St. John’s College believes that the way to a liberal education lies
through a direct and sustained engagement with the books in which
some of the greatest minds of Western civilization have expressed
themselves. To that end, the college offers a four-year all-required
program in which students read, discuss, and write about the
seminal works that have shaped the world in which we live.
There is no other college quite like St. John’s. Here, there are
no lecture courses, no textbooks, no written finals, no departments,
no research professors. Instead, the college offers small discussion
classes, books that are classics, oral examinations, a single interdis-
ciplinary program of study for everyone, and teachers who are called
tutors rather than professors—one for every eight students.
St. John’s considers a liberal education to be a process of
unmediated discovery that leads as much to self-knowledge as to
knowledge of the world. It maintains that direct and honest encoun-
ters with timeless works are everyone’s birthright and can free us to
see our world more clearly. The main prerequisites: an openness to
the new and a sincere desire to know.
It is not uncommon to wonder whether such an education—
based on sustained and shared inquiry—is possible. “It sounds too
good to be true,” is a frequent first response. In the following pages,
you will learn how the St. John’s programunites several modes of
learning in an environment of rare collegiality and collaboration,
and how the curriculum builds upon itself to create an integrated
whole over four years. In the process, you will see both what makes
this education possible and why many consider it essential.
What is themeaning of the college’s seal?
The Latin motto on the outside edge of the seal (see this booklet’s covers) means
I make free adults out of children by means of books and a balance.” In the center,
seven open books represent the seven traditional liberal arts of grammar, rhetoric,
logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, which in turn surround the
scale, representing modern science.