Almost by chance I stumbled across an advertisement for a small “Great Books” school, Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California. A great books school covers many of the traditional subjects but does so all through the reading of the original works. To learn chemistry you read Lavoisier and Mendeleev, for calculus, Leibniz and Newton, and so on.
Because of my search for something more, I was intrigued. But I was also initially skeptical about such an unusual and apparently “obsolete” course of study. Still, I could see that the method of the program had millennia of practice behind it and I liked the fact that students took 4 years of math and science, albeit using an unorthodox method. Thus, though I found it strange, I had to give it a shot. I met some alumni, visited the school, and was accepted the following year.
Is it better to go to a trade school or a college? Is it better to major in English or major in engineering? How can I choose best to ensure I get a job after graduation? How can I choose to ensure that I can be employed 5 years from now, or 10?
Occupational training is not Gutenberg’s ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is for our students to seek and embrace truth. But there are fringe benefits to that goal. Those fringe benefits — especially today — make great books students especially attractive to employers.
"Perhaps you, too, have resolutions for Shimer and for your personal engagement with Shimer’s future. Perhaps you, too, have celebratory reflections for us as we move into 2013. I hope you will share both as well as your time, talent, and treasure with Shimer in coming months. We will identify our priorities together, remembering our responsibility to students, faculty, and staff of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. "
Cicero is sometimes held to have said that a home without books is akin to a body without a soul. While the quote itself is not likely to be accurate (its popularity on the Web would seem to count against it), it is nonetheless pleasing to imagine – probably accurately – that its spirit reflects that of a mind of Cicero’s potency and love of learning. If books constitute the soul of a home, imagine their importance for the vivacity of a school, the home of the mind that educates and nurtures the development of the human soul itself. All the more regrettable it is, then, that books seem not to be held in particularly high esteem amongst students or their teachers.
The common view of college as vocational training—“must prepare to get a job”—is a hurdle prospective Gutenberg students (and their parents) must jump. But, if Tim Berry’s experience is any indication, a liberal arts education like Gutenberg’s may be the best way to win the race.
We're hosting this student conference for the first time, and it's the largest ACTC has ever convened. The theme of the conference is “The Liberal Arts and Student Reflections on Core Texts.”
Forty-eight student were nominated by ACTC member institutions (with a core curricular program similar to ours) to submit paper proposals; forty proposals were accepted, and, as of today, we expect 37 students to attend. Students will be coming from more than twenty-five colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Two Shimer students will also be presenting papers at the conference. This promises to be an exciting weekend!
"Great Books, in the hands and eyes of an active reader, are Self Organizing Learning micro-Environments. The greatness of the books is a function of the capacity of their ideas and and arguments to accommodate the self organized expansion of the reader's understanding."
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