Forty Georgia Teachers Studying Great Books at Mercer
Through Grant from Walmart Foundation

June 17, 2010

Media Contact
Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

MACON — Forty high school teachers from across Georgia are honing their knowledge of foundational texts, thanks to a new summer program at Mercer University that is being funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation as part of its community outreach in the state.  The teachers are studying how to incorporate the Great Books of the West in their classrooms with faculty from Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations.

The teachers, along with Mercer faculty and administrators, will be on hand Thursday, June 17, for a reception and presentation with several Walmart executives. The event will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Ryals Hall on the historic quad of Mercer’s Macon campus.

“We are grateful to the Walmart Foundation for this funding, because it allows us to share some of the most important ideas in American and Western civilization with Georgia’s teachers, and by extension, Georgia’s students,” said Dr. Will R. Jordan, associate professor of political science, Great Books Program director and co-founder of the Center. “The participants have been wonderful — energetic, full of good questions and ideas.  I’m really looking forward to hearing about the success they have with their students.”

“We were honored to fund this grant to Mercer University to provide such an innovative program for Georgia’s teachers,” said Glen Wilkins, senior manager public affairs and government relations for Walmart. “Helping Georgia’s students to better understand our nation’s history is essential to the continued health of our state and this program certainly achieves that.”

The teachers are divided into two cohorts of 20 and are studying in overlapping two-week seminars.  The seminars are modeled after Mercer’s Great Books program and organized around the theme “Citizenship and the Culture of Freedom.” The first week of the seminar curriculum will include readings from ancient Greece, examining the birth of the democratic form of government and the requirements of democratic citizenship.  The second week’s curriculum will focus on the origins of modern republics, as found in the writings of authors such as John Locke and the American founders.

“The program combines intensive text-based discussion sessions, modeling the Great Books teaching techniques, with workshops dedicated to helping the participants implement these techniques in their classrooms,” said Dr. Matthew Oberrieder, assistant professor of philosophy and Center co-director. “We’re really giving them a lot — readings from Aristotle to James Madison — in two weeks. Thus far, they’ve handled it really well, exceeding even our high expectations. We really anticipate these teachers can go home and help their own students become better readers of texts and more thoughtful and engaged citizens.”

The teachers were selected from a competitive, statewide application pool to attend the seminars. The grant provides participating teachers with room, board, books and a stipend, as well as continuing education credit. In addition, the program includes teaching materials for participants and on the Center’s Web site for these and other teachers’ classroom use.

About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are proud to support the charitable causes that are important to customers and associates in their own neighborhoods. The Walmart Foundation funds initiatives focused on education, workforce development, economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness. From Feb. 1, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2010, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation gave more than $512 million in cash and in-kind gifts globally, $467 million of which was donated in the U.S. To learn more, visit www.walmartfoundation.org.

About the Mercer Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations
Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations seeks to provide a new generation of citizens with knowledge of, and appreciation for, the founding principles, values and history of our nation. The Great Books of the West were the education of the American Founders, and America’s freedom and prosperity fundamentally come from the ideas, values, and principles that the Founders’ Great Books explore. To that end, the Center seeks to promote the study and teaching of these foundational works and strengthen the knowledge and understanding of the cultural-intellectual inheritance of America. Mercer is one of a select few colleges or universities in the country and the only one in Georgia that has a Great Books of Western Civilization program as part of its general education curriculum. The Center complements this curriculum with programs including lecture series and campus conferences, and seeks to reinforce the importance of traditional liberal-arts education. www2.mercer.edu/TeachFoundations/

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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