Aug 29, 2008

Study Groups for Objectivists (SGO)

Gene Ligman, a registered member of SGO, says:

By participating in the ITOE, Ch. 5 ("Definitions") study group, I have assuredly learned more than I would have through self-study by itself. I would not have broken the subject down into such small sections, which helped immensely, nor would I have known the questions that I should ask myself in order to make sure I had integrated it sufficiently. I appreciated the time scale, having other pursuits in life to take care of.

The optional study questions were very helpful. They were targeted to help ensure integration of the material studied. The act of stating something in one's own words is an act that causes further thought. Whenever I had to think of examples to use, it helped me to fit the new information into the right places. Also, reading other peoples examples and answers provided extra insight as well.

PURPOSE. SGO provides a platform for short-term, specialized study groups working with particular texts, mainly in the fields of philosophy and history. A study group is not a classroom, a tutoring session, or a debating arena, but an opportunity for trade. In SGO, highly motivated students of history or philosophy can enhance their individual studies of a certain text by trading insights, questions, and answers with other individuals who are studying the same text at the same time.

FEATURES AND BENEFITS. SGO offers five main features:
- Rigorous etiquette ensures that study-group members focus their comments on ideas not on other members of the study group.
- Scheduling--one section of text per week--encourages steady, thorough, and consistent study.
- Leadership--one administrator overall and one moderator for each study group--provides focus and continuity throughout the weeks or months of study. The temporary position of study-group moderator offers a brief opportunity to practice project-management and other social skills as a means for achieving one's individual, long-term, intellectual goals.
- Open archives provide information that enables serious students to decide whether to purchase and study a particular text.
- Advanced notice allows students to prepare adequately, perhaps completing an initial reading of the assigned text as a whole, long before the study group begins addressing parts of that text.

PARTICIPANTS. SGO welcomes serious students of Objectivism. They may be young or old. They may be enrolled in academia or studying on their own plan. They may have a lot or only a little knowledge of the subject they wish to study. Trade arises from such differences. For example, a novice in a particular subject may ask a question that requires more knowledgeable members to stop, think, and make explicit what they had only assumed as "obvious" before.

When a study group is complete, each member should have expanded his knowledge of the particular text the group examined. He will have answered some of his original questions, but the study group experience should also give rise to new questions, which only more study will answer. A study group is not the end of study, but only one turn on the spiral of learning.

Burgess Laughlin
Author, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith

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