The Great Books

Everyone who has been to school has the same story:   there were piles of homework, which were usually not exciting but probably helpful.   There were lots of classes, year in and year out, most of which have faded from memory.   But above everything else, cherished and remembered to this day, there stood out a great teacher or two who made all the difference.

It wasn’t just what they said.  Anyone else could have repeated the same facts or theories, but it wouldn’t have been the same.  Even if the school hired someone else to watch those special teachers and tell everyone what they said, it would not teach the same things as being in the classroom with the teachers themselves.

 

This is why we read the Great Books at Wyoming Catholic College.  Certain remarkable people in history wrote in a way that touched the whole western world, and our students need to sit in the classroom with these great authors.  Our students could read a textbook that summarizes what Aristotle or Dante said, but it would not be the same as learning directly from the greatest teachers of all time.  Sometimes the great authors teach by how they phrase an idea, by the words they choose, and by the way they organize their thoughts.  At other times, they expose the true strength or weakness of their arguments by letting us walk with them through the birth of their ideas.  But at all times, what a student misses when he reads a textbook about Aristotle rather than reading Aristotle is Aristotle himself:  he misses the teacher.  A textbook can teach about the great authors, but it can’t give us the great authors themselves.

Study on the Grass

Because we read the Great Books, our students are humbled but confident.  They see how much there is to learn, and how far they still have to go.  But they also know that they have joined the historic conversation, so they can speak out to make a difference in history.  Touched by the greatest teachers ever, they are prepared to be the ones who make a real difference for others.