McAllister Leads CONVERSATION with Great MINDS
It's a Great Books seminar at Catawba College that developed spontaneously. And history professor Charles McAllister couldn't be happier.
On Wednesdays a group of the faithful gather around a large table in Room 401 in Hedrick Hall for a conversation with some of the great minds of the ages. The students discuss Rabelais and Flaubert and Homer. They ask tough questions of the authors and of each other. They read and they think. Then they read and they think some more.
For McAllister, this is a labor of love. "People and books are what make education fun," he says.
McAllister is basing the course on Mortimer Adler's work, How To Read A Book. The students spend the first weeks of the course learning to read critically. "The key is to realize that reading is an activity," McAllister says. "If it's passive, it's just killing time. You might as well play solitaire or video games."
The students have learned to survey a book before they tackle it analytically. "You familiarize yourself with the book before you ever really read it," he says. "It's like going to a dance stag. You look around first."
Then the students dig in. "Analytical reading requires you to dissect a book into its component parts much the same way you would dissect a frog or a fetal pig," he says.
"The first day we met, I told them this would be the best class they've ever had," McAllister says. "The reason is not because of me but because of what they're doing. They're developing critical reading habits, and `habit' is the key word. It's a skill that becomes habitual, that they do automatically without thinking about it.
"This is education for a lifetime. It doesn't stop with Adler's book. These are skills they can take with them forever."