Dissecting Freedom: St. John’s Summer Academy 2014

by Andrew Schulman

 

Memories once made, fade all too quickly. For two fleeting weeklong sessions in July, students from all over the world gathered together at St. John’s College in Annapolis to take part in the Summer Academy, where attendance this year was double that of last year!

The St. John’s College Summer Academy offers high school juniors and seniors a taste of college life at St. John’s. They live in the dormitories, eat in the Randall dining hall, play sports, and take classes together in an environment of lively discussion. All of these compose a singular experience of what life is like at the College.

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A group of the St. John’s College Summer Academy participants on a field trip to Washington D.C. where they visited the monuments and memorials.

Week 1: Foundations of Freedom

Readings: Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, Lincoln’s Speeches, The Federalist Papers, Supreme Court Cases, Douglass’s Speeches, Plato’s Republic, Hobbes’s Leviathan, Rousseau

“The name of the game is not instructing one’s fellows, or even persuading them, but thinking with them and trusting the argument to lead to understanding, some times to very unexpected understandings”

This excerpt from Stringfellow Barr’s Notes on Dialogue– the first reading of the week – perfectly articulates the mindset the Summer Academy students needed to examine the readings listed above in their effort to uncover the grounds of human freedom. Continue reading

Commencement 2014: SJC President Christopher Nelson

The Commencement address for St. John’s College Annapolis in 2014 was about struggle.  President Christopher Nelson ruminates on the unexpected and poignant themes in this commencement speech by Andrew Krivak’s in his new blog post here.

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St. John’s College alumnus Andrew Krivak (A’86) delivers his commencement speech to new grads at the Annapolis campus.

Johnnies confront ‘the joy of struggle’ throughout each work they read and many of the discussions they have in and out of class.  Do you have any stories about particular works you read that shook you to your core?  How did you overcome those challenges?  Are you still wrestling with these works or ideas?  Let us know in the comments!

To the Tutors of St. John’s College!

The following is a short speech delivered by senior Micaela MacDougall to an audience of tutors at one of the many end-of-year celebrations, reprinted with her permission:

I would like to use two quotes to illustrate the quality of the education provided by you as St. John’s tutors.  The first is from my favorite childhood book, The Last Battle from “The Chronicles of Narnia” series.  As the main characters are climbing higher into Aslan’s Country (a kind of heaven), the wise and learned Professor Kirke is trying to explain that this country is just like the Narnia they have left behind, only it is more real: it has more meaning, it is the original of which the old Narnia is just a copy.  At the end of his speech, he adds under his breath, “It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at those schools!”

I am glad to say that all of you have provided a much higher quality of education than the schools that Professor Kirke finds so lacking.  You have not only taught us what Plato (and Aristotle, and Homer, and Augustine, and Aquinas, and Dante, and Shakespeare, and so many others) have said, but you have also, through your love for these authors, communicated to us why they are so worth reading.  You have guided us through their (sometimes rocky) terrain, always pointing us to the depth of meaning that we had difficulty seeing, always showing us how much these authors were worth thinking through.  Thank you for introducing us to the world of reality presented in the Great Books.

The second quote is from one of the many humorous moments in my senior essay text, The Lord of the Rings.  After one of Gandalf’s long and mysterious speeches, Aragorn says to him, “In one thing you have not changed, dear friend.  You still speak in riddles.”  “What? In riddles?” said Gandalf. “No! For I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to; the long explanations needed by the young are wearying.”

Though none of you are as old as Gandalf, you all still have a depth of wisdom that I find remarkable.  And yet, you still choose daily to take upon yourselves the wearying task of talking to us who are young.  And you do this not begrudgingly, but with grace and true concern for us poor young fools.  You talk to us not as if every word out of your mouths is a pearl of knowledge, but as though you truly value what we have to say.  You humble yourselves to become a learner alongside us, rather than a professor above us.  And this humility and care for others has taught us so much more than any mere giving of information.  You have shown us how to live in community and what it means to be human.  So thank you for not speaking only to yourselves, but for sharing yourselves with us.

To the tutors of St. John’s College!

