Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some Points to Which to Get

Well, anyway, some time after I graduated, I was living in an apartment in Hyde Park with some other former Shimerians and friends and working as a mailroom clerk at the Graduate School of Business of the University of Chicago. I was still in touch with friends who remained on the Mount Carroll campus and would frequently go out to visit on weekends. We knew right away when the first closing was announced. We knew right away when the announcement was rejected and wondered what we could do to help.

I thought maybe I could find something in the archived papers of William Rainey Harper relating to the Frances Shimer Academy that might be useful, so I looked. What was most useful was actually a volume from the main stacks at the Regenstein which was evidently issued in connection with the memorial service at the time of Frances Shimer's death. How I used it (or should I say: "How it used me"?) was to write a song about the struggles of Frances Ann Wood and her partner Cinderella Gregory to establish and maintain the Mount Carroll Seminary from the point of view of one of the locals. The song has never really been finished- I got about as far as the Civil War and then the words stopped flowing.

I played as much as I got, though, out in Mount Carroll at Frances Shimer's final resting place, at alumni gatherings, at Orange Horses at the old campus, in Waukegan, and now in the Cinderella lounge in the new IIT digs. I'm told that David Shiner has kept the song alive even in my absence, which I guess makes it a genuine folk song or something. I can't wait to hear what Lance Dyke does with it on the ukulele. After my performance at the Orange Horse on the new campus I was told by some stranger who had evidently participated in the recent move from Waukegan that I had no idea how much that song has meant to the community during this last transition.

Maybe, but the song and the chord it seems to strike in the hearts of many Shimer people point to my first point: THE CORE OF THE SHIMER EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE GREAT BOOKS, NOT THE DIALOGIC PEDAGOGY NOR THE COMPREHENSIVE CURRICULUM; THE CORE IS A COMMUNAL LOVE OF LEARNING. I emphasize the "a". There are many other communal loves of learning but Shimer's is that shared by individuals gathered into a specific community streatching back to Frances Ann Wood and Cinderella Gregory.

There is more to be elaborated on this point but it has gotten late and I am still a working stiff, so later. Right now I want to make sure I get my second point out, which is: I have often been told that I should record that song (and other fine tunes inspired by my studies at Shimer.) OK, well I'm willing and if we find someone who can record them for commercial distribution I'm quite willing to sign my cut over to the College. If the songs are as successful as they might be, perhaps some more of our fair share of prospective students would hear about us. Trouble is I'm never going to make the arrangements, myself, so somebody else would have to push the project through to completion. I'll try at least to get the songs online somehow so anybody out there who cares and knows how can make their own judgment about the merits of the proposal.

Some other quick points without support or argument.

Start an online Shimer Historical Society to archive and share documentation of the history
of Shimer and its curriculum. Include reminiscences from alums (and old journal entries)

Buy an island 0n Second Life, scale model all three campuses and conduct virtual classes.

Get some sleep.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Up to Speed

I've just finished reading this whole blog from start to finish. I am impressed and disappointed not to have been reading it while it was being written. I'm tempted to offer as an excuse for not following the move more closely the fact that during the six months between July and December of 2005 I was undergoing chemotherapy three days out of every two weeks following the removal of most of my colon at the end of May. I know better, though.

Right now it's three in the morning. I'll be getting up at five to go to my job as interlibrary loan coordinator at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. That's about as far south on the Metra Electric as Waukegan is north on Metra's North Line. (I should know- I don't drive: Waukegan is farther but they're both end of the line.) After an 8:30 to five day shuffling books and affiliated papers, including a lunchtime meeting of the Friends of the GSU Library Historical Society I'm trying to foment, I'll be meeting with the board of the South Suburban Heritage Association till passed ten. Shimer's got me pulling another all-nighter.

I graduated from Shimer the same year as Young Kim, 1973. Same year but maybe a few months earlier. I completed my coursework in three years, one in Oxford sandwiched between two in Mt. Carroll. Alas! The comprehensive wasn't offered until late in the following fall so I didn't get the degree until the February of my fourth year. I still claim to be an early extrant.

What gave me a jump was the placement exams and the preparation for them that I had gotten from my parents and my high school. My parents met at the University of Chicago in the late Hutchins era. They participated in one of the early Great Books Foundation's reading groups
and the kids of all their friends were our friends so we all grew up with the same books. And the parents all took an interest in what was going on in the schools. And our favorite teachers were all U of C graduates or spouses of U of C graduate students. So when I got to Shimer I was used to small group discussions of seminal texts. And while I found myself quite at home, it was not at last but still.

I came to Mt. Carroll in the aftermath of the GIS. There were still students around from the time of that catastrophic event, and we listened to their tales of the bygone glory days, and the Grotesque Internecine Struggle like ghost stories around the camp fire. Oh! would we had a blog such as this of that!

Anyway- I see that 5am is pressing closer and I'll have to break off soon and haven't gotten to any of my points. I've got some, really. I just had to put up something so Sara would know I was serious about getting permission to post.