the 2020 Summer Lecture Series

Each summer, St. John’s College hosts a number of exciting lectures throughout the summer, presented by faculty and visiting lecturers from all around the country. This summer, the entirety of the lecture schedule will be available online. Each lecture happens Wednesday evenings, and topics range between politics, literature, philosophy, education, technology, and more. Here is a list of the lectures appearing between now and throughout the rest of the summer, along with their descriptions.


Tuesday, june 30: Reflections on the Bill of rights

Lecturer: Elizabeth C’ de Baca Eastman
Time: 7:30 PM ET/5:30 PM MT

Debate about including a bill of rights, the first ten Amendments of the United States Constitution, began in earnest during the ratification debates of the Constitution. The first ten amendments to the Constitution, called the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. In contrast to the tradition of celebrating two famous documents in the history of the United States–the Fourth of July, the day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, and September 17, the day that the members of the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787–there is little public commemoration of December 15. Yet, of the three documents, it is perhaps the most invoked by citizens and advocates in day-to-day life. What is the the relation of the Bill of Rights to the other seminal documents of the founding era. Has its role changed since ratification? How does it contribute to forming a political community?

Elizabeth Eastman holds a Ph.D in Political Science from Claremont Graduate School, an MA in Liberal Education from St. John’s College, and a BA in French Literature and Civilization from Scripps College. She has taught in the Political Science and History Departments at Chapman UNiversity and Azusa Pacific University, and in the Liberal Studies Programs at Roosevelt University in Chicago and at California State University at Fullerton. She is the 2020-21 Senior Scholar in Residence at the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization in Boulder, Colorado.

Wednesday, july 1: Teaching the LIberal Arts in Community College

Panel: featuring participants from Austin Community College, Anne Arundel Community College, Hostos Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and LaGuardia Community College.
Time: 7:30 PM ET/5:30 PM MT

St. John’s College is a college uniquely devoted, through its Program, to the liberal arts and to a view of education that understands each student to be an active participant in her or his own learning, wrestling along with others with the fundamental questions raised by classic texts. The Graduate Institute at St. John’s, since its inception more than 50 years ago, has had a special interest in bringing this approach to teachers and through them to having an impact more broadly on American education. Like St. John’s, community college are institutions devoted primarily to teaching and learning. They reach a broad and diverse portion of our country’s population. (In 2017-18, 38% of undergraduates were attending 2-year public colleges.) St. John’s is delighted to be collaborating with Anne Arundel Community College to bring together for a panel discussion faculty from a number of community colleges that have implemented discussion-based liberal arts education, including Austin Community College, Hostos Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College and LaGuardia Community College. We’re grateful for their willingness to share their experience and expertise with us, and hope this is the beginning of a conversation that will bear fruit in the lives of students at all of our institutions.

Tuesday, July 7: The Idea of the common good

Lecturers: Seth Appelbaum and David McDonald in conversation
Time: 7:30 ET/5:30 MT

The idea of a “common good” had largely faded as a theme of our public discourse until the Age of COVID-19. The notion of a shared good seems fairly uncontroversial when it shows up as a presupposition of public health policy. Beyond the realm of public health, and even in our fragmented and adversarial era, most activists and factions will sooner or later claim that they are working in service of the common good and not simply against their opponents. Does this resurgence of the “common good” in our rhetoric herald an emerging consensus about the goal of politics, or is it a narrow, technical claim made in reaction to a specific emergency situation? How has the common good been understood throughout its long lineage, and what is at stake in the idea now? Join St. John’s tutors Seth Appelbaum and David McDonald for a live conversation on the question of what it might mean to have an ethical aim beyond that of the individual.

Wednesday, july 8: teaching poetry, revelation, mathematics, and respect for truth

Lecturer: Ted Hadzi-Antich
Time: 7:30 PM ET/5:30 PM MT

Alumnus Ted Hadzi-Antich, chair of the political science department and founder of the Great Questions seminar program at Austin Community College in Austin Texas, will talk about how teaching Book 1 of Euclid’s Elements embedded in the study of revealed religious texts and poetry helps cultivate a respect for truth.

Tuesday, july 14-The recovery of the good and the noble: can xenophon’s socrates help?

Lecturer: Janet Dougherty, Tutor, Santa Fe
Time: 7:30 PM ET/5:30 PM MT

“My talk is not simply about Xenophon. Rather, I am using his Socratic works to reflect on the contemporary situation.  Because Xenophon’s writings are less familiar to us at the College than Plato’s, and because he includes nothing to indulge the inclination toward metaphysical inquiries, Xenophon’s Socratic writings are difficult to read.  Good translations are available and Xenophon’s prose is quite lucid. The problem is subtler and more stubborn: Modern readers are obtuse to the gentlemanliness of Socrates, which Xenophon insists upon, because they have so little sense of life in the polis. To encounter Xenophon’s Socrates is to be confronted with the pervasive modern lowering of expectations. It is also to be provided with an opportunity for the sort of friendship the community of this College promotes.”

Wednesday, July 15: happiness in book 1 of herodotus’ histories

Lecturer: Kerry Baldwin
Time: 7:30 PM ET/5:30 PM MT

What is happiness according to Herodotus? And what would Aristotle say to this? Plus: How, or, what, did Herodotus write, after all? And what would Aristotle say to that? Please join, with your questions, in order to look at Herodotus and his characters in the company of Aristotle and each other.

After progressing through the better part of freshman year in Annapolis, Kerry Balden completed his undergraduate degree in Classical Languages with distinction at University of Texas at Austin. During his time in the Polity, Kerry became convinced that liberal education belongs, at some stage, to all walks of life, and he corresponds constantly with his fellow alumni and former tutors about the future of public education. Currently Kerry teaches and studies at University of Chicago as a graduate student, with special interests in natural science, Portuguese literature, and philosophic ethics.

Tuesday, july 21: on technology and life

Lecturers: Topi Heikkero and David McDonald in conversation
Time: 7:30 PM Et/5:30 PM MT

The power of technology in modern life is immense. Yet many of us have very little framework within which to think about this power and its effects on our lives. Join St. John’s tutors Topi Heikkero and David McDonald for a live conversation on Albert Borgmann’s idea of the “device paradigm,” which Borgmann argues is the essence of modern technology, versus his idea of “focal practices and things,” which in day-to-day life offer a basis for meaning and community. 


Access the complete list of lectures on the St. John’s College website, along with links to join. We hope that you will consider spending some time with us this month in conversation with our faculty and alumni.

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