To understand the challenges we face as Americans and to use the extraordinary freedom and responsibility we have inherited, students must first understand the philosophy, literature, religion and science that shaped our society.
That basic notion provides the foundation for the new Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas. The center, which is up and running this fall, seeks to foster students’ understanding of the great texts and ideas that continue to influence modern thought: from Greek philosophers’ writings to the founding fathers’ debates, from the Bible to the “Age of Reason.”
“We want to get students involved in some of the great debates of history and to learn to think outside the box,” says director Thomas Pangle, who also holds the Joe R. Long Chair in Democratic Studies in the Government Department.
His wife, government professor Lorraine Pangle, is co-director of the center, which draws faculty from the English, Philosophy, Classics and Religious Studies Departments as well as the Red McCombs School of Business and the Aerospace Engineering Department in the Cockrell School of Engineering.
Students can earn a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas through a six-course program that includes classes in ancient philosophy and literature; the Hebrew Bible, New Testament and other important religious texts; Western political philosophy from Aristotle to Nietzsche; and the principles of the American founding fathers.
College of Liberal Arts honors students can also develop individualized majors in Core Texts and Ideas built around a single theme they choose with professors.
The center is seeking support from friends and contributors to help pay for four post-doctorate fellows a year who will teach classes while also pursuing their own research.
It will also sponsor a lecture series for students and alumni which will be open to the public. This fall, the series features lectures on Don Quixote, Homer and the Bible, and a discussion of Confucian and ancient Greek thought by a visiting scholar from Shanghai.
The Thomas Jefferson Center grew out of the College of Liberal Arts’ Western Civilization program and, this year, was renamed for the founding father who was among the strongest proponents of liberal arts education in America.
“He’s the American who spoke most emphatically about what we’re trying to do,” says Thomas Pangle. “This program is a way to really get to know our own roots.”