Choosing St. John's Liberal Education Seminar Students

A “Bigger-than-me” Experience

The tech revolution has made instant gratification so easy that young people now seem addicted to the “me” experience—that is, doing or making anything that maximizes personal pleasure, rewards, or positive feelings. So writes Steven J. Tepper ( in last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education. Tepper contrasts the “me” experience with the “bigger-than-me” experience, which seeks to solve common problems with a sense of shared purpose. In the process, you learn to broaden your perspective, stretch beyond yourself, and attain new levels of understanding.

Tepper goes on to propose strategies college teachers might adopt to foster “bigger-than-me” experiences. It seems that devising opportunities for such experiences has become a problem in higher education today.

It’s really not that complicated. All you have to do is put the most challenging texts and works of art ever produced by human intellect and imagination in front of your students and faculty, and let them discuss these works seriously and cooperatively. This activity demands of its participants all the elements that Tepper claims will counteract the tendencies of “me” experiences.

Here at St. John’s College, where we devote ourselves wholly to this activity, our entire undergraduate curriculum is a single, four-year-long, “bigger-than-me” experience.