Learning How to Disagree 101: How the Artificial Constraints of a Great Books Seminar Can Help Us Become Better Humans

High Street Church In- Person and Zoom Worship with Dr. Charlie Thomas – October 2, 2022

No sane person thinks that 18-year olds and one quiet professor can sit down with an (often ancient) book (often in translation) and understand it in the same way as they would if authority, expertise, historical context, and linguistic knowledge, etc. were brought to bear on the classroom experience. Something else happens, though, when all of those objectively valuable things are banished from the classroom—students have to let go of the banisters that they’ve held throughout their education. They have to rely simply on the power of their reading, thinking, listening, and talking capacities. They have to be ready to give reasons. They have to be ready to be wrong. They have to be able to change their mind. That is, they have to learn how to be a respectful, responsible, open-minded member of a conversation about serious things. The books we read are important, too, and not every book can sustain the scrutiny necessary for this pedagogy to work, but it is the conversation that matters most.

Dr. Charlie Thomas is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Great Books Program at Mercer University. She is also Executive Director of the Association for Core Texts and Courses, a global association of colleges and universities supporting the use of classic texts and core curricula in undergraduate education. She is also a gifted musician. A former member of blueskyblue, she now partners with two friends in the group sisters of the blue moon.