What brought you to Shimer?
There are two parts to my decision to go to Shimer. One was my decision to go to college at all, and the other was Shimer in particular. For why I left high school early it had to do with the fact that high school education didn’t teach me how to understand things. It taught me what I needed to know for standardized testing, and the paces of the classes led to what experts call “boredom.” Skipping classes and grades didn’t help. So my junior year I took nothing but college courses, but I ended up being overworked, and I was still doing the same thing I always did. I was studying information, not knowledge. So I got fed up with the whole system, and I realized I wasn’t going to get anything out of high school education, so I decided I was going to go to college early.
My father before I was born worked for Encyclopedia Britannica. He got a collection of great books when he was working. So when I was growing up instead of going to the library, I would read his books in his study. I didn’t know the great books curriculum existed until I heard of Shimer when I got a pamphlet in the mail. So I started researching it. It was learning for learning’s sake, which was exactly what I wanted. What made me choose Shimer in particular was the culture. I didn’t want to call everyone by their last name and get dressed up, which happens at some other great books schools. I liked that there was team work and no sororities or fraternities. I applied in June or July, and was accepted in late July or August, and started late August. It was a fast a process. Now three years later I don’t regret it.
What's your major?
I don’t know. Okay, I think the value of Shimer is the general understanding and learning. It’s the liberal arts education. I am looking to get a degree in the liberal arts, though possibly with a concentration in the natural sciences. I approach it as basic training for life, and I’ll take this and go to grad school, but Shimer is about learning to build a life, and it’s preparing me for a wonderful life, too. In grad school I’ll do something more profession, law, maybe. Something that will keep me engaged, and something that I will never get bored doing. When I was little I always wanted to something that a machine could never do, and I think Shimer’s taught me to do that.
Thus far what have your favorite and least favorite texts been?
Hang on, I need to check the book list. Oh, in Humanities 1. Leonardo's Incessant Last Supper, by Leo Steinberg is my least favorite, both in terms of personal preference and its value in the curriculum. I understand what the possible value of the book is in terms of really understanding one painting as much as you can, even incessantly, but it reads less like an insightful text, like one in the great conversation, and more like a coffee table book. It reads like a pretentious, jargon-y book you put out to impress people. It’s purposefully obtuse, and the ideas are more often trite than insightful. I characterize it as coffeehouse pretension-- more style than depth. Favorite is even harder. There were a lot of books I really liked. The Republic would probably be my favorite. The style really appeals to me.
How about favorite and least favorite courses?
My favorite courses would be bioethics or origins. I learned more from bioethics, but I had more fun in origins. I’ll say origins. Hum 1 would be my least favorite. I’ve got lots of reasons. It’s a really interesting, ambitious course, in terms of learning music and art, to criticize and practice, but I think it’s too ambitious and it’s too early on. It’s a 1. You’re still learning how to do dynamics and classes. It would have to be a full year course, a semester on art and a semester on music, which is how they used to do it. I think more time is needed, and this is coming from someone who wanted to speed up everything in high school. People aren’t getting enough out of it. I would make it later in the curriculum and a full year.
What would you say are the pros and cons of Shimer outside the classroom?
They’re the same. The greatest pro is the worst con, and that is Shimer is tiny. We’re incredibly close, but that also means we’re incredibly close, and the misanthrope in me hates that, but the rest of me really likes it. So at Shimer you get personal attention, discussions with small classes, but you also get the drama. I try to avoid it. I just play Go all the time. The closeness of the students makes for an awesome intellectual environment (because it all bleeds out, and you end up having a giant fight over drinks about something you discussed five hours earlier), but that gets tight. That’s why it’s great to meet other people outside of Shimer