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Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

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A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life--and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, rep A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life--and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In Rescuing Socrates, Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montás tells the story of how a liberal education transformed his life, and offers an intimate account of the relevance of the Great Books today, especially to members of historically marginalized communities. Montás emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Queens, New York, when he was twelve and encountered the Western classics as an undergraduate in Columbia University's renowned Core Curriculum, one of America's last remaining Great Books programs. The experience changed his life and determined his career--he went on to earn a PhD in English and comparative literature, serve as director of Columbia's Center for the Core Curriculum, and start a Great Books program for low-income high school students who aspire to be the first in their families to attend college. Weaving together memoir and literary reflection, Rescuing Socrates describes how four authors--Plato, Augustine, Freud, and Gandhi--had a profound impact on Montás's life. In doing so, the book drives home what it's like to experience a liberal education--and why it can still remake lives.


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A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life--and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, rep A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life--and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In Rescuing Socrates, Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montás tells the story of how a liberal education transformed his life, and offers an intimate account of the relevance of the Great Books today, especially to members of historically marginalized communities. Montás emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Queens, New York, when he was twelve and encountered the Western classics as an undergraduate in Columbia University's renowned Core Curriculum, one of America's last remaining Great Books programs. The experience changed his life and determined his career--he went on to earn a PhD in English and comparative literature, serve as director of Columbia's Center for the Core Curriculum, and start a Great Books program for low-income high school students who aspire to be the first in their families to attend college. Weaving together memoir and literary reflection, Rescuing Socrates describes how four authors--Plato, Augustine, Freud, and Gandhi--had a profound impact on Montás's life. In doing so, the book drives home what it's like to experience a liberal education--and why it can still remake lives.

