St. John's College, U. S.

From Academic Kids

St. John's College describes itself as one college on two campuses: St. John's College, Annapolis and St. John's College, Santa Fe. St. John's College, Annapolis was chartered in 1784, and incorporated the assets of King William's school, a grammar or preparatory school founded in 1696. On this basis it is the third oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

Since 1936, the school has followed a unique curriculum, called The New Program or the Great Books Program, based on discussion of works from the Western philosophic and literary canon. Within St. John's College, the curriculum is often referred to simply as "The Program." The Great Books program was developed at the University of Chicago by Stringfellow Barr, Scott Buchanan, Robert Hutchins, and Mortimer Adler in the mid-1930s as an alternate form of education to the then rapidly-changing undergraduate curriculum. The four-year, all-required program of study allows students to engage directly with some of the greatest minds in Western civilization, through reading and discussing original works of philosophy, theology, political science, mathematics, science, music, poetry, and literature. There are no textbooks and all classes are based on discussion. Tutors, as professors are called at the College, guide the classes but do not lead them. Each student is challenged to judge for themselves the various viewpoints he or she encounters.

The College is not affiliated with any religious organization. One undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts, is granted to all students. Two Master's degree are currently available, one in Western classics which is an abridged version of the undergraduate curriculm, and a parallel course of studies in Eastern Classics. The Master's in Eastern Classics is unique to St. John's Santa Fe, as no other accredited institution of higher learning in North America offers a similar degree. Both graduate degrees are awarded to graduate students through the college's Graduate Institute.



St. John's College was founded in 1696 as King William's School. After the United States gained independence from Britain, it was rechartered under its present name as a college in 1784, making it arguably the third-oldest college in the United States. (However, Yale University, founded five years later, is often described as the third-oldest, since it was chartered as a college and awarded degrees long before St. John's.) There was some association with the Freemasons early in the college's history, leading to speculation that it was named after Saint John the Evangelist, the patron saint of Freemasonry. The College's original charter, reflecting its composition by men of Masonic, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic faiths, stated that "youth of all religious denominations shall be freely and liberally admitted."

The College curriculum has taken various forms throughout its history. Although it began with a general program of study in the liberal arts, St. John's was a military school for much of the 19th century. In contrast to Harvard University and The College of William and Mary, the two oldest post-secondary schools in America, the College always maintained a small size, generally enrolling fewer than 500 men at a time. In 1936, the College's Board of Visitors and Governors, faced with dire financial straits caused by the Great Depression, invited educational innovators Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan to introduce essentially the current program of study. Buchanan became dean of the College, while Barr assumed its presidency.

Francis Scott Key is one notable alumnus.

Annapolis Campus

St. John's is located in the Historic Annapolis district, one block away from the Maryland State Capitol building. Its proximity to the United States Naval Academy has inspired many a comparison to Athens and Sparta. The schools carry on a spirited rivalry seen in the annual croquet match between the two schools on the front lawn of St. John's, which has won 14 out of the last 18 matches.

The center of campus, McDowell Hall, was built in 1734. Its Great Hall has seen many college events, from balls feting Generals Lafayette and Washington to the unique St. John's institutions called waltz parties.

Curriculum Overview

The program involves:

  • Four years of literature and philosophy in seminar
  • Four years of mathematics
  • Three years of laboratory science
  • Two years of Ancient Greek
  • Two years of French
  • Freshman year chorus followed by sophomore year music

The Great Books are not literally the only texts used at St. John's. Greek and French classes make use of supplemental materials that are more like traditional textbooks. Science laboratory courses and mathematics courses use manuals prepared by faculty members that combine source materials with workbook exercises. For example, the mathematics tutorial combines a 1905 paper by Einstein with exercises that require the student to work through the mathematics used in the paper.

Nevertheless, the emphasis on source materials is strong; all seminar readings are from the book list, and music is studied from scores that are primary sources.

