A few months ago, Shimer College received some decidedly unwelcome publicity: Ben Miller, writing for the Washington Monthly, named it the worst college in America. This prompted Jon Ronson, a reporter for The Guardian, to visit Shimer and investigate whether it really deserved that designation. The result is an amazing portrayal of Shimer’s work and what it means to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who devote themselves to it.
My hope is that this story will overshadow the original study that prompted it (and in the article, Ronson cites Miller’s regret that his methodology — based solely on economic criteria and likely distorted by Shimer’s very small sample size — wound up singling Shimer out in this way). Already the story has been linked approvingly by Neil Gaiman:
This is especially exciting because being a fan of Neil Gaiman is one of the most reliable indicators of being a good fit for Shimer! Why not apply today or — if it’s too late for you to enjoy a Shimer education yourself — support our work?
4 thoughts on “Shimer College in the Guardian”
I have a question based on the article, Adam: how would you articulate the difference, apart from the makeup of the student body, between Shimer and other Great Books programs (e.g. Christ College in Valparaiso, St. Johns, etc)?
Our curriculum is much less conservative and much more open to contemporary texts and therefore more diverse sources. We still have work to do, but we just redesigned our humanities capstone class to mandate diverse sources in the fine arts, literature, philosophy, and theology — including James Cone and Judith Butler — and are committed to doing more. I just attended a conference for faculty of Great Books schools, and I came away feeling like we were basically bomb-throwing leftists compared to the other schools.
This is not to say that Katya’s concerns from the article are unwarranted by any means — but we benefit greatly from having Katya and others to hold us accountable. I hope it can be a virtuous circle where we get more and more non-privileged students who are attracted to our approach and push us to radicalize it and make it even more relevant and accessible.
A joy to read.
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