Could someone attend a college with no majors or minors, grades, tests or even textbooks, then graduate and walk out with the same amount of practical knowledge and possibly something more rare? Say an ability to critically think and reason, to find value in knowledge (true knowledge, not rote memorization or robot-like processing), and an innate desire to form one’s own opinions? Some of you will say no, I would like to say yes.
Following this desire it is my fervent goal to attend St. John’s College right here in Annapolis (my current home) following my departure from the Navy. Whenever that may be. Some of you know that I started looking into this college not too long ago and have found it fascinating ever since. The basic premise is a classical education. Much like the founding fathers of our county you study the works of great minds like Aristotle, Euclid, Socrates, Homer and Einstein instead of the volumes of pieced together information from them in the form of textbooks.
In my line of work there is one thing that has always surprised me. It is the fact that, to a great extent, my life story and many of those in my career field are almost indistinguishable from one another. That is to say that a large amount of us are smart but wasted it in high school by refusing to do homework or the like. That we were bored by the education system to an extent to not care, and that it has set us back a ways. I’ve met the smartest people I know in my job and some of them like my friend Nail have already taken the path espoused by St. John’s without doing so on purpose. He also stirred this desire in me and in a sense shown me what I was missing: knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I would consider myself educated, but it isn’t the same thing as having knowledge. Many people are smart, and sometimes it causes us to slack off for lack of interest, but there are realms of interesting knowledge that schools won’t or can’t teach you and that is where the meat is! That is what draws me to St. John’s and is why I’m reading the books in their program now since I cannot attend while in the military. While researching this school I came across a couple of articles by either alumni or those researching the school themselves. I’ve posted my favorite below.
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/13/110613fa_fact_scibona – Note that this Alumnus has a similar story to mine until he attends St. John’s
http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/about/colleges.shtml – Excerpt from “Colleges that change lives” (visit the website)
On a similar note, I watched Lincoln the other day and in doing so was reminded of the value of this kind of thinking and knowledge. Before you watch the clip below, let me set it up for you a bit:
Lincoln is deciding whether or not to allow the delegates from the Confederacy to come to D.C. in order to talk about a treaty. If he does so it will demolish his plans to pass the 13th amendment, but if he doesn’t the war would continue on and if the amendment was defeated, all that loss of life would be for not. He is talking to 2 men about his views and mentions that when he was young he visited the library and just read, and in doing so came across Euclid’s works and although he wasn’t able to understand all of it, what he did understand is stuck in his mind permanently. Furthermore he remarks on the application of a mathematic principle in the struggle against slavery. Here’s the clip:
I think this is the best scene of the movie (sorry for spoiling it) hands down. I also think it illustrates my overall meaning in this post. The fact that true understanding of this principle allowed Lincoln to put into words something which he knew was right and just from a moral standpoint, and further more “prove” it as correct leads me to believe that having a wealth of information that you understand on a deeper level will show its usefulness in areas of your life unimaginable to you at the moment.