Wednesday, January 18, 2012

St. John’s College

The college has two campuses located in Annapolis, MD and in Santa Fe, NM. Few things are rooted so deeply in time, but this college grew out of King William’s School in Maryland founded in the colonial year 1696. The school’s curriculum is grounded in the great books and is unified, meaning that all students take the same courses and all courses are required—no majors, minors and all of that machinery. Paradoxically, this very elite program was the consequence of failure—the curriculum adopted in 1937 when the college, organized along conventional lines, was facing a desperate financial crisis. The “new program” miraculously saved it. To get a feel for what such a program means, here is a link to the reading list divided by year.

Long observation teaches that virtually any conceivable good (or evil) will have its place somewhere on this plane of existence. A place like St. John’s is a little unbelievable—and two campuses yet. We learned of the existence of this school in a curious way, through a letter that one of Brigitte’s swim-exercise friends shared with her, a letter written by the friend’s grandniece. The letter-writer, a young woman in her sophomore year, casually describes some of her studies—along with lots of other things. The contents of the letter and its stunningly good English almost shocked. A forgery? A little joke? No. For real. Both of us observed a minute of reverent silence after having read it—not quite trusting our eyes, as it were.


  1. A letter is pretty rare in the present age. Was it in cursive? If cursive, the value goes up a few thousand dollars.

    Good English is shockingly unique, so much so that most people are beginning to find it embarrassing to be in possession of such an epistolary.

    1. It was typewritten, alas, so it has less historical value, but the contents were amazing. And every punctuation mark present, accounted for, and in the right place...