1. From "Winged Words" in The Imaginative Conservative: http://bit.ly/NoR94T
"St. John’s College and the Great Books Program here at Mercer University have much in common. Both programs revolve around a set of great works of Western civilization...
Reading great books is vital for anyone who wishes to become a liberally educated human being. There is a great need these days—there has been for a long time now—for academic programs devoted to liberal education. Such programs are sprouting all over the nation, many of them at Christian colleges and universities. But an overwhelming trend toward the non-liberal persists...
We inherit this idea of liberal education, this cultivation of the arts of leisure, from the ancient Greeks. To be liberally educated is to be liberated, made free. What, then, does freedom mean in this context? How does liberal education make us free—or, more modestly put, how does it contribute to our freedom? And, to return to my theme, what role do great books play in the quest for true freedom?
I begin with the most obvious benefit of reading great books. By reading the books in your Great Books Program, you are initiated into the cultural and intellectual tradition of Western civilization. You come to know, first-hand, some of the foundational works that have shaped Western social, political, philosophic, and scientific thought over the last two thousand years or so.
This in itself is liberating, since it frees us from ignorance about our own origins. It frees us from acquired prejudices and misconceptions about great books and great ideas of the past. One of the most common prejudices from which we are liberated is the belief that all these “dead white males” have nothing to teach us, that they were somehow in the dark about the deepest issues of human life, and that we have somehow moved beyond them, progressed. Reading great books liberates us from this arrogance."
2. From Felicity & Barbara Pym by Harrison Solow http://amzn.to/N1dsjg
"Which means, Felicity that, in my ideal world all undergraduate liberal arts programs would be clones of the one at St John’s College and I’d save the specialised curriculum for graduate school. Have a look at their website: www.stjohnscollege.edu/ and click on their admissions videos. This is what an education is. This is what to watch when one despairs of the human race. This is what I spent a lot of time watching in the days before I made the decision to resign from my last university. This is what I watch for sheer pleasure.
Well. In any case, as we are clearly not at St. John’s, see if you can also pick up Elizabeth Goudge’s Damerhosehay Trilogy and some pre and post war novels by D.E. Stevenson. These books are not considered great literature or even literature at all by most, including me, but they are stories, some of them excellent stories (the same stories from which, in other hands, literature grows and takes shape) and solid reflections of the same culture and era (in which these authors lived and about which they wrote) as Barbara Pym. I think you will find great (and many) similarities of tone, attitude, cultural and moral values, habits, customs, foods, assumptions, rituals, language, class, education and society between these illuminating tales and those works that are considered literature by people who think they know about such things – as well as by the people who do."
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance