Held last fall, the contest titled “Plato’s ‘Crito’ and the Honorable Life” drew over 50 entries from students attending SBCC, Santa Barbara High School, and Alta Vista Middle College (a collaboration between Alta Vista Alternative High School and SBCC). Each student wrote an essay comparing a text of his or her choice to Socrates’ lesson in how to live the righteous life. Among the works selected were Beowulf, The Great Gatsby, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, To Kill a Mockingbird and Don Quixote. This competition and related fall workshops were funded thanks to a generous grant from the Apgar Foundation.
SBCC is only one of six community colleges in the nation to offer a Great Books Curriculum. Each semester more than 600 students take at least one course which exposes them to the literary canon of the world’s greatest literature, thematically linked to works by more contemporary writers. Fifteen to twenty faculty teach classes focusing on Great Books through reading, study skills, composition, critical thinking, philosophy, world religion, politics, drama, literature and poetry.
On February 1 all winners – which include first place and runners up in their respective categories – received an award check and commemorative books, and their essays will be published in a SBCC journal issued this spring.
“The Apgar grant has allowed us the flexibility to introduce local students to the world of great books and to our wonderful campus through this essay contest,” said Celeste Barber, SBCC adjunct instructor of English Composition and Literature, and Great Books Curriculum Coordinator. “For many who entered, the contest was their first exposure to think about going to college.”
SBCC Executive Vice President of Educational Programs Jack Friedlander said, “Great Books Curriculums typically are found in elite liberal arts colleges and prestigious four-year universities. SBCC is very pleased to be one of only a handful of community colleges nationwide to offer our students this excellent learning opportunity.” He added, “Knowledge and skills are the currency to find well-paying jobs in the competitive 21st century global marketplace and programs such as this one increase critical thinking and writing skills for students at all levels.”