"Reason is by study, labor, and exercise of logic, philosophy, and other liberal arts, corroborated and quickened, and the judgment–both in them and also in orators, laws, and stories–much riped. And albeit poets be with many men taken but for painted words, yet do they much help the judgment, and make a man, among other things, well furnished of one special thing, without which all learning is half lame...a good mother wit." –Thomas More ("Dialogue of Thomas More Knight", Book 1, Ch 23)
If the liberal arts are weapons of the liberally educated leader, the great books are the training grounds. The greatest books from the Western and American traditions are those time-proven classics written by the greatest minds that demonstrate the greatest capacity to inspire the head and the heart, the intellect and the affections, through exercises of reason that clarify thought and figures of history and literature that shape the imagination. While these works can have this effect, they are often difficult to navigate. This difficulty is one reason why teachers are so important. Like Virgil who leads Dante through The Divine Comedy with instruction, correction, and encouragement, a good teacher leads students through these works. Yet, even teachers need teachers, which is one role of a study guide. A good study guide is worth more than its weight in gold.
A Note on Use
We have and are developing these study guides to show readers why these works are immortal, that is, why they are the best human attempts to answer the two essential questions of the liberal education: what is the nature of reality and how should a life be lived. Furthermore, we aim to show teachers how to lead socratic discussion based off the text. The study guides, generally and for the most part, have three components: an outline, questions on the whole and the parts of a work, and bolded sections and passages to emphasize for their importance and capacity to shape the affections, to arouse wonder, and impart wisdom. The questions on the whole of the work would make for great essay prompts and the questions on the parts of the work would make for substantial quizzes. These three components are integrated into one document for the readability of teachers and students.