On behalf of Eric Poppele
St. John’s tutor, Santa Fe
The faculty of St. John’s College are not called professors. The job of a professor is to profess, that is, to tell what they know. We don’t lecture here. As tutors our job is to elicit thoughtfulness and inquiry. We ask questions not because we are looking for the “right” answer, but because inquiry is the foundation of all real learning. If this intrigues you, here are my top nine reasons why someone might consider coming to St. John’s College:
- It’s About Courage
In every class we put our thoughts out in front of others, knowing that they will be critiqued and expecting that they can be improved. Honest thought and honest discussion can help us to see our prejudices and the shortcomings of our thinking. This is not easy, but we learn courage by practicing these things every day with our colleagues and friends.
- Curiosity Rules
Students come to St. John’s because they are driven by curiosity, and that’s what fuels us. No one here asks “will this be on the test?”
- You will Learn to Read
Seriously. “Getting the gist” of something isn’t reading: it’s semi-literacy. Real reading means seeing, analyzing, and understanding logic, subtlety, and nuance. In four years you will study more than 100 difficult and worthy books in the Seminar, and many more in the tutorials and laboratory. Learning to read better is learning to think better.
- Books Worth Reading
Not one of these books will waste your time. You might not find your favorite author, genre, or topic on the reading list, but we assure you that despite our different politics, backgrounds, and interests, every one of these books rewards careful study.
- It’s Face-to-Face
Every classroom at St. John’s has a single table where we all sit. Everyone is expected to contribute and be responsible for their part in the conversation. Would you rather be in conversation with your classmates, or sit in rows where you see the backs of their heads?
- Meaningful Disagreements
Good ideas usually don’t conform to packaged ideologies, and no one here is expected to hold particular social, political, or religious beliefs. Students of differing beliefs make strong friendships because they find that their passions for truth and understanding challenge and improve each other.
- Evaluation is Personal and Forward-Looking
We give grades because graduate schools expect them, but how much can a single letter say about a person? In every semester’s Don Rag a student meets with all five of their tutors to listen and respond to an account of their work. This isn’t an exercise in judging a student’s past. We try to discern a student’s strengths and weaknesses so that we can help them become better in the future
- Prepares you for Anything
No one leaves St. John’s thinking ‘I only know how to do one thing,’ or ‘I wouldn’t know how to learn something difficult or new.’ Alumni of this all-required program become teachers, writers, physicists, travelers, lawyers, farmers, activists, and business executives, and aren’t afraid to take on new challenges or new jobs.
- How Big is Your World?
Students at St. John’s study French poetry alongside Quantum Mechanics, and Music and Astronomy alongside Ancient Greek, and faculty are expected to teach all classes. Human thought is too rich and interwoven to be pigeonholed.