St. John's College is a community dedicated to liberal education. Liberal education seeks to develop in us the arts of understanding, an intelligent and critical appreciation of our intellectual heritage, an awareness of our social and moral obligations, and a lifelong commitment to the thoughtful inquiry into fundamental human questions.
The program of study at St. John's College is based on the belief that a genuine liberal education requires the study of great books because they express most originally and most deeply the ideas that have shaped our civilization. These books are our most important teachers. They are both timeless and timely; they illuminate the persisting questions of human existence that bear directly on the problems we face today. Their authors can speak to us as freshly as when they spoke for the first time, because what they have to tell us regards our true interests and is not of merely academic concern. The books change our minds, move our hearts, and touch our spirits.
The great books are linked together: each is introduced, supported, or criticized by others. In that sense, they converse with one another. As readers we are drawn to take part in a great and continuing conversation. The books serve to foster thinking, not to dominate it. At St. John's, the process of learning is not something passive and receptive, but rather active and cooperative. All classes are conducted as a discussion where the responsibility for clarifying the readings, following through the thoughts, and testing the conclusions lies with the students and their tutors. The demands of the individual and those of the group are in continuous interplay, setting limits within which the discussion moves with the utmost freedom. Participants bring to the discussion the assumptions derived from experience in the contemporary world. Through discussion, however, they acquire a new perspective, enabling them to recognize both the sameness of a recurrent problem and the variety of its manifestations.
Even though specific areas of knowledge may advance or the fundamental outlook of humanity may change over time, the arts of understanding cultivated by a liberal education remain indispensable. These arts – of thinking, speculating, imagining, analyzing – enable us to gain knowledge of our world and of ourselves and to use that knowledge with wisdom. Under their guidance, we can free ourselves from the blindness of prejudice and the narrowness of beaten paths. Under their discipline, we can acquire the habit of listening to reason.
St. John’s faculty members are referred to as tutors rather than professors to signify that it isn’t their chief role to profess or lecture—but to guide students through the program of study. Most hold doctorates in particular fields, but all teach across the curriculum. Tutors shape discussion by asking questions, supplying examples, and encouraging students to explore the implications of their own statements. We work through difficult texts and ideas with the support of tutors, and ultimately arrive at the answers for ourselves.
The St. John’s Graduate Institute was founded in 1967 at the Santa Fe campus and now flourishes in Annapolis as well. The Master of Arts in Eastern Classics program was established in 1994. St. John’s College, founded in Maryland in 1696 as King William’s School, is a community of learning dedicated to offering the very best in liberal education. Graduate Institute students become lifetime members of the St. John’s College community and can take part in study groups, formal and informal lectures, and other aspects of the life of the mind that our community cultivates and protects.
For more information about the program on either campus, contact:
The Graduate Institute in Liberal Education
W. Thomas Crouse, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions
St. John's College
60 College Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: 410-626-2541 | Fax: 410-626-2880