What is the St. John's program?
A genuine liberal education begins by encountering for ourselves the ideas and questions that help define our intellectual heritage. The books at the heart of learning at St. John’s are among the richest sources of that heritage.
These books are timeless and timely; they illuminate the persisting questions of human existence and also have great relevance to our contemporary problems. They therefore enter directly into our everyday lives and speak to us as freshly as when they first spoke. They change our minds, move our hearts, and touch our spirits. What they have to tell us is not something of merely academic concern, remote from our real interests. At St. John’s, books are not treated reverently or digested whole; they are dissected, mulled over, interpreted, doubted, sometimes rejected, sometimes accepted. They provoke us to think for ourselves.
The mode in which this process unfolds is classroom discussion. With a faculty-student ration of 1 to 8, class size ranges from 12 to 16 students in tutorials and laboratories and from 17 to 21 in seminars. All classes are discussion classes, so that students participate directly and actively in their own education. Examinations are oral and individual. Students’ tutors—as members of the faculty are called—meet with them twice a year in conferences to formally evaluate their academic progress.
In brief, the St. John’s program is a means of discovery, a process by which students and tutors unite to ask, with persistence and curiosity, fundamental questions about our world, our communities, and our lives—and in doing so, come closer to answering the question, “Who am I?”
What is a liberal education?
A liberal education frees students by providing them the means to understand and assess both themselves and the world, as well as to interpret the symbols—words, numbers, notes, and pictures—that describe that world. A liberal education gives individuals the ability to critique—and thereby preserve—a free and democratic society.