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What is The Great Books Curriculum?

And What Kind of Student Thrives with The Great Books Curriculum? 

A lot of colleges in America have required courses called “general education courses”, which are sometimes called “GEs” or “Gen Eds”. Most common at liberal arts colleges, general education courses are meant to teach the origins of intellectual thought in various academic fields. While many colleges offer courses on the Great Books, only about 25 colleges and universities in America offer a major in the Great Books, which is an extension of the general education courses.   

There is one college, which is actually two colleges, where the only major is the Great Books. Both colleges are named, “St. John’s College”. Think of both campuses as identical twins. One campus is located in Annapolis, Maryland, and the other is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Don’t confuse the St. John’s Colleges with St. John’s University, the Catholic institution in New York.) Both campuses offer an identical academic curriculum. Students belong to one campus or the other, and all the students take the same exact classes in each of their four years. A student who is enrolled at one campus has the ability to study at the other campus for one year, before returning to their home campus. 

If college is supposed to be about reading, thinking, and discussing, St. John’s College takes this concept to the highest level. Students will read from the ancient Greeks, the Medieval Period, the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the Modern Period, and the Post-Modern Period. In Western Art Music, they will study the Classical and Romantic Periods. (You can see all the books you’ll study here: https://www.sjc.edu/academic-programs/undergraduate/great-books-reading-list.) The faculty at both St. John’s Colleges see their role as mentors and facilitators of thoughtful discussions, rather than traditional lecturers. 

St. John’s College students, called “Johnnies”, are voracious readers and deep thinkers. They prefer a philosophical debate among friends to cheering for the college’s sports teams. (That’s partly because neither campus has varsity sports teams!)

If you love to read, love to think, and appreciate the classics, St. John’s College may be for you. 

Recently, St. John’s College has done something remarkable: they have lowered tuition so that, in 2021-2022, the full cost of tuition before scholarships is $35,000, which is very affordable for a small, high-quality, private college education. 

Colleges Featured in this Article: 

St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland
A Liberal Arts college with 494 Students

St. John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico
A Liberal Arts college with 317 Students
 

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