Programs banner.
The history of public lectures in the United States and New York probably begins in 1826 with the founding of the first Lyceum or "literary club" in Massachusetts. Whether for indoctrination or elucidation, private member societies around New England began to invite lecturers to speak on "politically neutral" and entertaining topics to interested attendees. In the 1870s, the Lyceum was supplemented by Chautauqua and University Extension movements, which in their ways also devised to educate an adult public. In 1888 the popularity of the public lecture lead to New York state's legislative mandate to apply under-used city spaces as sites for lectures. For over thirty years, under the auspices of Henry M. Leipziger, Superintendent of Lectures for the NYC Board of Education, the city funded over 4,000 annual lectures in more than one hundred locations. Before the cancellation of this "university for the people," attendance reached one and a quarter million per year.
Today, most public lectures in New York are funded and hosted by institutions such as museums and universities as part of outreach and supporting programs to exhibition and academic offerings. The embedding of the public lecture in the institution's regular programming often results in a narrowing of attendees to those already initiated to related professional fields or involved with the host institution. The lectures promoted on Platform for Pedagogy are selected from across disciplines and venues because we hope our readers will attend a talk on a subject outside of their immediate field of interest.
Platform for Pedagogy is an initiative to advance a culture of cross-disciplinary public lecture attendance and to develop the lecture as form. We deal exclusively with public lectures. The determinate characteristic of the public lecture is form: the geographically bracketed transmission of knowledge by a privileged individual or group of individuals to a public of mixed backgrounds and experiences. Donald M. Scott has written on the birth of the public lecture in mid-nineteenth century America as a form of supplementary instruction distinct from the sermon, speech or oration — and yet borrowing formally from all three — in that the lecture was and is shaped by the public's desire for a certain knowledge. The public lecture attendees of the past sought to expand the trajectory of education and personal growth typically confined to their formal or professional training. They did this by accessing the city's platforms for pedagogy.