Great Books & Libraries
Created with both a mind and a will, human beings have the ability to seek out the truth and, once it is found, the duty to act in accord with that truth. Thomas Aquinas College exists to aid students in this search, in the sure knowledge that all truth points ultimately to Christ, the Eternal Word Who is Truth itself.
At the heart of the Thomas Aquinas College curriculum are the Great Books, the original works that have, for good or for ill, animated Western civilization. These are the enduring works of great thinkers, both ancient and modern, the best minds in each of the disciplines. Although students are strongly encouraged to first approach original works directly — unprejudiced by the writings of other scholars — related readings, reference works, periodicals, and scholarly journals are available in St. Bernardine of Siena and Dolben libraries. Additionally, the libraries shelve noteworthy fiction, spiritual reading, and works of general interest for those times when students desire a relaxing break from the rigors of the program.
Discussion, Assessment & Lectures
Guided discussion is is the lifeblood of the Thomas Aquinas College education. Faculty members begin each class by asking students an opening question that directs them to discover the meaning of the text at hand. The discussion unfolds naturally and vigorously, in a spirit of charity and friendship. Successful classes depend on the students’ careful preparation and thoughtful consideration of the reading beforehand. Then, with the help of a tutor, students work together in class to deepen their understanding.
It is primarily through these classroom conversations that tutors measure students’ progress in the academic program. By observing contributions to the daily conversations, tutors can monitor students’ development and make sure that they are mastering the coursework to a degree sufficient to move on to subsequent classes. Yet the tutors also rely on other forms of assessment, including occasional examinations, papers, and the Don Rags.
Likewise, the College also offers the St. Vincent de Paul Lecture and Concert Series in order to provide students with an opportunity to listen to and comprehend an extended argument or presentation. The lecture series is an integral part of the College’s curriculum. In addition, concerts of classical, operatic, or sacred music are performed two or three times a year in order to encourage students to develop a love of great music and to recognize and appreciate the beauty and inherent order in these great works.
During their first week in the College, all freshmen write diagnostic essays. Those freshmen judged by tutors to need additional work in grammar and rhetoric attend the writing preceptorial, a weekly class discussion led by a tutor on the principles of grammar and rhetoric.
For the duration of the preceptorial, which runs through most of the first semester, students write no papers for their regular classes; but they do write short essays each week and then meet individually with tutors to discuss them. By the end of the preceptorial, students must achieve a satisfactory level of writing ability.
Algebra Enabling Exam
The Junior Mathematics Tutorial makes use of algebra. Each student must demonstrate a basic proficiency in algebraic operations by passing the Algebra Enabling Examination by the end of the Sophomore Sear; no student will be allowed to continue to the Junior Year without passing the Enabling Examination. The exam is given twice in the Freshman Year and twice in the Sophomore Year.
An optional Algebra Preceptorial is available for students who have difficulty with this examination.