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Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

Which came first, Great Books, or the distribution track?

New students at Mercer University are presented with many opportunities to diversify their educational experience and become well-rounded individuals. As a requirement for a diverse education, Mercer University freshmen are required to choose from either the distribution track or the Great Books program.
The distribution track consists of a wide variety of classes spanning multiple disciplines that students may choose from to fulfill their general education requirement. The Great Books program is a series of eight classes in which students read great works of literature spanning from antiquity to the modern day.
Dr. Mary Ann Drake, who has a Masters of Liberal Studies, has been involved with Mercer’s Great Books program from its inception. For Dr. Drake, Great Books represents “everything good in education.”
Some of the major draws to the Great Books program include reading a large diversity of original texts, an emphasis on writing and critical thinking, and respectful discourse between students.
One of Dr. Drake’s favorite aspects of the Great Books program is the ability of the students to learn from the text and the author without any outside interpretation and bias. However, this doesn’t mean that the program isn’t without its drawbacks. For one, everybody learns differently. Reading, writing, and thinking about a text may be satisfactory methods of learning for one student, but for another, it just may not work.
Students enrolled in Mercer University’s Honors Program are required to take at least one Great Books course. Carrie Stewart is a sophomore pre-vet biology major who is also enrolled in the Mercer University’s Honors Program. Stewart took GBK 101— Among Gods and Heroes— during her first semester at the university. After completing GBK 101, she opted to not continue on the Great Books track.
“In my class,” she said, “discussions were slow and not focused… There were several people who would talk over others.” For Stewart, the Great Books program has a tendency to bring together students who may have conflicting personalities, which may result in conflict in the classroom.
Also, Stewart believes that while the Great Books track has the potential to greatly contribute to diversity in education, the downfall of the program itself is that once a student is committed, there is little room for flexibility.
The program runs for four years, and after freshman year, it may be difficult for a student to change their mind about the program without adding time to their Mercer career.
There are varying opinions of the Great Books and distributional tracks. For some students, the Great Books track offers a wonderful opportunity to read great works of literature and engage in debate with their peers. For others, the distributional track offers more flexibility and diversity.
Fortunately, the first two courses in the Great Books track are included in the distributional track, so it’s possible to try the Great Books program for freshman year and then make a more well-informed decision when registering for sophomore year.
In the end, it all depends on the personal preference and learning style of the student.


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