Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visit to St. Johns

Following my trip to europe one would expect me to be much more relaxed about travel; not so, I remain nervous, irrationally worried and generally extremely stressed about the whole endeavor. This time however, it was not without good reason: my flight from LAX to Santa Fe was canceled due to snow in Santa Fe, and LAX turns out to be the most gargantuan, byzantine airport ever conceived by man. There are something like 7 terminals and no transportation between them except walking, sometimes through the kind of very long tunnels one might expect in a nuclear missile silo. To make a 12 hour experience short, I flew to Albuquerque after 6 hours in LAX and then took a shuttle to St. John’s College. My room turned out to be some sort of designated visitor room, with two bunk-beds, sheets and blankets, and a window that was very difficult to open; my roommates of sorts were a guy from Utah and another from Michigan, reasonable people in most ways.
The main part of the tour was from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon, and consisted of observation of three classes and a seminar, a tour of the campus, free food from the cafeteria, and panel discussions with administrators, (to console parents), and current students (to get real answers to questions like, ‘can you go to school here and be a stoner? - some can, some can’t’, ‘how can a students religious beliefs be communicated during philosophical discussions’ - as long as you aren't arrogant about it you’ll be fine, and ‘we’ve all heard how wonderful St. John’s is, what don’t you like about it’ - it’s isolated, fairly non-diverse, and historical analyses of texts are discouraged). Also on the down side - the ratio of males to females is 60:40, which would be at least reversed should I attend any even nominally religious school; and this isn’t a ‘my chances of getting a girlfriend’ issue, in my experience females are considerably more intelligent and less inane than males.
Over the two days I attended freshman lab, math, and seminar (Plato’s Phaedrus) and junior language (french), as well as spending copious amounts of time reading, I finished Fight Club, Waiting for Godot, and Brave New World. Final opinions: Fight Club is brutal, ugly, and ultimately very different from the movie, Waiting for Godot was interesting, but I don’t think I understood much of it, Brave New World was a work of genius, superior to 1984 in almost every way; it is much more realistic, and thus much more terrifying. Of the classes, I was immensely impressed, genuine intellectual discussion occurred in almost every class (the math was just math, but it was a good math, as in they learn straight from Euclid’s text). The seminar was especially fascinating, though I think the discussion fell short of the text, they could have explored the soul of good speech but instead got side-tracked into an argument over the nature of the dialectic and the rhetorical, mostly because one of the four main speakers (from which 80% of the conversation came) was kind of stupid and long-winded.
Overall the trip was effective, I feel like a got a good sense of how the college works, what class is really like and the general atmosphere of the student body. Financial aid remains a critical factor in my decision, as will my visit (yet to be arranged) to Seattle University.

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