30 review for Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Rescuing Socrates- Roosevelt Montás makes a deeply moving appeal for liberal education, that is, for the great ancient and modern classics within the Western tradition to be part of a college curriculum. The author draws on his own experience as a lad who came from the Dominican Republic to New York City and eventually earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Columbia University. Roosevelt Montás has been an instructor in Columbia's Core Curriculum (Great Books Program) and describes how the Rescuing Socrates- Roosevelt Montás makes a deeply moving appeal for liberal education, that is, for the great ancient and modern classics within the Western tradition to be part of a college curriculum. The author draws on his own experience as a lad who came from the Dominican Republic to New York City and eventually earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Columbia University. Roosevelt Montás has been an instructor in Columbia's Core Curriculum (Great Books Program) and describes how the Great Books changed his own life and can transform the lives of students, particularly students from lower income families and historically marginalized communities. The author capsulizes his approach for the book as follows:“Rather than offer a battery of arguments, I try to bring the reader closer to the experience of liberal education through encounters with some of the human questions that lie at its heart.” And four authors serve as focus: Augustine, Plato, Freud and Gandhi. For a more direct flavor of this provocative work published by Princeton University Press, I'll couple my comments with Roosevelt Montás' actual words - “As a college freshman, my own religious experiences gave me an advantage, an entry point, into Augustine that others did not have. The power of his mind, the beauty of his language, and the depth of insight that pervades his writing captivated me.” Roosevelt shares his background as a Christian in an austere Pentecostal religion from the Dominican Republic and how his faith shifted thanks to a warmhearted, charismatic leader who presented a vision of faith compatible with reason. So when he first encountered Augustine, he has a fund of direct experience that he could relate to the great thinker's philosophy. “According to Socrates, the philosophical life is inseparable from this activity of self-scrutiny and involves open-ended and in-depth conversations with others. And this isn't just an activity for professional philosophers but the most important endeavor in any human life.” One critical component in approaching a subject such as philosophy: inspiration. Roosevelt relates his own enthusiasm in discovering and reading the dialogues of Plato, especially the trial, imprisonment and death of Socrates (Apology, Crito, and Phaedo). As he comes to appreciate year after year after year, one of the wonderful things about teaching these Socratic dialogues is witnessing students undergo a kind of inner awakening. Reading this section of Roosevelt's book is a treat – anyone who imagines philosophy as a dry, turgid plodding through a tangle of logic will be pleasantly surprised and might even be inspired to launch their own exploration of Plato. “In Freud's understanding, the mind is driven, and the conscious “I” is not the driver....According to Freud, unconscious material breaks through into the open on a regular basis, but always disguised and unrecognizable to the conscious mind for what it really is.” In addition to his having carefully read many works by Sigmund Freud, Roosevelt has had his own personal experience in psychoanalysis. This first-hand acquaintance enriches the author's observations on various aspects of Freud's writings, such things as hysteria and dreams. “Personally, Gandhi reawakened a deep sense of spirituality for me. Around the time I started reading him, I took up the practice of meditation and a meandering, unmethodical, but sustained exploration of Buddhism.” In this section on Gandhi, the author underscores his view on the Columbia Core Curriculum regarding an important point: in today's global world, the Western tradition is essential but not sufficient - a student is well to have an acquaintance with authors and works from other traditions. Time to tackle a tough subject head on. As Roosevelt says, “Liberal education has always been a hard sell.” Zeroing in on the US, here's the way things stand: Money – College education nowadays costs a small fortune. Many students put themselves in serious debt, $30,000, $60,000, $100,000 or more for a college degree. Upon graduation, time to pay off those loans. Fortunate are those students with a degree in such things as engineering or accounting where they stand a chance to gain employment earning a decent salary. Reading the classics will undoubtedly contribute to broadening one's horizons and empower an individual to better contribute as a citizen but it doesn't easily translate into a paycheck. Education for the Wealthy – Studying Plato, Aristotle, Montaigne and Tolstoy can be seen as elitist, what was once termed a “gentleman's education.” However, as Roosevelt explains, “One of the dangers facing American higher education – and American civic culture in general – is a return to a time when liberal education was the exclusive province of a social elite." Fox Nation – It's 2021 and a huge percentage of the US population is aligned with the right wing. A liberal education in philosophy, literature and the arts is seen as the enemy. People in Fox Nation don't read books – they watch Fox. Can you imagine Joe Buck talking about Seneca or James Joyce? Sports – I'm all for playing sports as a recreation but sports, especially professional sports, in the US has become an unhealthy obsession. If an entire population, including college students, can think of nothing but sports, what room is left for philosophic inquiry? Internet as a Resource – To conclude on an optimistic note: Today, for those wishing to engage with the Great Books, many courses, lectures, podcasts and websites are available either free-of-charge or for a nominal fee: Coursera, The Great Courses, Peter Adamson's Philosophy Without Any Gaps, the list goes on. If someone wants to pursue a liberal education in our internet age, access to outstanding teachers, scholars and fellow students is only clicks away. I'll let Roosevelt Montás have the last word. “The corona virus pandemic has exposed the depth of social inequality in America and may give our generation the necessary spur to address it. Making liberal education available and accessible to all students is the most important contribution that higher education can make to this effort.” Roosevelt Montás, Philosopher, Academic Administrator and Teacher currently at Columbia University

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Chu

    Every summer, Professor Montas takes in a class of low income, disadvantaged high school students and introduces them to a selection of the Great Books. The transformation these students undergo in the classroom is remarkable: in between discussing the foundations of Western philosophy and political economy, these students gain the confidence to know that they are citizens in a world where they have agency. Montas offers his own life as a similar, seemingly improbable journey from the Dominican R Every summer, Professor Montas takes in a class of low income, disadvantaged high school students and introduces them to a selection of the Great Books. The transformation these students undergo in the classroom is remarkable: in between discussing the foundations of Western philosophy and political economy, these students gain the confidence to know that they are citizens in a world where they have agency. Montas offers his own life as a similar, seemingly improbable journey from the Dominican Republic to chairing Columbia's infamous Core Curriculum. In an academic atmosphere where it has become unfashionable to believe in any absolute notion of Truth or Virtue worth striving for, Montas mounts a passionate, nuanced defense of the liberal education and the epistemology that justifies any Great Books curriculum. In Montas' view, liberal education is about learning how to make a life, not just how to make a living. Only against a socioeconomic backdrop of precarity and imperiled liberal democratic order has the latter question taken precedence over the former's spiritual pursuit. Instead, Montas argues that a liberal education should be a prerequisite to rather than a utilitarian alternative to a practical education, available to all. Rescuing Socrates articulates an earnest argument against many of the common criticisms of courses like the Core Curriculum, highlighting the universality that often-criticized Eurocentric texts can offer to an immigrant youth who did not speak a word English arriving from the DR, and their value in understanding the power structures of a world undeniably shaped by Western thought. From the beginning, the liberal arts have been a matter of freedom. In the polis of Athens, education aimed to prepare the free men of Athenian society to participate as citizens and grapple with the issues of society. Today, the importance of an accessible education that orients one toward citizenship and virtue remains ever so relevant.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christine Liu

