Christopher Nelson

About Christopher Nelson

Christopher B. Nelson is a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative. He was the President of St. John's College in Annapolis (1991-2017). St. John's College is devoted to liberal education. Students and faculty engage directly—not through textbooks and lectures but through study and discussion—with original texts and ideas that are the foundation of Western thought.

How Liberal Arts Colleges Promote Community

By |2019-12-13T11:14:50-06:00December 17th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Education, Featured, Liberal Arts, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|

In Part I, I considered the reasons why competency-based education is incompatible with liberal learning. Now I want to discuss why it hinders students after graduation, and deprives the world of extraordinary individuals. Liberal arts colleges have always tried to encourage students to develop not only the intellectual virtues, but also the practical, ethical, [...]

What Competency-based Education Cannot Do

By |2019-12-13T13:58:11-06:00December 4th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Education, Featured, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|

Competency-based education is a popular trend in higher education circles. It also seems to be a trend that could do great damage to liberal learning. What is competency-based education? It has two key elements. First, any course of study must be accompanied by a “competency framework”—a detailed statement of the knowledge and skills expected [...]

With Hearts Full of Thanks

By |2018-11-21T19:22:23-06:00November 27th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, St. John's College, Thanksgiving|

By long custom at St. John’s College, the president invites to Thanksgiving dinner all our international students, as well as any other students and faculty who are spending Thanksgiving away from home and family. After the events of September 11, 2001, we added a series of readings to the tradition. Before we sit down [...]

An Unhealthy Obsession with the Almighty Dollar

By |2019-09-05T10:42:46-05:00October 6th, 2014|Categories: Adam Smith, Christopher B. Nelson, Conservatism, Featured, St. John's College|

A friend of mine in the financial services industry called me the other day to vent about the poor quality of the public discourse concerning the freedom of the marketplace and the obsession with the Almighty Dollar. “Does it make sense,” he asked, “that the pursuit of self-interest is the essence of all human [...]

Everything Important in Life is Unknown

By |2019-10-03T11:26:17-05:00August 28th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Education, Featured, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|

Welcome to the Class of 2018. Welcome to their families and friends. Welcome Back to the rest of the College community! There is nothing in the world like the energy in this room as we open our doors to another year of learning together. Like everyone else here, I prepared for this fresh beginning [...]

The Imitation of Socrates

By |2017-05-22T18:14:29-05:00August 4th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Classical Education, Classics, Education, Featured, Meno, Plato, Socrates, St. John's College|

At an earlier session I spoke about Socrates as a model for imitating heroes, because he shows us how to use the lives of extraordinary people to help us make and remake a life worth living for ourselves. Now I’d like to speak about Socrates as a model for teachers to emulate. Teachers have [...]

The Imitation of Heroes

By |2019-09-05T12:55:51-05:00July 28th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Classical Education, Classics, Liberal Learning, Phaedo, Socrates, St. John's College|

Imitation, like so many time-tested educational activities, took a big hit during the twentieth century. The history of the desire to create autonomously is long, but early in the last century, this desire became an out-and-out obsession. The mania for originality and novelty spread itself far and wide—and it hasn’t loosened its hold yet. [...]

Beyond Politics: Liberal Education and the Future of the Republic

By |2016-03-26T13:04:26-05:00June 23rd, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Education, Featured, Liberal Arts, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|

Everyone knows what a liberating education is. All of you are no doubt familiar with a typical experience of mine: I am suddenly confronted with a new puzzle, a new question, or a new problem that needs solving. I am pushed out of my comfort zone, and then I discover that the user manual [...]

Choosing a College: Advice to My Son

By |2016-03-26T13:04:26-05:00April 13th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Education, Liberal Arts, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|Tags: |

Many high school seniors are facing one of the most important choices they will confront in their lives: Which college should I attend next fall? In my previous post I wrote about five issues to consider when choosing a college. But then I reflected on my role as a parent of five, remembering the advice I [...]

Five Reasons to Attend St. John’s College

By |2016-03-26T13:04:27-05:00April 3rd, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Community, Education, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|Tags: |

Now is the time of year when students finishing high school have to make a thrilling and at the same time daunting choice: Which college should I attend in the fall? Those who are lucky enough to have multiple options often must choose among schools that are quite different in character. The decisions are [...]

Renewal and Liberal Education

By |2016-03-26T13:04:27-05:00March 28th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Education, Liberal Arts, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|Tags: |

It is been a long winter in the eastern United States, including here in the mid-Atlantic. It’s late March as I write this, and we are just starting to see the tops of daffodils and crocuses that usually appear a month earlier. Delayed spring means delayed renewal. Everyone feels it—the desire to get outside [...]

The Miracle of Imagination

By |2016-03-26T13:04:27-05:00March 1st, 2014|Categories: Christmas, Christopher B. Nelson, Imagination, Liberal Arts, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|

Making choices about life depends critically on the ability to imagine possibilities. Speaking as an advocate for liberal education, I believe that the central liberal art—the art that frees us from the shackles of our pasts, our times, our places, our familiar opinions, our inherited prejudices, and the conventions of our day, the art [...]

Extreme Liberal Education

By |2018-06-30T22:22:21-05:00February 15th, 2014|Categories: Christopher B. Nelson, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|

“Extreme” activities have come into fashion in recent years. Extreme sports, extreme travel, extreme survival expeditions now seem to be a fixture of the cultural landscape. Few know, however, that there is such a thing as extreme liberal education, or that St. John’s College has been practicing it for more than seventy-five years. What is extreme liberal [...]