The Education Quartet: A Serious Reader’s Pathway through four Western Classics on the roots of our thinking about the meaning of education
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
Time Commitment: 1.25 hours per week (no homework)
The session opens promptly with a ten to fifteen minute reading of the text by participants, followed by an hour long discussion based on that selection.
Maximum Group Size: 7
Course Membership Subscription: $20 for 10 months (June and mid-December to mid-January are off session).
Meeting Day: The first seminar will be held Monday, January 15th, 2018. Thereafter, the seminars will continue to be on Monday at the group’s discretion.
Meeting Time: 8 pm Central (9 EST, 6 PST)
Meeting Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
Meeting Place: Zoom video conferencing
Seminar Leader: David Hunter Saussy
What is it to be educated? We ask this question in all seriousness, without presupposing an answer beforehand. One view maintains that education is a matter of schools and schooling, degrees and educational policies, budgets and curricula. It is a matter merely for kids not for grown-ups. It is moreover supposed to be the royal road to material prosperity and getting a job.
Four voices hailing from deep within the heart of the Western tradition, however, see it differently. How each view the matter of education will have to be seen by the participants in this course - in full color and detail, that is, what disagreements or differences they have with each other, and what agreements or common ground they share - and what fresh perspectives they might offer us, who have forgotten what they have to say and why they say it.
But all four hold that nothing less than the destiny of the human person or soul and human communities is at stake in what we call education. Each author takes us on a journey - an ascent from the Cave (Plato), from a Dark Wood (Dante); or setting a course through the tension between our original nature and corrupting civilization (Rousseau); or undergoing the adventure of consciousness on its way to wisdom (Hegel).
Our aim is to listen in to the conversation that develops between all four, as attentively as we can – and, to the best of our abilities – participate in that conversation, trying to take stock of the ultimate grounds and the far-reaching consequences of their respective visions. In doing so, we shall perhaps find ourselves undergoing this very thing called education…on a pathway to freedom.
Symposium Great Books Institute seeks to discover a pathway of serious adult learning not modeled on the standard of school or academic program. We offer neither classes nor a program, but true “courses” in the root sense of the road, path or way.
The design of this pathway through the great books is dictated by careful attention to the needs of lifelong learning. An end date has been left undetermined for this series, in order to give the group sufficient leisure – flexibility and sovereignty – in determining the work and pacing at hand. There are no prerequisites for joining this course besides a love of learning and a desire to take the time for careful reading and discussion.
Because each meeting begins with a live reading of the text, participants are free to prepare as much or as little as desired prior to meeting. For many participants, minimizing or eliminating prep time is an advantage, considering the length of the series. Reading out loud the pre-assigned selection at the beginning of the session places our attention at the same point, and brings the text into fresh attention. The session duration (of one hour fifteen minutes) is just long enough to work hard, but short enough to not feel burdened by a return the following weeks.
The seminar leaders or facilitators at Symposium are not professional educators, but they are experienced and skilled guides – who have clocked in hundreds of hours of purposive discussion on the great books, who are serious about learning and being a caretaker of the quality of the dialectic that ensues in each session. He or she balances inquiry with advocacy, but is not the ‘chief explainer’ of a great book as a traditional educator might be. The seminar leader practices silent and attentive listening, and intervenes only when needed. The activity and ownership of the participants in the process of dialectic is essential to what we are doing.
This group is not about short cuts, but about taking “the longer way around.” Each week is cumulative – we work through the text part by part at a hiking pace until we reach the top of the mountain. The group will have sovereignty in deciding, however, to take on longer chunks of text if they feel it is needed…to blend the close-reading with longer discursive reading. For example, during the June and December hiatus’, if it seems useful to the group, we can assign a longer reading, and then return with a seminar on that reading, continuing the close-reading pace thereafter.
Group size is capped at a maximum of seven people, to allow for space to join the close-reading dialectic. We will open a new group if more than seven sign up. Folks are always welcome to join to see if the format will work for them, with no pressure to commit, we will say that those who are serious about this undertaking are prepared for a multi-year engagement in this one-of-a-kind project, perhaps 3-4 years, or even more, if more is what it takes. These books are so rich, they are worth the time. Even though this is a multi-year project, and the end is as of yet undetermined (for the reasons indicated above), the job of a Symposium leader is to keep the study on track to completion. This is what makes iSymposium different from an informal book group, which tends to be much better at starting projects than finishing.
The membership subscription cost at $250 for 10 months covers online fees and facilitators. This works out to less than $7 per session. Your subscription reserves your space in the group for the year – like parking space. Since group size is very important, and capped at seven, you are guaranteed a spot at the table, when you return. We will record sessions (audio only) for the reference of those who are away and members of the group, and are not released to the general public, for private use only.
If our previous series are any indication (e.g. Plato’s Laws and Socratic Education), a series like this will be sure to forge lifelong friendships in the love of learning through the great books. The iSymposium experience, designed for serious long-term endeavor, is about as opposite as you can get from canned learning experiences in Massively Open Online Courses and other online courses.
Register for this pathway HERE