    Rescuing Socrates by Roosevelt Montás is a book I'm glad I squeezed in because it gave me a lot to think about. Through these pages, Montás walks us through the transformative insights that writers and thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Sigmund Freud, and Mahatma Gandhi had on his life. Montás is a senior lecturer at Columbia University, where he also spent a decade as Director of the Center for the Core Curriculum. He was also a first generation immigrant from the Dominican Rescuing Socrates by Roosevelt Montás is a book I'm glad I squeezed in because it gave me a lot to think about. Through these pages, Montás walks us through the transformative insights that writers and thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Sigmund Freud, and Mahatma Gandhi had on his life. Montás is a senior lecturer at Columbia University, where he also spent a decade as Director of the Center for the Core Curriculum. He was also a first generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic and a participant of Columbia's Higher Education Opportunity Program which assists underserved, low-income students with financial support and academic enrichment programs to prepare them for college. The term "liberal arts" today is sometimes derided as an elitist luxury and waste of time that doesn't translate into practical career applications or liveable wages. But the idea of liberal education has its roots in ancient Greek tradition as the education needed to participate in life as a free person (man) — as Socrates asked, "What whole way of life would make living most worthwhile for each of us?" Montás makes the argument that while the books that are taught in general studies courses should reflect the diversity of the students themselves, we must also be careful not to be too narrow in the criteria we use to determine that reflectiveness. We shouldn't make students read exclusively dead white guys, but the things these dead white guys had to say are so deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society that it would be a disservice to not teach them to students just because they don't look like them. In four sections dedicated respectively to St. Augustine, Plato, Freud, and Gandhi, Montás gives beautifully insightful overviews to these writers' most important contributions to literature while interspersing his analysis of the classics with personal anecdotes about how these works were foundational in his own growth and development.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lisa-Michele

    A provocative argument that great literature should be an essential feature of American education, especially for students from historically marginalized communities. Montas knows whereof he writes. “I had come to the United States from a mountain town in the Dominican Republic a few days before my 12th birthday, not speaking English…after 2 years of bilingual education in the local public school and four years at the local public high school, I found myself beginning an unimaginably strange lif A provocative argument that great literature should be an essential feature of American education, especially for students from historically marginalized communities. Montas knows whereof he writes. “I had come to the United States from a mountain town in the Dominican Republic a few days before my 12th birthday, not speaking English…after 2 years of bilingual education in the local public school and four years at the local public high school, I found myself beginning an unimaginably strange life as a freshman at Columbia.” Montas not only succeeded at Columbia University, but he thrived in its core curriculum of classics and went on to direct the program for ten years. He argues that liberal arts education – such as Plato, Augustine, Aristotle – give students a type of “triangulation” that make possible a “way of centering and locating himself” in the world. It is a very well-made argument, as Montas takes several of the great ancient philosophers, explains how they were taught at Columbia, and how they related directly to his own situation in the late 20th century. For example, he reads and discusses St. Augustine’s Confessions as Montas himself is newly-converted to Christianity, finding himself on a parallel path with the saint from the 5th century. “In Augustine, I had seen the possibility of reconciling my deepest hunger for truth with my growing perception of its stubborn elusiveness.” He has similar connections to Socrates, Freud, and Gandhi. “Socrates captivated me. His method of conversation and inquiry suggested a way of life I wanted to live.” Freud “took firm hold of my mind: ‘The reasons we give ourselves for doing things that we do are never the real reasons.’” I especially like the Montas argument that a liberal arts education gives students the very political tools they need to act in the larger world. He bemoans the emphasis on training students simply for careers at the expense of teaching them to value thinking and reflecting. But it is not either/or. He sees such an education as “democratizing” and “for students like me, who desperately needed an introduction to the tools of public discourse and action.” He faces squarely the criticisms that such curricula have focused on Western traditions; he advocates revision, diversity, inclusion, and questioning. But he says it makes no sense to deny students the benefits given to earlier generations of seeing how we got here from there. There is a lot to contemplate in this book, about how we learn, how we teach, how we transfer knowledge and power across all students, and how we empower the next generation. It relates well to my service on the Utah Board of Higher Education and I look forward to re-reading it a couple of times to grasp all the dimensions of Montas’ arguments.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Arturo

