Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Great Debate (Amy)

My sister and I are co-hosts of the Face to Face with Greatness seminar series. We successfully completed #1 and we're getting ready for #2 which will be on July 25-26 in Anchorage. As we are gearing up for the seminar, we've been talking a lot about leadership education and the "You, Not Them" principle which was a focus of the #1 seminar. After one of our conversations, she emailed me this excerpt from Oliver and Rachel DeMille's new book entitled Leadership Education. It's lengthy, but I thought you might enjoy it.

"As a good mentor, you need to be personally active in the Great Debate. Mortimer Adler, compiler of The Great Books series, called it the Great Conversation and others have called it a Great Discussion. It is the current state of a debate that has been going on for as long as we have written records. Most people do not even know about the Great Debate, but it is perhaps the most influential thing going on in the world at any given time. It is not found in textbooks, but textbooks often reflect the conclusions of the Great Debate in the past fifty years. The Great Debate is found in the classics, and the purpose of Scholar Phase is to make us fully conversant in the language of the Great Debate. This is the language spoken by those who have led, currently lead, and will lead the world in the decades ahead. The Great Debate is the discussion leaders of the world at any point in history are having about what we all want as human beings and how we should get what we want. In our society, one probably has not done Scholar Phase effectively unless they have at least a subliminal awareness of the history and current dialogue of this debate and are actively taking part in impacting it.

Since the natural consequence of studying the classics is to look around at the current world and wonder what is really happening, we are often asked about the best source for current events. The truth may surprise you. First of all, most people get their news from the electronic media - radio or television. Such people are usually very opinionated and frightfully uninformed. They know very little about what is really happening, but either do not care or very strongly share their opinions when asked. They have no influence on what happens, and no idea why it is happening or what really is going on.

The second group of people is a little more studied. They either listen to the same newscast or radio program each day (thereby following events in more detail), or they read a daily newspaper or weekly magazine. They are less strongly opinionated, consider themselves basically objective, and know a little bit more than the first group. In short, they know little to nothing about what is really going on either, and have no influence on what actually happens - except perhaps locally.

Finally, a relatively small group of people are part of the Great Debate. They are continually pursuing a classical education, and when they go to the library they take time to read the latest articles from scholarly journals like Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Congressional Digest, Vital Speeches of the Day, etc. They may or may not also read the newspaper or listen to a daily television or radio program, but they do study the journals. When Leadership Education parents go to the library, they set the example by reading classics and scholarly journals. At first they struggle to even understand the journals, but they keep doing it just like they kept reading Shakespeare. Eventually they understand what is going on in the world - really - not just surface skimming, but deep understanding. This educational process is a natural precursor to becoming someone who influences world events...

Scholar Phasers enter the Great Debate through classics and scholarly journals, rejecting the conveyor belt notion that there is a dogmatic list of classics somewhere. Instead they test a book to see if it belongs on their own personal classic list. Depth Phasers set out to impact and change the Great Debate, quickly learning how far they are from the education they need and returning more teachable to great Liberal Arts mentors who can now really help them since they are finally humble (a step beyond their Scholar Phase when they thought they actually knew something). "

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