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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

John Senior and the Integrated Humanities Program

I go on research binges every couple days where I learn EVVVVERYTHING there is to know about some random topic, and today I am obsessed with John Senior and the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas.

I've been secretly obsessed with the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program for a long time, ever since a friend told me all about it during our ISI fellowship.

This reflection on the program is so beautiful. I don't know anyone who was ever involved with the program, but so many things about it fascinate me.

The classes were presented as a conversation between great minds, rather than as a lecture. The students had to learn to LISTEN before they were allowed to contribute. Real, traditional dancing was part of the curriculum, as was beautiful music—folk songs, classical, and medieval chant.

Most of all I love learning about the great men who led the program. These three articles about its leader, John Senior, are my favorites:

http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/john-senior-in-piam-memoriam

http://www.edocere.org/biographies/our_schoolmaster_remembered_dr_john_senior.htm

http://www.edocere.org/articles/magister_johannes.htm

Together, these give me so much to think about. The educational work of this awesome program has continued to bear fruit in later generations. It even inspired a new college based on the same principles.

I kind of want to be John Senior when I grow up.

20 comments:

  1. Sounds like Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) in California, or the College of St. Mary Magdalene in New Hampshire. WCC (referenced in the article) was actually modeled after TAC, which interestingly enough, started in 1971. These 'Great Books Programs' are super awesome, truly...

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    1. Nice, they do sound similar! I loved studying in a Great Books program at ND and I agree that those programs are so awesome. It's exciting to see them growing!

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    2. Just for the record, WCC was not ever intended to be a copy of TAC. One of the founders was a student of John Senior, and he arguably was the guiding force behind most of the curriculum. The theology and philosophy here is similar to TAC, but the guiding vision of the school is much more humanistic than anything done there. My husband has been a professor at WCC for five years, so I speak with the authority of first-hand knowledge. WCC is most definitely a "grandchild" of the IHP.

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  2. Oh wow - now you've got me on a research binge!

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    1. Yay! So glad to get someone else interested in this topic. :)

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  3. Just now responding but John Senior has had a huge impact on my little family's life. Two of his students from the program went on to start a boys highschool where both my brother and my husband attended. John Senior was a central figure for the students as they were receiving his educational philosophy through his UK graduates. Several of our friends are actually second generation John Senior babies... uh well, what I mean to say is their parents were pupils of Senior in that program. It's amazing to see what they've gone on to do and the families they've started and the impact their education had on their own children. What a legacy.

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    1. Oh there's a huge contingency of John senior descent at the University of Dallas.

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  4. This is where both mine and Simon's parents met and converted :)

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  5. I was a student of the Pearson's Humanities Program at KU in the Fall of 75 and Spring of 76. Sadly I was not part of the group that went to Ireland that Spring. But the Pearson's Program was brilliant and it molded my education in many ways. From the poetry that I can quote to this day, to the ability to remember instead of taking notes, to recognizing that in order to really understand something, one must first stand under it.

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    1. That must have been such an incredible experience! I've truly never heard of anything like it. I would've loved to be part of such a great program—as it is, I have a hard time even imagining what it was like!

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  6. To be born into wonder. I was blessed to be a part of this amazing program. When you were a Pearson student, you didn't wander the campus lost like most of the other freshman. You were part of an endearing family. Besides attending "lectures" in the large hall, listening to 3 brilliant, caring men discussing the great books and their inherent truths, you sat in small discussions and delved further into the meaning of life. Even more important, we spent time together baking bread, speaking Latin, learning poetry, ballroom dancing and gazing at the stars. The Pearson program opened doors to knowledge, and gave us the opportunity and encouragement to find our own truths. I remember it all with great fondness and know that I found my life's path in these moments. Nascantur in Admiratione!

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    1. Wow, what an absolutely amazing and complete educational experience. Thank you for sharing your memories of it!

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    2. Oh yes, the Pearson's waltz. I was part of the "pattern" waltz. We danced to the Nutcraker suite. My intro into classical music. My partner was beautiful. I think her name was Nancy McDonald. (sorry, too many years have gone by to be sure). Hard not to fall in love with her. Tuxes with long tails. Loads of fun.

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  7. I was a Pearson student from 1074 to 76. I was incredibly blessed to be on the Ireland trip. Forty years later, the experience remains the high point of my KU experience. Funny how so many thing have faded but all that poetry we memorized is still present. "My heart leaps up..." I see that St. Lawrence Catholic Center at KU has begun a humanities/great books program in a small way.

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  8. Don't forget about Doctor Dennis Quinn.

    http://adraughtofvintage.com/2011/04/23/bishop-conleys-eulogy-for-dr-dennis-quinn/

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    1. Thank you for sharing this article—I'd actually never heard of Dr. Quinn before, but wow, what a legacy. That was a beautiful and very informative read.

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    2. Thank you Joshua, for that reference. I still wonder as I wander, and I don't know if I owe the wonder to the (Pearson's) Integrated Humanities Program, which at the time felt like a perfect match to my soul, or whether just the guilt free delight in continuing to wonder as I get older. But Quinn, Nelick and Senior will always be dear to my heart, and I will always seek to stand under the stars before I seek to understand them with the confidence they gave me.

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  9. Check out through Interlibrary Loan the book _Truth on Trial_ by Dr. Carlson from Crisis Books. Drs. Quin, Nelick, and Senior's program as described fully in the book was brilliant.

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    1. I just requested it from my library system. Thanks for the recommendation, Jacob!

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  10. Bob Carlson who was a TA at the Integrated Humanities Program at University of Kansas, was one of the founders of Wyoming Catholic College ten years ago. The college actually has an event in Chicago next month.
    Silence and Sacred Space: A Symposium on Silence in the Modern World
    with the President and Two Professors of Wyoming Catholic College
    March 10 & 11
    Check it out: www.WyomingCatholic.org/SacredSpace

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