    A great book about great books and it comes at the right time. A must read! Roosevelt is brilliant at combining his memories of growing up in Dominican Republic and New York with an account of his education in the classics. The book is also a road map for how to bring the Humanities and the classics to the center of undergraduate education.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joe Kraus

    Roosevelt Montas sets out to make the claim here that colleges should offer a liberal education, liberal in the sense that it explores what we might, in shorthand, call “truth” rather than push toward a vocational application. As for that, I’m all in. But Montas comes at this from a particular orientation. He was the director of Columbia University’s Core Curriculum, meaning that he helped oversee the Great Books program. As a Columbia grad myself (Masters in English, 1989 – six years before Monta Roosevelt Montas sets out to make the claim here that colleges should offer a liberal education, liberal in the sense that it explores what we might, in shorthand, call “truth” rather than push toward a vocational application. As for that, I’m all in. But Montas comes at this from a particular orientation. He was the director of Columbia University’s Core Curriculum, meaning that he helped oversee the Great Books program. As a Columbia grad myself (Masters in English, 1989 – six years before Montas himself started there) I have a feel for what it is he’s defending, and I have my reservations. Montas’s method here is to explain what he sees of value in four of the thinkers from the core – St. Augustine, Socrates, Freud, and Gandhi – and to weave his academic insights into a memoir about how he, an immigrant from a Dominican family without a tradition of higher education, came to feel a part of the full-blown Western tradition. With apologies, I don’t find Montas much of a memoirist. I teach memoir, and I value it above all for the dimension that Montas prizes in the thinkers he examines: memoir is about probing after the truth of the self, about being willing to push through the comforting stories we tell about ourselves into what I like to call “the dark side.” Montaigne called it asking oneself, “What do I already know” and, implicitly, he meant “that I am not fully admitting to myself.” In his memoir sections, Montas puts his experience in the service of his argument. There’s a finished quality to what he’s been through, whether it’s being brought to the U.S. as a bewildered child, embracing an evangelical call, or divorcing his wife of 11 years, that suggests he’s not prepared to share the work of his insights about himself. I don’t mean that he hasn’t earned those insights; I’m sure he has. I just mean that he did the work before he started this book, and he leans on it. That, to me, is less memoir, less the process of self-discovery, than it is reporting. Some may find it compelling, but I find it distracting. So, the focus for me here is the argument that he’s making. And, as I say, I accept his fundamental notion that we should push toward a values-based education. There’s a lot to that, though, and I don’t go at all as far as he does. As much as Montas makes a strong case for teaching these four thinkers from their own words – again, something I fully endorse – he also sets out to critique what he sees as its antithesis. That is, he makes the case he does because he sees contemporary college/university education as governed by a postmodern ethos of relative truths. For much of this book, I was frustrated by the fact that he seems to be justifying these classical texts (though I’m not sure – and I say this admiringly – how “classical” Freud and Gandhi are) on the grounds that they have value for helping student readers come to a sense of self-knowledge. All that’s great, but it doesn’t justify why it has to be these particular texts. Toward the end of this, in his brief “Nuts and Bolts” epilogue, he begins to answer that concern. As he tells us in an almost aside, the Western focus of the Core matters because “the Core is a genealogy of the present.” I have to yawn a little because that sounds an awful lot like the argument of Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind. (And Bloom, of course, was echoing Leo Strauss whom Montas quotes admiringly in the same section.) As far as I’m concerned, Bloom lost that argument convincingly. Yes, the thinkers he cites were consequential, but they stood in conversation with other less august, less Western thinkers. If you want to understand the contemporary American mind, you’d better have some sense of, say, Louis Armstrong and the ambitious re-thinking of rhythm. If you don’t want it to be Armstrong, fine – look for (or listen to) others who have picked up on that challenge and created a soundtrack that is distinctly American, and generally African-American. Montas isn’t quite as assertive about Western