Wednesday, June 12, 2013

16 decades of "not what to think but how to think"

A recurrent problem in understanding the early history of Shimer College is identifying the things that were actually unusual about it at the time.  Many of the things that have often been held up as unusual e.g. its coeducational characteror that strike the modern ear as peculiar – e.g. a "non-denominational seminary"turn out on closer inspection to have  been fairly unremarkable in their time and place.  And because the seminary movement has suffered from a remarkable lack of scholarly attentionthe most recent thorough studies are now approaching their hundredth birthday – it requires a lot of original research to even provisionally identify the attributes that distinguished the Mount Carroll Seminary from the hundreds of similar institutions that once dotted the Old Northwest. 

Fortunately, a document that has recently come to light sheds some fresh light on this question.  An examiners' report from 1859prepared, as was the practice at the time, by the committee of local notables who had overseen the quarterly public examination – attempted to spell out the differences between the Seminary and other schools of its type, as they were perceived by the committee:

There are some marked peculiarities as to the mode of instruction adopted at this Institution, as shown by this examination, about which the undersigned desire to say a few words. The committee call them peculiarities, because in all the schools which the committee now have, or ever had any knowledge, they form the exception, and not the rule. The pupils are here taught self-reliance, in the broadest sense of the term. The teacher suggests a topic, and the pupil rises to his feet and enters upon a full discussion of that topic in all its bearings. He defines it, he explains it, he shows its advantages or disadvantages, and, if susceptible of proof, he proves it to a mathematical certainty. There is more in this mode of instruction than one, at first, might suppose. It relieves the teacher of a vast amount of hard mental and physical labor. It teaches the pupil the art of expressing his ideas in the clearest manner, and in the best of language. It teaches him to reason, to compare; in short, to think. It makes him ready in conversation and in debate — two important acquisitions for an American youth. Another of these peculiarities is thoroughness. Superficiality has not the ghost of a chance here. The pupils all know the why and wherefore of every proposition introduced to them, before they are allowed to go beyond it.

To be sure, the pedagogy of this period in Shimer history, dominated by the object-lesson methods of Page and the intellectual arithmetic of Stoddard (to say nothing of the rigid regulation of student life), would probably not sit very well with any present-day Shimerian.  But this report from 1859 allows us to see that even in its first decade, Shimer sought to be a school that taught its students "not what, but how to think" – at a time when this was far from commonplace, especially among institutions of Shimer's type.

The examining committee concluded its report with these words:
The citizens of Northwestern Illinois ought to be proud that such an Institution exists in their midst. A majority of the best public school teachers this county received their instruction at this Seminary, so that its influence extends to hundreds who were never within its walls, and will be felt, if not acknowledged, for years after it may have ceased to existan event which the undersigned sincerely hope may long be delayed.
You can do your part to ensure that this delay continues by donating to Shimer today.  (Here's one of many reasons why it's worth the trouble.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You are worth more than 55 Harvard alumni

Some facts for thinking on:
  • Alumni giving rates are a key concern for Shimer College, particularly in regard to maintaining accreditation (something all alumni, and especially all graduates, have an interest in).
  • Harvard currently has about 323,000 living alumni, and an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,700.
  • Shimer has about 5,600 living alumni, and a current enrollment of about 140.
  • Therefore, each additional Shimer alum who gives something this year has an impact on Shimer's giving rate that is equivalent to the impact of 57.7 Harvard alums on Harvard's giving rate.
  • The median Shimer alum is undoubtedly somewhat poorer than the median Harvard alum, but the amount you give is secondary.  In terms of the alumni giving rate, a $5 donation is exactly as valuable as a $500 one.
  • Shimer's fiscal year ends on June 30, and all donations up to that time are being matched 100%.  
  • Therefore, not only is your donation worth as much proportionally as 58 donations to Harvard, it's also worth twice as much in actual dollars as it would have been at any other time... but only if you donate now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Transfer Tuesday at Shimer College, June 18

Spread the word:

Transfer Tuesday
June 18

10:00am - 3:00pm

If you are thinking of transferring to Shimer, we invite you to visit our campus for Transfer Tuesday on June 18th this summer - and while you're there, you can complete the application process! During Transfer Tuesday, you'll have a chance to apply, get a decision, and even register for classes  - as well as observe any already in session.

If you are unable to visit on June 18, visitors are welcome any time from the first week of June through the third week of July to sit in on classes and talk about your transfer plans.

If you bring everything listed below, we will review your application, read your essay, interview you, make an admission decision, provide you with financial aid information, and register you for classes - all in one day! Feel free to submit any of these materials online and by email before June 18.

We will waive the application fee for all Transfer Tuesday participants!

  • A completed application.  You can do this form online before you come, or bring in a completed hard copy.
  • Transcripts from all colleges attended (if they are unofficial, we'll work with them, but we'll need official transcripts before classes start).
  • Official high school transcripts if you have fewer than 60 semester hours (90 quarter hours) of college credit.
  • A letter of recommendation from a recent teacher (in a sealed envelope - ask your recommender to sign his/her name over the flap).
  • Two or three writing samples/essays you have written recently for a class. Or write on the follow prompts:
                 1. Describe an educational experience which you found to be
                  rewarding or frustrating.
                 2. What book have you read recently that you found especially
                  significant or valuable? What difference has it made in your life?

The fine print:  If you can't bring everything listed, bring what you can and we'll get you started on the transfer admission process. If you have already sent us some of these materials, we will have them here when you arrive. If you've completed the FAFSA, be sure you know your PIN so if we have questions you can access or update the form.

It will help if we know you plan to attend.  Send us an email to (put Transfer Tuesday in the subject line) or call 312-235-3555.

Call with questions - we're here to help!