The Wal-Mart Foundation, as part of its community outreach in Georgia, has awarded Mercer a grant to develop summer seminars for high school teachers to learn how to incorporate the Great Books into their curricula. Through the grant, Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations is developing a summer seminar program and Web site that will help the teachers to understand and teach the Great Books. The two-week seminars will be modeled after Mercer’s Great Books program and be organized around the theme “Citizenship and the Culture of Freedom.”
Each two-week seminar will include a cohort of 20 Georgia high school teachers who will be able to take the Great Books model back into their classrooms. The seminars will be held in the summer of 2010 and run by Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations, which was founded by Mercer professors Will Jordan and Matthew Oberrieder in the spring of 2008.
“We are very grateful to the Wal-Mart Foundation for allowing us to share one of Mercer’s most distinctive programs with some of Georgia’s best teachers,” said Dr. Jordan, an associate professor of political science and Center co-director. “Ultimately, we hope the program helps our state’s high schools inspire students with primary texts that develop reading skills, critical thinking and thoughtful citizenship.”
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.
“Through these seminars, our teacher-participants and, subsequently, their students, will develop a complex, genuine understanding of some of the fundamental issues that the Great Books explore, including citizenship, human rights, free enterprise and intellectual and religious freedom,” said Dr. Oberrieder, an assistant professor of philosophy and center co-director. “For the American Republic to continue to flourish each new generation of citizens must acquire knowledge of, and develop an appreciation for, America’s intellectual and moral foundations. These seminars are part of the Center’s aim to revitalize the Founders’ ‘Great Books’ education and foster civic and cultural self-knowledge.”
The competitive selection process for teachers from throughout Georgia will begin in the fall. The grant will provide participating teachers with room, board, books and a stipend, as well as continuing education credit. The program will also develop teaching materials to distribute to the participants and to post at the supporting Web site for these and other teachers’ classroom use.
“One of our goals for the Web site will be to establish it as a ‘best practices’ nexus to serve Georgia teachers, which will eventually become a nationwide resource to support teaching and scholarship in America’s Western Foundations,” Dr. Oberrieder said.
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.