primacy as Bloom – in fact, in those closing pages he surprises me with the claim that there’s now a “Global Core” that seeks to introduce students to those other voices – but he’s ultimately playing the same game more softly. We are supposed to prize these texts, which do a magnificent job of helping students toward self-knowledge, over others which also do so because, well, these are the roots of Western thought. They matter because they have mattered…and incidentally because they remain great learning and teaching experiences. I like the idea that the Core should be under perpetual revision; I just wish that insight were hard-wired into the larger claim here – but that would mean a more expansive argument and less of an orthodox call for teaching texts because, implicitly, they’re the texts that were taught to us. But the real concern I have with Montas’s argument is that he creates what I see as a false dichotomy. For him, these texts represent truth as against what he calls postmodernism – a mode of thought ushered in by Nietzsche, “Satan’s most acute theologian.” He reads postmodernism as claiming that there can be no fundamental truth, that everything is subjective. That is, of course, a more than reasonable way to read it. In its application in the contemporary academy, though, it isn’t the way it’s universally received. Gayatria Spivak must have seen it as such – and he notes her as a mentor who helped him get into grad school even if she couldn’t get the $30k tuition waived – but most of us who have been ‘tainted’ by postmodernism do not. Instead, and I think I speak for a general consensus of academics of my own age, postmodernism in small doses is a healthy reminder that we depend upon undependable language (and other signifiers) for certainty. That’s a little like designing buildings on the premise that the world is flat. From space, of course, the world is spherical; for the expanse of even the largest buildings, though, we experience it as flat. I had my share of deconstruction and high-church postmodernism in my own time at Columbia – and I rejected it before I could articulate why – but I think Montas does a real disservice to his argument and to this cause by rejecting it as simply Satanic. Postmodernism can remind us that no truth can crowd out all others. Instead, in the very spirit of self-knowledge that Socrates proposed and that Montas celebrates, it invites us to look to the self to hear a voice we recognize as truthful. I have felt that way, more or less, for the last three decades, but I have found congenial language for it in my experience teaching at a Jesuit school. To paraphrase Ignatius of Loyola, the truths of Discernment (of the self) will resonate with the truths of revelation. As a Jew, I don’t accept the full truth of the revelations that he took for axiom, but I do admire – and teach in the tradition of – his method. We tell students that they will find truth through self-exploration but that that’s only half the work. The larger work is to find how those truths harmonize with the truths that the wider world offers. Montas asserts that an education founded on the squishy bedrock (my own poor paraphrasing metaphor) of relativism can never offer the guidance of one that’s founded on capital-t Truth. I argue otherwise. Asserting something as True always comes with a price. It casts a necessary shadow of doubt, one that too many students learn to fear and look away from. Many of the best students I know, certainly most of the bravest, recognize that assertion as a challenge. Tell them something is irrefutably true, and they will hear it as a challenge to doubt. As educators, I hope we can embrace that impulse; I hope, in fact, we can recognize that it’s part of what Socrates himself challenged us to do. It’s an effort to find the truth – and then it’s further effort to find ever-fresh ways to articulate it in an ever-changing world. So, I’m with Montas as far as he goes in asserting that we should expose students to – as he quotes Matthew Arnold – some of the best that has ever been thought. I’m not with him in thinking that so much a preponderance of that thought comes as part of a clear genealogy of ideas carried over from the classical era. Teach the Socratic dialogues, please do, but teach Toni Morrison as well. Be open to discovering that some of the people writing today (or at least in the last couple of decades) can articulate truths that get to students in fresh and newly imagined ways. I believe in a liberal education as fully as Montas does. As well as he occasionally makes his case, I think he trips into occasional illiberal notions, closing his mind to some of the voices that make his case for self-knowledge in a vernacular that will work (especially in concert with the classics of the core) all the better for many of the students he wants to reach.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Charles Gonzalez

