Thursday, November 15, 2007

Think a 2,400 year old book has nothing to say to us?

  • an all powerful democracy attacked
  • civilian population targeted
  • a preemptive invasion launched with flawed intelligence
  • a promised quick success turned into a protracted war
  • leader's strategy questioned
  • a democratic society polarized
  • a world engulfed in a clash of civilizations

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Shimer College, my old alma mater, is looking for a few good students capable of critical thought. They are using the handout above throughout the country - Guerrilla Marketing by students and alums.

If you know a young person who has potential, who understands that education is not preparation for life - that education IS life itself - have them look into Shimer. It was one of those life defining experiences for me. It doesn't get much better.

October 20, 2006
Shimer has been named one of the "Best Buys in College Education" by Barrons. Criteria used include tuition rates, campus setting, student/faculty ratio, and freshman and faculty profiles.

and from the New York Times:

THERE is a saying at Shimer College: If there are too many people to fit around the table, the class is too big. With an undergraduate student body of 70, this is one of the smallest liberal arts colleges in the United States. It has no lecture halls, and not just because of the enrollment. There are no lectures. Books, not professors, are considered the teachers, and the path to learning relies on the Socratic method of discussion.

Walk into a class at Shimer — with students talking earnestly, sometimes painfully, about the meaning of a classic — and you might think you had stumbled into a group therapy session for young literati.

“I’m standing on fragile ground when I say this,” began one student, sounding a bit tentative, straining to draw a connection between the writings of Primo Levi and Czeslaw Milosz. “So shoot me down if you think I’m wrong.”

Founded in 1853 in the Illinois prairie town of Mount Carroll, Shimer was reinvented as a great-books arm of the University of Chicago, nearly went belly up in the 1970s — it was $1 million in debt at one time — and has moved twice. Today, virtually all its classes and academic offices are housed on two floors it rents from the Illinois Institute of Technology in a building on Chicago's South Side.

If a student wants frat parties or football games, this is the wrong spot. For voracious readers, it could be paradise. Great-books colleges “are about the big questions of life,” says Ronald O. Champagne, interim president. “Our students learn that the questions are more important than the answers. Who are we? Where did we come from?”

When I attended in the 1960s, the student body numbered around 500. Today the student population is less than 20% of that number.

Shimer is one of the few institutions that premeditatedly sets out to teach people to think for themselves. It's an honorable tradition and one that should be maintained. The world needs more people who can think for themselves.

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