Last night the Online Great Books group that I joined had our first seminar. The purpose of this post is to describe, for those who may want to join the program, what a seminar is like. Admittedly, the sample size is small since I have only had the one seminar, but I wanted to write down my first impressions.
When you join Online Great Books program, you are sent a copy of the Online Great Books handbook, plus a copy of the book How To Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren. There is a also a sheet which gives your first reading assignment. I was expecting the first seminar to be about Mortimer Adler’s book, but it covered the material in the handbook.
Scott Hambrick, who owns the Online Great Books company, led the first seminar, and he went over some mechanics of how the Slack app (which is the portal for online written discussions) works, and then how the Zoom app (which is the portal for online conversations) works.
I didn’t realize that the OMB program offered a lot more than just seminars about the Great Books. The seminars are not recorded, but there are courses which are available which are recorded on set topics such as:
- Close reading of a text
- Socratic method: how to use the dialectic to get at the truth
I was excited by the fact that this extra content is free, in other words, it comes with the price of your subscription. Our particular seminar has a special number to differentiate it from other seminars that meet at other times (essentially containing members who joined earlier than we did, and so are on later books in the Great Books series). However, we can interact with members of other seminars by subscribing to channels that cover topics, like
- Learning Ancient Greek
- Learning Latin
I am excited because this culture blog will be an outlet for my notes on the readings and the seminars. It is also an opportunity to prepare articles of interest to the group that can be shared in what is called a colloquium. One caveat, however, is that any personal matters shared in the seminars are private, and so I will not allude to them in my posts out of respect for the members.
Now that the preliminary “tutorial” seminar on how to use the online tools is completed, I can now turn my attention to the next item on our list, which is reading How to Read A Book. We are covering the first few chapters and I will discuss them in the next few posts prior to next week’s seminar.
I am pleased so far with the contents of the seminars as well as the wealth of other material available in Slack for members of Online Great Books. With all of my time commitments to other organizations (besides where I work), I felt that having time to read the Great Books was a selfish act, but let’s not use that negative label. I’ll call it “self-care”, because it is fulfilling a need of mine to engage in a conversation with the authors of the great intellectual tradition of Western Civilization, and with those who are as fascinated by them as I am!