Thursday, June 07, 2007

St. John's College

St. John's College, Annapolis, is a horse of a different color. I had known it as the "great books" college. I had not visited before. We had a fine long discussion with two enthusiastic students, one introvert and one extrovert. This is a good combination -- I recommend it to all admissions offices.

St. John's is for people who seriously want to understand the Great Conversation. It has no sports, no Greeks, none of the trappings of college life which can become so important to students who are not at college primarily to deeply engage ideas. The whole curriculum is really a long and detailed philosophy seminar.

From the pounds of college mailings I got when I was in high school, the only one I remember was from St. John's. It was entitled: "College as Paradise." I was sorely tempted. In the end, I chose Swarthmore because I was very interested in contemporary politics.

Endub is ... thinking about it. She really liked the seriousness, and the close community. She does, though, want to make a difference in this world, and is still unclear on how the Johnnies make the connection. This one may take a second round.

One of the most intriguing things that both young men said, in answer to my daughter's question, "Who should not come to St. John's?" was "people who are intellectually arrogant." They said this very diffidently and humbly. They told the story of someone who dropped out of St. John's after one term. He had already concluded that he hated Aristotle, and Aristotle had nothing to teach him. He also objected to the tutor's (not "professor's") insistence that he go back to the text to see what Aristotle himself said. Instead, the disgruntled student wanted answers now. The two admissions workers were taken aback at the idea that one could come right out of high school, begin to learn Greek, start to read Aristotle, and conclude that you could already know enough about him to know that Aristotle had nothing to teach. I admire their humility in the face of such a challenge.


Anonymous said...

Good morning! My daughter graduated in May from St. John's Santa Fe. Her father and I fell in love with the brochure as soon as we read it and it was the only college she applied to. Can Johnnies make a difference in the world? Well, she taught Sunday school the whole time she was there and went on Session in her Junior year and is heading to seminary in the fall. At St. John's it's up to the student to find their path. I could go on for pages.

Anonymous said...


A thousand thank-you's for this post. Though my sons are only 7 and 9, I'm already thinking about college, and St. John's looks intriguing. Though I've been to Annapolis and noticed the school, it wasn't on my radar. Now it is.

Gannet Girl said...

I love St. John's, although the one of my kids whom I thought my go there opted for equally quirky Chicago. The one of his friends who went there did very well and has all kinds of interesting ideas about what to pursue next.

Keeks said...

Sounds like heaven...truly. KST

James said...

Although I am thankful for my college education, I too was intrigued by that brochure for St. John's. In fact, years later, I long for a seminary that will follow St. John's model.

I would seriously consider another degree if there was. Any suggestions?

Gruntled said...

I am impressed with the strong comments St. John's evokes from grownups. I think it would be a great mid-life education, when you have worked through some of the dross of life and are ready to explore deeper things. While we were there we ran into a grandmother who had retired to Annapolis with her husband, a Naval Academy graduate. She had recently taken the three-month condensed version of the curriculum that St. John's offers to the community, and just loved it. She is a professor herself, but said that, for all the schooling she had, that course was the best education she had ever received.