The Great Books

The same set of Great Books is the basis of the curriculum at both campuses of St. John's College. As of 2005, it is:

Freshman Year

Homer: Iliad, Odyssey
Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, Prometheus Bound
Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Philoctetes
Thucydides: Peloponnesian War
Euripides: Hippolytus, Bacchae
Herodotus: Histories
Aristophanes: Clouds
Plato: Meno, Gorgias, Republic, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Symposium, Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, Timaeus, Phaedrus
Aristotle: Poetics, Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, On Generation and Corruption, Politics, Parts of Animals, Generation of Animals
Euclid: Elements
Lucretius: On the Nature of Things
Plutarch: Lycurgus, Solon
Nicomachus: Arithmetic
Antoine Lavoisier: Elements of Chemistry
William Harvey: Motion of the Heart and Blood
Essays by: Archimedes, Gabriel Fahrenheit, Amedeo Avogadro, John Dalton, Cannizzaro, Virchow, Mariotte, Driesch, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, Spemann, Stears, J.J. Thomson, Dmitri Mendeleev, Berthollet, J.L. Proust

Sophomore Year

The Bible
Aristotle: De Anima, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Categories
Apollonius: Conics
Virgil: Aeneid
Plutarch: Caesar and Cato the Younger
Epictetus: Discourses, Manual
Tacitus: Annals
Ptolemy: Almagest
Plotinus: The Enneads
Augustine: Confessions
St. Anselm: Proslogion
Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Summa Contra Gentiles
Dante: Divine Comedy
Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
Josquin Des Prez: Mass
Machiavelli: The Prince, Discourses
Nicolaus Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Spheres
Martin Luther: The Freedom of a Christian
François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli
Michel de Montaigne: Essays
François Viète: Introduction to the Analytical Art
Francis Bacon: Novum Organum
William Shakespeare: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Coriolanus, Sonnets
Poems by: Andrew Marvell, John Donne, and other 16th- and 17th-century poets
Descartes: Geometry, Discourse on Method
Blaise Pascal: Generation of Conic Sections
Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion, Inventions
Joseph Haydn: Quartets
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Operas
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonatas
Franz Schubert: Songs
Igor Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms

Junior Year

Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote
Galileo Galilei: Dialogues on Two New Sciences
René Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy, Rules for the Direction of the Mind
John Milton: Paradise Lost
François de La Rochefoucauld: Maximes
Jean de La Fontaine: Fables
Blaise Pascal: Pensées
Christiaan Huygens: Treatise on Light, On the Movement of Bodies by Impact
George Eliot: Middlemarch
Baruch Spinoza: Theologico-Political Treatise
John Locke: Second Treatise of Government
Jean Racine: Phèdre
Isaac Newton: Principia Mathematica
Johannes Kepler: Epitome IV
Gottfried Leibniz: Monadology, Discourse on Metaphysics, Essay On Dynamics, Philosophical Essays, Principles of Nature and Grace
Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels
David Hume: Treatise of Human Nature
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Social Contract, Discourse on Origins of Inequality
Molière: The Misanthrope
Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations
Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Metaphysics of Morals
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Richard Dedekind: Essay on the Theory of Numbers

Senior Year

Declaration of Independence
The Constitution
Supreme Court opinions
Hamilton, Jay, and Madison: The Federalist Papers
Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Phenomenology of Mind, "Logic" (from the Encyclopedia)
Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky: Theory of Parallels
Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
Abraham Lincoln: Selected Speeches
Søren Kierkegaard: Philosophical Fragments, Fear and Trembling
Karl Marx: Capital, Political and Economic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology
Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
Herman Melville: Benito Cereno
Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Flannery O'Connor: Parker's Back, The Artificial Nigger
Sigmund Freud: General Introduction to Psychoanalysis
Booker T. Washington: Selected Writings
W. E. B. DuBois: The Souls of Black Folk
Martin Heidegger: What is Philosophy?
Werner Heisenberg: The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory
Robert Millikan: The Electron
Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness

Essays by: Michael Faraday, J.J. Thomson, Gregor Mendel, Hermann Minkowski, Ernest Rutherford, Davisson, Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr, James Clerk Maxwell, Louis-Victor de Broglie, Dreisch, Hans Christian Ørsted, André-Marie Ampère, Theodor Boveri, Walter Sutton, Morgan, Beadle and Tatum, Sussman, Watson and Crick, Jacob & Monod, G. H. Hardy

See also


  • Harty, Rosemary (2005), Director of Communications, St. John's College, Annapolis, personal communication (Source details of non-Great-Books materials used at St. John's)

External links


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools