Santa Fe News
Students at St. John’s College Santa Fe Bring Socratic Seminar to China
Students from St. John’s College, Santa Fe, Embark on Projects for Peace
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE; April 24, 2013 Santa Fe, New Mexico: St. John’s College Santa Fe is pleased to announce that three Santa Fe Campus students have been awarded $10,000 from the Davis Foundation for a Projects for Peace summer project in China. Dongyu Cui, Ye Shi and Jingxing Gao, all of whom are native Chinese, will lead St. John’s style Socratic seminars for 20 high school seniors in Nanjing beginning in late May.
The trio proposed the project to address what they see as the breakdown of respectful, knowledgeable conversation about issues facing the Chinese people, including unequal distribution of social resources, imbalance between the development of economics and protection of the environment, and conflicts with neighboring countries. As it does in America, Chinese social networking often amplifies the loudest opinions and arguments, which can be filled with vitriol and sometimes spill over into real life in the form of violence and civil unrest.
The conversation-based seminars that St. John’s College has perfected over the last 75 years represent the finest example in American higher education of respectful, effective discourse about difficult and important questions. In their project proposal, the students state their belief that “the lack of opportunity and training in expressing and listening to opinions in China’s educational system” prevents people from communicating in conflicts. “Moreover, we believe that Socratic seminars can really make people learn how to think, how to speak, how to listen, how to ask questions, and how to cooperate in communication,” they write.
“The lecture dominates Chinese classes,” they explain. “Teachers play the role of authority and impart knowledge to students. However, a Socratic seminar style of learning, which we have experienced here at St. John’s College, promotes equal opportunity for expression for all students and teachers. Expressing personal opinions, helping other people to develop their opinions, and considering other people’s opinions are key elements in each seminar. Socratic seminars value the pursuit of deep questions, which cultivates the habits of critical thinking. A Socratic seminar does not aim at reaching consensus but at examining or pursuing truth together.”
“Mr. Cui came to me to discuss his proposal and the challenges to open, respectful discourse that his group wanted to address, because he knew I’d been traveling in China,” said Victoria Mora, vice president for advancement at St. John’s College, Santa Fe. “I loved that after only one semester at St. John’s, he saw the way we discuss tough questions publicly really does matter for the heath of a republic. The insight of the proposal is that it takes practice engaging in civil discourse—and this is a condition of peace.”
The seminars will be held from May 29–July 1, 2013, in Nanjing. Dongyu Cui, a freshman at St. John’s, grew up in Nanjing and attended Jingling High School, one of the two high schools from which seminar participants will be drawn. They will read Great Books that relate to war and peace, including Homer’s Iliad and Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, as well as news reports about current issues and conflicts in China, including the Diaoyu Island conflict and the plight of urban migrants. The students who have been invited to participate have been accepted by top Chinese universities and represent the future opinion-makers of the country.
The Davis Projects for Peace program is an invitation to undergraduates at American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design grassroots projects, the most promising and feasible of which are funded at $10,000 each. The objective is to encourage and support today's motivated youth to create and try out ideas for building peace. The Davis Projects for Peace are made possible by Kathryn Wasserman Davis, an accomplished internationalist and philanthropist. She is the mother of Shelby M.C. Davis who funds the Davis UWC Scholars Program currently involving over 90 American colleges and universities of which St. John’s is one. Mrs. Davis feels some urgency to spark initiatives for building prospects for peace in the world and so is committing $1 million to fund numerous $10,000 projects for peace. She believes that today’s youth—tomorrow’s leaders—ought to be challenged to formulate and test their own ideas.
505 660 1616
505 603 8643