By Rowan Sinclair-Gregg
This semester I have learned that the study groups at St. John’s are much like the classes–just as students engage dialectically with each other, working to listen mindfully and synthesize ideas in class conversation, we can do the same in independent study groups. I have seen these intentions well fulfilled in the study group I am currently involved with called “Citizens.” The study group was initially named from the first book read (really a book length poem) called “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine. Since finishing the book by Rankine, the group has met weekly to discuss other texts pertaining to race, specifically in regard to being black in America in the present day, because educating ourselves on these pressing issues is key to being a good citizen.
In weekly meetings the group members are able to discuss issues like white racial privilege and the reality of systematic oppression with their peers in a way that feels both supportive and edifying. Currently we are reading a book called “The New Jim Crow” by civil rights advocate and writer Michelle Alexander. Prior to this book we read “How it feels to Be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston and “The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning” by Claudia Rankine.
Group member Siena Powers writes, “It is a really nice environment and it seems to me that people really care about what we are reading in a visceral way. Especially with the topic [from the New Jim Crow] I think it is making people (including me) evaluate their privilege and how much race affects us.” I agree with Siena that I have learned more about racism and my participation in it by joining this group.
There is truly an importance to study groups at the college, I have found the readings for and participation in this group critical both to being a citizen and a good student at St. John’s. Often, during breaks between St. Thomas Aquinas and Dante readings I am happy to open up “The New Jim Crow” and have a refreshingly contemporary and pertinent learning take place. Though not contemporaneous to our Sophomore seminar readings, the texts we read for the Citizen group contribute vitally to my learning experience at the school.
I hope that fellow students and prospective students will feel encouraged to join one or two of the many study groups in existence already–or perhaps feel inspired to start one of their own. The Citizen group meets every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. in the FAB building, room 105. For more information about Santa Fe study groups check our Ephemera.