Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Classics-Based Version of "Black Mountain College"?

One of my first posts, here, was about the influence and disappearance of Black Mountain College. My interest in the school is the manner in which it bucked tradition to teach through actual communication and interaction. The instructors were only there for the purpose facilitating conversation and to act as a professional influence.
Click here for a refresher course on the school: Black Mountain College

Recently, I ran across information about another “un-orthodox” school in my own backyard of Santa Fe (I just moved here, so forgive my only recent awareness). St. John's College teaches a "classics-only" based curriculum. Now when I say that I mean literally… classics only. No textbooks, everyone studies the same thing at the same time and everyone studies from the original texts. Professors are called “Tutors” and classes are structured around seminars – where your grade is based on your personal participation in thoughtful discussion. Also, students are “discouraged” from enquiring about their grade, because grades seem to be just a formality for the purpose of acquiring transcripts upon graduation.

From the St. John’s College Website:

St. John’s College is a co-educational, four year liberal arts college known for its distinctive “great books” curriculum.

  • The all-required course of study is based on the reading, study, and discussion of the most important books of the Western tradition. There are no majors and no departments; all students follow the same program.
  • Students study from the classics of literature, philosophy, theology, psychology, political science, economics, history, mathematics, laboratory sciences, and music. No textbooks are used. The books are read in roughly chronological order, beginning with ancient Greece and continuing to modern times.
  • All classes are discussion-based. There are no class lectures; instead, the students meet together with faculty members (called tutors) to explore the books being read.

The Mission of Liberal Education

St. John’s College is a community dedicated to liberal education. Such education seeks to free men and women from the tyrannies of unexamined opinions and inherited prejudices. It also endeavors to enable them to make intelligent, free choices concerning the ends and means of both public and private life.

At St. John’s, freedom is pursued mainly through thoughtful conversation about great books of the Western tradition. The books that are at the heart of learning at St. John’s stand among the original sources of our intellectual tradition. They are timeless and timely; they not only illuminate the persisting questions of human existence, but also have great relevance to contemporary problems. They change our minds, move our hearts, and touch our spirits.

I'm still only learning about this institution, but I am very curious about this school because of its basic premise of defying the system of higher education. Something I am very interested in doing to the academic art world.

Click here to read more about St. John’s College


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