What is Liberal Education For?


A Conference at St. John’s College 
on the 50th Anniversary of the Santa Fe Campus
October 16-18, 2014



Public Lecture: Roger Scruton, our annual Steiner Lecturer,

will deliver his talk, "Architecture and Aesthetic Education," at 8:00 p.m., Friday, October 17th, in the Student Activities Center. This event is free and open to the public. Please arrive early as parking and seating are limited. (All other conference events require registration. Registration information can be found below.)


Featured speakers include:

Eva Brann, St. John's College, "Immediacy"
Matthew Crawford,
University of Virginia, "Attention as a Cultural Problem"
Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University, "Does Liberal Education Have a Future?"
Wendy Lesser,
Critic and Author, "Good Books and Bad Books: Developing One's Reading Taste" 
Lorraine Pangle, University of Texas, Austin, "A Well-formed Mind: Aristotle and the Intellectual Virtues"
Peter Pesic, St. John's College, " A Seminar with a Scalpel: Studying Science through Conversation"
Christopher Ricks, Boston University, "T.S. Eliot's Humanism"
Roger Scruton, Oxford University, "Architecture and Aesthetic Education"

Gan Yang, Sun Yat-sen University, "The Emergence of Liberal Education and Classical Studies in China"

Please click here to download a current conference schedule.


We raise this question, recognizing that liberal education and the great tradition of the American liberal arts college have been put on the defensive of late. Small colleges across the nation have to make their case to students, to their parents, and to the public more urgently than ever. The causes of this crisis have been analyzed extensively: there is an emerging consensus that the rapid growth of consumerism amidst new economic challenges, and the fragmentation of general studies driven by professional training and specialization in the universities, have led us to undervalue drastically the humane goals of liberal studies. These causes are themselves symptomatic of a deeper crisis in our time, a crisis of uncertainty and disorientation affecting every field of human endeavor—scientific, social, intellectual, artistic, and spiritual. Precisely in response to this crisis, liberal education can reaffirm its relevance and purposes.

We believe that the unprecedented opportunities for freedom in the modern world only heighten the need for life-long engagement with the essential questions. Individualism, the accelerating progress of science and technology, the liberation engendered by complex economies—the very achievements of the modern age—present philosophical and ethical difficulties, both novel and perennial. No one can address these effectively, in their own lives or as future leaders, unless they come to understand them in a more than superficial way.

At St. John’s College, it has continued to be our conviction that the root questions of life can be taken up by any serious person. We have made the Socratic approach—of open, courageous, and philosophically minded inquiry—central to the work of every class. We welcome friends (and critics) and educators from near and far to join us for this conference, which we envision as a broad platform to speak about the challenges and opportunities for liberal education today, and to engage in exemplary studies in the liberal arts (interpretive and substantive work on texts and within disciplines). In addition to an array of featured speakers, there are over seventy-five individual presenters scheduled to deliver papers and participate in panels.

Please click here for our registration form. The form must be scanned or printed and faxed, mailed or emailed. Forms can be emailed to paul.cooley@sjc.edu, faxed to 505-984-6153, or mailed to:

Attn: Paul Cooley, Dean's Office
St. John's College
1160 Camino Cruz Blanca
Santa Fe, NM 87505

If space is available, there will be day-of walk-up registration, for a fee of $20, to attend panel and plenary sessions. This will not include any meals or receptions, which require full advance registration. Advance registration will be closed on October 9th, one week before the opening of the conference. If you wish to register, please do so as soon as possible. Faculty, students, and staff of St. John’s College can receive conference information directly from the dean’s office.


St. John’s College 50th Anniversary Academic Conference Travel & Visitor Information


Travel to Santa Fe

Most travelers to Santa Fe fly in to Albuquerque, about an hour’s drive away.  At the Albuquerque airport, you may rent a car, or book a ride on the Sandia Shuttle (http://www.sandiashuttle.com).

You may also fly directly in to Santa Fe’s small regional airport.  Flights tend to be a little more expensive, and relatively few airlines serve the airport. The airport is a 15-20 minute drive to town or to campus.  The Road Runner shuttle service operates out of the Santa Fe airport, (https://roadrunnershuttleandcharter.com/).  Car rentals are also available.

Amtrak also has train service to Lamy, a small community outside of Santa Fe, and Albuquerque.  There is a shuttle from Lamy to Santa Fe.  The Lamy Shuttle may be reached by calling (505) 982-8829.


Driving to St. John’s College

 From Albuquerque:

  • Take I-25 north for about 70 miles.
  • Take Exit 284, Old Pecos Trail.
  • Go north (left) on Old Pecos Trail.
  • Turn right to remain on Old Pecos Trail at the third light.
  • Turn right at Armenta (at stoplight).
  • Turn left at Camino Corrales.
  • Turn right at Old Santa Fe Trail.
  • After approximately a mile, turn left at Camino del Monte Sol.
  • Turn right on Camino Cruz Blanca.
  • St. John's College is on the right after the tennis courts.

From Taos:

  • Take U.S. 84/285 south.
  • On 84/285 stay right and follow signs for I-25
  • St. Francis Drive (the highway becomes St. Francis Drive).
  • Turn left on Alameda.
  • After approximately 2 1/2 miles Alameda will curve right and become Camino Cabra.
  • At the top of the hill, past Los Miradores, turn left at Camino Cruz Blanca.
  • St. John's College is on the right.

From Las Vegas and Cline's Corners:

  • From Las Vegas, take I-25 south.
  • From Cline's Corner, take U.S. 285 north to I-25 south.
  • Take Exit 284, Old Pecos Trail.
  • Go north (right) on Old Pecos Trail.
  • Turn right to remain on Old Pecos Trail at the third light.
  • Turn right at Armenta (at stoplight).
  • Turn left at Camino Corrales.
  • Turn right at Old Santa Fe Trail.
  • After approximately a mile, turn left at Camino del Monte Sol.
  • Turn right on Camino Cruz Blanca.
  • St. John's College is on the right after the tennis courts.


Where to Stay

SHUTTLE SERVICE: Please note that the college will run a shuttle at regular intervals between the following hotels and the conference.

Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza - 505-988-2811


Sage Inn – 866-433-0335


St. John’s College has a special arrangement with both the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza hotel and the Sage Inn.  Rooms will be available for a discount if you identify yourself as being part of the “SJC Liberal Arts Conference.”

La Fonda – 800-523-5002


Inn on the Alameda – 888-984-2121



All of the above hotels are close the historic center of the city, in close proximity to shopping, dining, art galleries, museums, and other activities. There are several other downtown hotels within walking distance of these (and therefore within walking distance of our shuttle service).

Questions about the conference should be directed by email to Paul Cooley in the Dean's Office at paul.cooley@sjc.edu.