    A definite 5 star review. One of the most important and thrilling books I’ve read in many years. Ultimately, this book and its author Roosevelt Montas, leaves me with hope. And if we need, as a people and society anything in this season of despair, confusion and conflict, is hope. Hope for our nation, for your youth and the future that they, our children and grandchildren will inhabit. Professor Montas has done us a great service in the writing of his book and his work as an educator and thinker A definite 5 star review. One of the most important and thrilling books I’ve read in many years. Ultimately, this book and its author Roosevelt Montas, leaves me with hope. And if we need, as a people and society anything in this season of despair, confusion and conflict, is hope. Hope for our nation, for your youth and the future that they, our children and grandchildren will inhabit. Professor Montas has done us a great service in the writing of his book and his work as an educator and thinker. Gracias Señor

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jorge

    in defense of liberal education A very well developed, albeit repetitive, defense of the need of a liberal education loosely based on the "Western canon". Should be read by anyone interested on educating for living well, rather than for acquiring wealth. in defense of liberal education A very well developed, albeit repetitive, defense of the need of a liberal education loosely based on the "Western canon". Should be read by anyone interested on educating for living well, rather than for acquiring wealth.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cenk Undey

    I liked this recent book and author’s covering various interesting subjects from his personal journey as an immigrant to becoming a professor, about liberal education, to philosophy and a few key thinkers to academic life. I liked that Columbia U has incorporated more thinkers like Gandhi to their curriculum beyond usual western philosophy. I think they have room to add more from other cultures as well. His proposal to add liberal arts topics for every undergrad curriculum is nice vs you need to I liked this recent book and author’s covering various interesting subjects from his personal journey as an immigrant to becoming a professor, about liberal education, to philosophy and a few key thinkers to academic life. I liked that Columbia U has incorporated more thinkers like Gandhi to their curriculum beyond usual western philosophy. I think they have room to add more from other cultures as well. His proposal to add liberal arts topics for every undergrad curriculum is nice vs you need to go to a Liberal Arts and Humanities program to learn these topics. As an engineer I would not have minded that back at school.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mich

    Montas reviews the impact that the Core Curriculum at Columbia College had on him and on the students he subsequently went on to teach. As an impoverished 12 year old from the Dominican Republic from a broken home he arrived in the US, without knowing English. Going to schools in Queens he managed to get a decent high school education and enrolled at Columbia, eventually earning a PhD in Comparative Literature.. Columbia was one of the early schools to institute a curriculum which covered Humani Montas reviews the impact that the Core Curriculum at Columbia College had on him and on the students he subsequently went on to teach. As an impoverished 12 year old from the Dominican Republic from a broken home he arrived in the US, without knowing English. Going to schools in Queens he managed to get a decent high school education and enrolled at Columbia, eventually earning a PhD in Comparative Literature.. Columbia was one of the early schools to institute a curriculum which covered Humanities for 1 year, Contemporary Civilization for another and Art and Music Humanities for a third year and is still one of the last to continue to require these courses. I myself took and loved this program. He highlights four authors studied: Aristotle, Freud, Plato, and Gandhi. He went on to be the Administrator for this program at Columbia and argues that even and perhaps especially for minority students there is a compelling need to study these works, sometimes characterized as Dead White Males. The blend of advocacy and personal impact makes this book a compelling read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Billy

    The debate over liberal education by a professor at Columbia. Part memoir of his life from coming to the US from the Dominican Republic, undergraduate time at Columbia, grad school and teaching to many kinds of students. The author wraps his memoir around Augustine, Socrates, Freud, and Gandhi. He argues for the liberal arts education core curriculum for all, not because of any answers it gives, but, because of the questions it asks and makes a student face. As for me, I do not have much interes The debate over liberal education by a professor at Columbia. Part memoir of his life from coming to the US from the Dominican Republic, undergraduate time at Columbia, grad school and teaching to many kinds of students. The author wraps his memoir around Augustine, Socrates, Freud, and Gandhi. He argues for the liberal arts education core curriculum for all, not because of any answers it gives, but, because of the questions it asks and makes a student face. As for me, I do not have much interest in St. Augustine but his discussions of Socrates and Gandhi carried the day. Montas also describes very well the difference between today's university and college, with the emphasis at the U. on research and disdain for teaching students. If one wanted to just read the core of this discussion of core curriculum, go to pages 190-193 and then the last chapter, p 210-225.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Norman Falk

    "A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life—and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds" (Episode 45 of the Sacred & Profane podcast). "A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life—and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds" (Episode 45 of the Sacred & Profane podcast).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  14. 5 out of 5

    James Grant

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gary

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tim Little

  17. 5 out of 5

    Imlac

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Smith

  19. 4 out of 5

    Drew

  20. 5 out of 5

    Devi Ayu

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ecruz3

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cardie P

  24. 4 out of 5

    Walter

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ferenc Laczo

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Henry

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Clemons

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marco Morgan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ed Yao

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark Filler

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