The epigraph for the course comes from the Roman stoic philosopher, Seneca. It reads: Vitae, non scholae discimus — “It is for life, not for school, that we learn.” Course assignments are designed to foster active learning for life. Interviews, short essays, portfolios, and philosophical profiles encourage introspection and enhance students’ sense of agency. Projects are continuously discussed in class, revised, and polished throughout the semester.
Meaning of Life Profile
At the beginning, students answer a few questions about their personal values, goals, and ideals. Throughout the course they revisit their initial answers, identifying the texts which affirm, challenge or completely refute their ideas about life’s meaning and purpose. At the end of the course, students submit revised, expanded profiles.
Questions and Quotes
Students record their impressions of the texts by collecting and commenting on memorable passages. A quote may be chosen because it rings true or sounds completely absurd; because it is deeply moving or highly controversial, pessimistic or uplifting, illuminating or obscure.
A reflection paper is a thoughtful, engaged, well-written exploration of a key idea of the course. It demonstrates mastery of the material and reflects its depth and complexity. In these papers students may also make connections to contemporary issues and share personal observations.
Crisis of Meaning Interview
Students interview a friend, colleague, or family member who is willing to share his/ her story of crisis and recovery. A crisis of meaning is a turning point in someone’s life characterized by a loss of purpose, feeling of pointlessness, rejection of values once taken for granted, or shattering of a familiar self-image.