The Story of St. John’s College

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Author: W. Winston Elliott III

Founded in 1696, St. John’s College has a unique history as one of America’s first, and leading, liberal arts institutions. St. John’s (campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe) explores the great books of Western Civilization through seminar discussions. As Christopher Nelson (President, St. John’s College, Annapolis) has said: “Our books and our program demand more of us than, in truth, we are capable of achieving. It is this stretch in our search for truth, however, that allows us, as a community of learners, tutors helping students, students helping each other, to achieve some measure of greatness.” The Imaginative Conservative is pleased to have published numerous essays written by St. John’s tutors and alumni. We invite you to join us as we explore the story of the College with this video (1954) which shares the unchanging essence of St. John’s.

We want to give our students a classroom in which inciting books are talked about not as mere literature nor as historical documents, but boldly as they meant themselves to be taken: as the Word of God, or the insight of the intellect, or the wisdom of the world. And yet we want these same students to read subtly, not as believers, disciples, and partisans—that may happen privately—but receptively, with that most desirable of human dispositions, an open mind, one which hears appreciatively and responds judgingly, both at once. ~Eva Brann (Tutor at St. John’s since 1957)

Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. ~John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867.

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

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