Want to know what the finest minds in history had tosay about things like politics, science, love, death,art, philosophy and war? Go straight to the source.
At St. John's College "WhereGreat Books Are The Teachers," the idea is that a thinking mind can evolve under theguidance of these learned tomes. Thus, you'll find no "professors"here. Faculty members are called "tutors," and theirprinciple job is not to lecture in their respectivefields of expertise, but rather to guide studentsthrough a course of study. Grades? Someone writes themdown someplace, but students don't get report cards assuch. Instead, they meet with their tutors fortwice-yearly discussions intended to gauge eachstudent's intellectual performance.
With a student/faculty ratio of 8 to 1, class size is intimate. "Tutorials" may draw only a handful ofstudents, while "seminars" and laboratory classes maxout at about 20 people.
The seminar is far from the typical notion of a lecture. Two tutors preside, but the format depends onstudent discussions. Based on their readings fromamong the original texts that make up the corecurriculum, students are encouraged to offer their ownthoughts and analyses in order to explore the issuesat hand. Thus, the diverse skills needed for reasoningand communicating can develop hand-in-hand.
This participatory learning style is not for the weak-willed.With just 450 students, there's really no place tohide. Anyone coming here had better be prepared tospeak up.
The school is not entirely without formal pedagogy.Each Friday evening the entire student body gets togetherto hear a formal lecture by a faculty member orvisiting scholar. It's the only regular lecture forumin the curriculum, and even in this setting studentsare expected to subject the speaker to a lengthypost-lecture grilling.
As for admissions criteria, the school looks firstfor strong academic and intellectual achievement --"though any accomplishment showing initiative anddrive may strengthen an application," according toinformation put out by the admissions office. Thereare no minimum grades needed, and the SAT is optional.The heart of the application is a series of personalessays, and candidates with weak grades can make up for it with strong essays.
The campus in downtown Annapolis practically oozescollegiate charm. Nineteenth-century brick buildingsback up against a contemporary facility that houses anart museum, as well as an auditorium named after theschool's most famous graduate, national anthem authorFrancis Scott Key. By night, students gather in asubterranean coffee house. By day some linger on thespacious green lawns beside College Creek, whileothers assemble under ancient trees to prepare for thebig croquet tournament -- an annual athletic contest held in April and enacted with their arch-rivals from the nearby U.S.Naval Academy.
When all that charm gets stale, students have theoption of heading out west. At its campus in Santa Fe,N.M., the college offers a curriculum identical to theAnnapolis program. Each campus handles its ownadmissions process, but students from Annapolis cantransfer to the Santa Fe facility.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun