Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

Some Answers to Some Questions


By request, here are some answers to some questions… at least, the way I see it.

The discussions in the two classes, Wolfgang (W) and Colonial (C), have been simply fantastic. They’ve touched on myriad topics, and at times gone quite deeply into the material itself. The most important thing is that the discussions go where the students want them to go. We tend move smoothly between focusing on the texts themselves and their relationship to our current environment. Everyone seems genuinely interested in learning from one another. And if the students don’t like the nature of the discussions, it is their responsibility to change the focus.  We have not yet entered into heated disagreements. This seems inevitable to me and I’m wondering when it will happen.

After approaching Genesis, the two classes have opted to diverge with their readings. IMHO, this is a very good thing. This way the two classes will feel more autonomy and investment in their own education rather than being concerned about whether they are covering the same topics as the other group. So because ‘science’ and ‘proof’ have been topics of discussion in their previous classes, the ‘W’ class has chosen to move forward with reading Galileo. In particular, we are reading his letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, which provides an extraordinary window into the mind of a genius. The ‘C’ class has chosen to move forward more or less chronologically by reading Plato’s “Euthyphro”, a fascinating dialogue between the characters Socrates and Euthyphro that raises some interesting and thorny questions.

We had one visitor to a class, a friend of one of the students (and recent acquaintance of mine). He seemed to enjoy participating in the discussion of Genesis.

A few of the major decisions made by the students, and in particular of the Steering Committee are:

  • To sponsor the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Colonial Theatre
  • To increase the presence of the College in the community
  • To select the texts for the next classes
  • To allow visitors to sit in on the classes, and to have them participate in the discussions
  • To have the students construct learning activities for the classes themselves (that was my suggestion, accepted by the students)
  • To eventually form a “Welcome Committee” to integrate new students into the program
  • To provide some technical knowledge to one student who would prefer at this point to experience a more concrete style of learning

One decision I made was to begin fully participate in the class discussions as a co-learner. I realized that I’ve been acting in my previous mode as a professor, asking the questions and allowing the students to arrive at answers as though I already know the answers. But now I offer my opinions just as I expect the other students to do, and if they disagree with my opinions then they can do so. I have already begun learning a lot with the students by doing this, and am hopefully demonstrating that I am open to modifying my own beliefs.

I do hope you find this enlightening. Keep those questions coming!


Author: Richard Liston

Musician, computer scientist, educator. I'm creating a new educational environment for adults.

4 thoughts on “Some Answers to Some Questions

  1. I cannot help but comment here. The hermeneutical challenge of reading Genesis is that the text being read presents itself as Sacred Scripture. The reader must position oneself in relation to one’s acceptance of such self-presentation – some statement of faith is demanded, even if not publicly proclaimed. Even in an academic environment, the question of faith becomes significant. One may prefer to speak of truth rather than faith, but either way, neutral reading of the text is not an option.

    Avoiding this will only confuse the discussion. Too many things are left unsaid but not unthought. Care must be taken in articulating one’s position, but discussion can go deeper when one is willing to do so.

    • I’m not entirely sure how to reply except perhaps to agree that yes, discussing Genesis is complex to say the least—particularly when we have about one hour per week together to discuss it. We seem to have had some quite interesting discussions, though.

  2. It sounds like things are evolving just as you would wish. I’m glad! Does each semester have a theme such as “Science and Proof” (a very provocative theme I should say!) or is this a foundation that each student is asked to delve into as the first component of an education with Sphere?

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