School Chairperson: Dr. Stuart Patterson
Shimer Great Books School provides and preserves education centered on discussion of enduring questions and issues. Historically influential original sources are studied through Socratic questioning in small seminar classes, following the kind of Great Books curriculum advocated by Robert Maynard Hutchins. The core values informing education at Shimer are free inquiry, dialog, critical open-mindedness and integration of disciplines
A Shimer education demands much of both the intellect and the character of students, and prepares them for responsible citizenship and the examined life.
Degree offered: B.A.
CoursesShimer Great Books
All Shimer School courses are distinctive in two major ways.
First, there are no textbooks. Instead, all materials in every course are “primary texts”—including books, artworks, and scientific experiments—that represent landmark achievements in all the areas studied in the Shimer School curriculum: the Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.
Second, classes are limited to 14 students. They take place around octagonal tables designed to facilitate discussions about the course materials. Every Shimer School class session is a “Socratic seminar” in which all students consider each other’s interpretations of the materials in a cooperative effort to understand the texts, themselves and one another better.
In addition to intensive reading and discussions, course work generally takes the form of essay writing and, especially in the science courses, exercises drawn from the materials of the course. In this light, students are responsible for the content of what they learn in a Shimer School course to an unusual degree. They are thus expected to combine diligent work habits with imaginative curiosity and a collegial ethos and to integrate what they have learned in other courses and their lives into insights that cross, and eventually transcend, traditional disciplinary boundaries.