Croquet & the Wall Street Journal

Last Saturday, St. John’s played the Naval Academy in our annual croquet match. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal broadcasted a video of the event. Among others, Catherine Moon (A’14), Patrick McDowell (A’01), and Adrian Trevisan (A’84) were featured. Though we lost, the day was bright and sunny, our team looked noble in their togas and laurel wreaths, and good cheer and big hats were plentiful all around. Check out the video here:

 

 

Begone Dull Care! pt. 2

In addition to our video from last month of some of the Annapolis tutors performing I Saw Her Standing There by The Beatles at their annual gloom-dispelling winter concert, we also have videos of a few folk songs they sang for us.

Jon Tuck fronting a performance of Get Together by The Youngbloods, with, from left to right, Cary Stickney, Chester Burke, Emily Langston, Jon Tuck, Henry Higuera, Greg Recco, Judy Seeger, and Greg Freeman. There are some nice shots of the audience and the Great Hall in this video as well. Continue reading

Paper Chasing

Poetry night at a Johnnie's apartment. Photo by Anyi Guo

Poetry night at a Johnnie’s apartment. Photo by Anyi Guo

It’s time… to write… a… paper.

When our tutor tells us we have to produce six pages on The Nicomachean Ethics my anxiety spikes. After more than thirty years, can I do this? Can I write an academic paper with, you know, footnotes and coherent sentences and a thesis that might actually be interesting? Talking in class is one thing; many times people speak in roundabout and cryptic ways. The tutor usually performs real time (and face-saving) editing: “Oh, Mr. X is asking this, which is a good segue to…” Writing is less forgiving. The language that I’ve grown accustomed to at work won’t be suitable. You can’t do Aristotle with PowerPoint, business buzzwords, bullet points. (“Aristotle was first mover in the self-help market.”)

Continue reading

Begone Dull Care!

Mr. Stickney and Mr. Burke performing at Begone Dull Care!

Cary Stickney and Chester Burke performing at Begone Dull Care!

Every February, some of the more musically talented tutors from the Annapolis campus put on Begone Dull Care in an attempt to dispel some of the gloom and doom that comes with Nap Town winters. Jon Tuck began the tradition in the early ’90s at the behest of our unofficial matriarch, Eva Brann, and the standard crew in recent years has consisted of the aforementioned Jon Tuck, Judy Seeger and her husband, Tony Seeger, Emily Langston, Chester Burke, and Henry Higuera. This year Greg Recco, Sarah Stickney, Cary Stickney, and Greg Freeman also performed, for the first time. If we’re very lucky, they’ll be invited back. Continue reading

How’s Herodotus?

Photo credit to Anyi Guo

Photo credit to Anyi Guo

“How are you finding Herodotus?” a youthful African-American student asked his colleague, an older white woman. There is nothing unusual about a conversational gambit like that at St. John’s. But for me, a new Graduate student coming off a quarter century on Wall Street, it is startling to hear. Startling and reassuring: his question was like the voice of a car’s navigation system, telling me I have arrived at my destination.

I came to St. John’s at 54 seeking the company of people who share the desire to know and the conviction that the greatest sources of wisdom are the books read here. As a teenager, my intellectual curiosity was something I occasionally concealed for fear of embarrassment, but now time is short and the inner call must be answered. I took a leap and traded conference room for Seminar table, prospectus for Plato. It’s been quite a change: in the slang of my old profession it looks to be a “good trade.” In the almost three weeks I have been a Johnny I have not once heard the questions that used to fill my day and my mind: “Where’s the S&P trading? How will the Fed handle the taper? What does 2014 mean for corporate profits?”

Those are not unimportant questions, but I prefer my colleague’s: “How are you finding Herodotus?” (“He’s a hell of a lot more entertaining a writer than Aristotle,” flashed through my mind.)

Continue reading

Freshman Winter Chorus Concert

Domenic D’Andrea, A’15, has put together a beautiful compilation of some of the highlights from this year’s first Freshman Chorus Concert. As part of the chorus class all of the freshmen are required to take, the freshman class performs two concerts a year, one in the fall semester and one in the spring.

Some of the pieces featured in this track are Hine Ma Tov, a Jewish hymn; Come, Ye Sons of Art, an English ode written by Henry Purcell in 1694; Psallite, Unigenito, a Christian hymn composed by Michael Praetorius in 1609; and Waters of Babylon.

The full recording will be up soon, but this should keep you content in the meanwhile.