Find a college teacher prepared to risk his career because he is convinced that undergraduate elective curricula must be abandoned and ready to lay out a detailed remedy. Add a partner in full agreement, to share the risk. That is the improbable story of Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan and their 1937 creation, at St. John's College of an all-required four-year curriculum based on the great books. Then add their shared convictions in attacking the Cold War, standing together for civil liberties and against McCarthyism. This story of personal courage is based on Nelson's knowledge and access to unpublished manuscripts and hundreds of letters.
Nelson tells the story of a remarkable life-long friendship and collaboration. He describes the 1937 transformation of St. John's College in Annapolis, in which an all-required, four-year program of study built around the great books of the Western tradition, the study of languages, mathematics, and science replaced the conventional elective curriculum. The influences on other institutions, from Oxford's Balliol College to the University of Chicago are traced and related.
Nelson examines the effort of the U.S. Navy, in the closing days of World War II, to acquire the campus of St. John's. This is followed by the unsuccessful efforts of Barr and Buchanan, after leaving St. John's, to start another college. Barr is persuaded to head the Foundation for World Government, in the course of which he and Buchanan redefine the nature of the problem of world law and world peace. The Cold War intervenes, and a new set of complications arises, subjecting Barr to attack from the McCarthyites, and the Foundation to attack from the Internal Revenue Serice. Nelson also reviews Barr's first hand encounter with India and its charismatic leaders.He recounts Buchanan's five month visit to the kibbutzim of Israel. The remainder of the text reviews their extensive writings and their years as Fellows of Robert Hutchins' Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Based on Charles A. Nelson's knowledge of both men and access to extensive unpublished manuscripts and hundreds of revealing letters, the book will be of interest to scholars, students, and researchers involved with American higher education, the world government movement, and post-World War II civil liberty issues.