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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Great Books, Great Education

For the second time this week, James Taranto of the Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today has complimented Pepperdine University, and in particular the Great Books curriculum.

As a 1992 graduate of Pepperdine, as well as an "alum" of the Great Books program, I am thrilled that Mr. Taranto has recognized this program. My most interesting and educational classes in college were those I took as a part of the Great Books series. My best professors were the Great Books professors. Where else could I have had the opportunity to read Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, Dante, Machiavelli, Descartes, Milton, Dostoevsky, Freud and Sontag?

The five classes took the form of a "colloquium", which is a fancy way of saying no lectures, no lecture halls, no teacher agendas (conservative or liberal), and no textbooks. Instead, class time consisted of the teacher facilitating a lively and stimulating debate about the great texts of Western civilization. The teachers had no agenda, other than to educate and explore the great ideas on their own terms. Just pure discussion and debate over the great ideas of Western civilization. Above all, the Great Books classes taught me the importance of ideas.

The goal of the curriculum is to engage:
small groups of students in close critical reading and discussions of selected works from the time of the ancient Greeks to the present. Readings are selected from the fields of literature, philosophy, psychology, social thought, science, and religion

Although I don't believe that Pepperdine will replace Harvard as the nation's most elite school anytime in the future (but one can always hope, right?), I do think that in many ways the education I received at Pepperdine was superior to what is being offered at schools such as Harvard.

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