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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

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— Please excuse the promotion of yet another opportunity for teaching with-out the curriculum—a favorite Collegiate Way theme—but when it comes to my countryman and cousin John Adams, I can’t resist.

The HBO cable television network will be broadcasting the first episode of its seven-part miniseries John Adams this coming Sunday.

It looks like it will be good, no?


I’d have a hard time imagining a better route to a rich and extended discussion of politics, government, character, ambition, tyranny, and freedom than a communal viewing of this series in a cohesive residential college environment. Put up some signs and bring everyone together in your TV room, college game room, or senior common room. Plan on spending the whole evening watching and talking. Or make lunch each day after the broadcast a special occasion to bring students and faculty together to discuss the previous night’s episode. Would that I could sit in on every one of those discussions.

The US Postal Service is marking the broadcast with a special first-class cancellation during the month of March: “Let us dare to read, think, speak and write,” from one of Adams’s 1765 letters. It’s good enough to be a residential college motto.

LibraryThing.com, another fine tool for teaching with-out the curriculum, has put a catalog of John Adams’s personal collection online with help from the Boston Public Library. John is a LibraryThing member, you know. Invite your students to read more about the personal libraries of famous people on the LibraryThing blog.

It may even not be too late to have the travelling exhibition of the real Adams library visit your campus. Grant applications are due April 4th.

A final collegiate note: John was a member of the Harvard College class of 1755, a class with 27 members. Did a lot of social cohesion develop among the members of the class of ’55? Somehow I bet it did. Does it take a big school to raise up big people? I don’t think so.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2014