| May 10, 2005
To Whom It May Concern:
I was initially attracted to St. John’s College (it was the only college I applied to) because of the values it totes. “St. John’s College is a community dedicated to liberal education. Such education seeks to free men and women from the tyrannies of unexamined opinions and inherited prejudices. It also endeavors to enable them to make intelligent, free choices concerning the ends and means of both public and private life (--St John’s College Admissions).”
On my convocation day, president Nelson in his address to the incoming students said that a St. John’s education hopes to create people with “chests” through rigorous studies of the liberal arts. One with a chest, as I took it to mean, has strong beliefs and is willing to live a way of life that is just, virtuous, and moderate, integrating the intellect and rational part of us with our emotional and intuitive parts. Is this not what our education is about? How to live a good, just, and moderate life? If we are cultivating “chests” and minds that allow us to clearly think and analyze, then we should care about those things that helps us to realize these goals.
As a river guide-in-training, Mark St. John has become a very important person in my education at St. John’s. In doing away with Mr. St. John you are not only removing someone who has a tremendous positive impact on many students, but you are also jeopardizing the many things that students learn on an extended rafting trip. The river, the wilderness, and the books, are all teachers, but where we really learn is through our interactions with the world. The more experience we have in the world (i.e. being outside, learning how to be respectful, and moderate) the more we can learn about ourselves, which I think is the most worthwhile endeavor in life.
If the safety of rafting is a concern, you have good reason. Being in the wilderness for an extended period of time is not normal for most of us. However, when one is placed in such a setting, learning how to not be careless is paramount (otherwise the results are immediate). For example, keeping oneself fed and warm become the most important things on the river. Life is simpler. We are forced to respect what is around us, to respect each other, and to ultimately realize what little control we have, thus allowing us to realize those things that are most important to us and what we can control in our lives. In turn, we learn how to make our lives as good as we possibly can.
Mark has taken these things that many of us learn on the river and incorporated them into daily life. He sets an example for how good a person can be. I think it would be a huge loss to our community if he is forced away by the Machiavellian mind set that seems to have a hold on the administration of this school. I trust Mark a great deal and he does take a big risk in taking students on the river, however for me, the benefits much outweigh the risks.
Caring about what we put into our minds is of such great importance at St. John’s. We read the “Great Books,” the books that are filled with such relevant ideas that, in some cases, survive millennia. We discuss the ideas, we write about them, and hopefully, we learn something from them. This education teaches us to be aware, whether it be to the groundsel that I have unknowingly crushed while walking through the Pinon and Juniper that dot the hills to the east of campus, deciphering what Aristotle means by his classification of parts of animals, or trying to gain a better understanding of the Bible through careful reading, listening, and discussion. In being aware, I think we are led to care about ourselves and the world.
These attributes of analytical thinking, awareness, and empathy ought to carry over to our daily lives, not just in the classroom. However, I find it very inconsistent that the college totes these ideas, but will not venture to take it to another level, a level which is very personal that encompasses the mind, body, and spirit. I see the position that is being taken on this issue as perhaps stemming from “good” economic and political reasons that operate out of a rigid mind set.
The mind is not an effective tool without the well being of the body and spirit.