(голосов: 0)
Published: June 28, 2011

The Great Books Program

A curriculum based on the study of an arbitrarily selected group of classic works of philosophy, literature, history and science that some educators consider the foundation of all worthwhile human knowledge. Developed in 1947 by Robert M. Hutchins, president of the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, and his assistant, philosophy professor MORTIMER J. ADLER, the Great Books Program is a modern variation of the traditional CLASSICAL EDUCATION curriculum developed from the 15th through the 18th century. To the earlier works of the great writers of ancient Greece and Rome, the Great Books Program added works by modern writers and philosophers that the program’s editors deemed worthy.
Hutchins and Adler were concerned that the PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION movement was eroding the value of American education by converting the primary and secondary school curriculum from classical to utilitarian subjects that would deprive Americans of the collected wisdom of the Western world. Ironically, both concepts—progressive education and the Great Books curriculum—had their roots at the University of Chicago, where John Dewey fathered progressive education at the university’s Laboratory School at the same time that founding president WILLIAM RAINEY HARPER, Dewey’s patron, was helping to select and edit the World’s Great Books. Arguing that all Americans should be schooled in the classic disciplines of grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics and the great books of the Western world, Hutchins and Adler redirected the focus of the university, abolishing football and reorganizing the curriculum into one that emphasized reading and discussion of the classics of the Western tradition. They also instituted a four-year liberal arts program that began in junior year of high school, thus extending their concept into secondary school education. At the same time, they founded the Great Books Foundation to produce a series of books containing classical works of literature, poetry and essays. The works were selected to provide a fundamental education for adults whom the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II had deprived of secondary school education and exposure to the classics.
In 1952, Hutchins and Adler produced and edited the 54-volume Great Books of the Western World, which provided libraries, schools and individual families with what Hutchins and Adler considered the collected wisdom of the ages. By the early 1960s, the foundation had saturated the market with its encyclopedic work and began to produce a short series of paperbacks for youngsters, with short stories, poetry, essays and other works designed for students from second grade through high school. In addition to works by modern writers, the Junior Great Books Program, as it was called, also helped improve teacher skills as discussion leaders. Still used in many programs for gifted students, the Junior Great Books Program emphasizes story interpretation based on shared inquiry and on freewheeling classroom discussions that encourage student understanding and love of literature.