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Thomas Paine & the Roots of American Progressivism

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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 18 and older
Average Class Size: 15
Teacher: Michael Crowder

What you'll learn in this politics class:

Who exactly was Thomas Paine, and why is someone like Andrew Yang talking about him? That isn’t just a rhetorical question for the sake of drawing in the audience. From the moment he reached revolutionary celebrity status in 1776 after the publication of Common Sense—the influential pamphlet that almost single-handedly inspired the American Declaration of Independence—Paine was simultaneously cast into the contradictory roles of hero and villain, political influencer and maligned hack, paragon of republican virtue and personally disgusting and politically dangerous to moderates and conservatives.

More than any other major figure of the American Revolution, Paine inspired both intense devotion and vociferous defamation, more than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the current reigning champion of Revolutionary Era fascination, Alexander Hamilton. Why? Because Paine dared to articulate a radical worldview rooted in what today would be considered progressive principles, as a harsh critic of hereditary privilege, slavery, and women’s subordination, an apostle of democratic political participation and more egalitarian societies. In other words, Paine was America’s first progressive.

This Olio examines Paine’s life and relevance to modern American politics at a critical moment, as the modern American progressive left expands its base and influence. Paine’s life and legacy have always hovered as a specter over the American political left, and this class explores how and why.

This is a BYOB Event.


Hosted at a member's living room in Flatiron. Address will be sent upon RSVP.

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

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Cancellations made at least 24 hours in advance of the class will be honored with a full refund. Students who cancel less than 24 hours prior to the start time of the class will receive a credit towards a future class.


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School: Think Olio

Think Olio

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