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Heather Mac Donald
Great Courses, Great Profits « Back to Story
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I'd watch a DVD about Queering the Alamo! How cool is that, to learn about non-majority relationships in a historical, military, frontier-establishing context. The Alamo was a significant milestone in our nation's evolution...Did homosexuals number up to 20% of the population then, as today? Was it possible to be open/out about it--or was it hidden, or just not discussed? What were the consequences socially? Sounds fascinating!
I believe she included the comment re: Nancy Reagan to illustrate the pomposity of today's "academic."

And Ben Riddell, that article was a waste of time by a snarky d-bag who likely thinks Edward Said was an "authentic voice" instead of an intellectual fraud. Thanks for wasting my time, jackwagon. I'm going to invoice you for it.
Your mention of Nancy Reagan is real classy.
Ernie Orlando,Webster NY October 24, 2011 at 9:26 PM
Your article is an insightful addition to my admiration for this company which I've only known through their well conceived and executed courses. Our local libraries make regular purchases of courses across the full range of undergrad curricula.
Not surprisingly, an avant-garde perspective mars at least one of the courses on the Fine Arts---"How to Look at and Understand Great Art." Professor Sharon Latchaw Hirsh of Rosemont College lectures on the bogus art movements of Abstract Expressionism, Postmodernism, and what avant-gardists refer to as "the art of our own times," which does not include work by contemporary Classical Realist or academic painters and sculptors. From the GC website's course description:

"Of huge value for appreciating modern and contemporary works, you delve into the human experiences and ways of thinking that gave birth to abstract and nonrepresentational art. Here, you study influences such as the three phases of Cubism [and] the ideas of Kandinsky . . . following the bold and thoughtful moves that freed art from imitating nature [as if all poor Rembrandt did was "imitate" nature!]. This understanding allows you to grasp the inspiration and visions of De Kooning . . . Pollock, and other masters of the modern era."

Good luck.

Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts) and Co-Author, 'What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand' –
Wow. Website, here I come.
Great Courses for enlightenment, a 2-year non
ism-oriented associates degree to get a real
Two beers and a football game for the
"college experience"
Hardly any student activity fees subsidizing
God knows what.
Interesting article. Shame about the Nancy Reagan comment; it adds nothing to the story and prohibits me from sharing the article as widely as I would like to.
Another great resource (and no, I do not work for or own them, nor did I ask permission, this is a freebee) is Dover publications. Not only are they cheap, but specialize in the classic editions of books ranging on an incredibly large range of topics.
Great for commuters. And there is a thriving aftermarket.
Great for commuters. And there is thriving aftermarket.
If Rollins is looking for female lecturers, he can do no better than Tiffany Miller, from the University of Dallas, on Progressivism. Google for her.
1)Repeat listening/viewing is a benefit not mentioned so far. I've listened to the several philosophy classes I have repeatedly. They provide an excellent overview to help me keep a huge amount of material under control.
2) Sick of politics on the radio? Great Courses keep you sane while commuting.
3) And--I e-mailed Daniel Robinson at Oxford about something he mentioned somewhere that I thought was in Reid and wanted to find; he got back to me in minutes to tell me--nicely!--that it was actually Leibniz and just where to find it. Imagine that.
As a recurring customer of Great Courses, I was delighted to learn how it all began and pleased to hear of its current success.
They offer some excellent courses, yes, but they also offer plenty of trash; for example, anything by Bart Ehrman. The rising prominence of this man indicates a leftward tilt the company has taken in recent years. I now steer clear of every topic in religion.
Too many words for a simple message, Heather. You, like many Americans, are wildly enthousiastic over Reader's Digest.

It is perfectly clear that students should be studying the traditional basic curriculum first.

After their study of the basics it isn't a bad idea at all to study the alternative critical curriculum too.

No need to be haughty for anybody.
A great article. I came across some of The Teaching Company's catalogs years ago and used to read them like the Sears Wishbook at Christmastime! How I wished I could afford them. I'm glad I know their new name, now that I am better able to afford their price.

Do you think they might some day offer accredited degrees? That is the wave of the future.
About 15 years ago, on a flight from London to Miami, I saw an Advert in a news magazine for a Teaching Company course on the history of Byzantium. Having bit of an interest in the subject, and seeing the course was selling at a deep discount, I ordered it. I have been a regular customer ever since. I often wonder if I had had lecturers of the quality the Great Courses uses when was in college if I might not have paid more attention.
I have purchased several of the Great Courses on history. They are truly wonderful and I love them. What an informative article on them.
Just got their catalog in the mail this week. Lots of interesting stuff there. And since they've got a major sale going this month, I might buy a couple.
My favorite teacher, Kenneth Harl, used to and may currently have some lectures with this company. He was the best history lecturer at Tulane!
Interesting - I wonder if this is related to "Great Books," which is a terrific organization formed (I believe) in the '40's which promotes great works of western literature and thought. Someone in our office was affiliated with the organization and I used to assist her in choosing and reviewing the works she would then discuss in her group.
Comment from my son (a junior who plans to become a college professor): "If I'd known about these courses five years ago, I'd never have gone to college. Why bother with all the crap at college, when you can get the same or better learning through these DVDs?"

Sadly, one needs the "accreditation" from an increasingly-costly and left-wing-biased institution to get a job these days, so we're stuck with the wretched college system.

My wife, who has an insatiable desire for learning, devours the Great Courses and we don't go on vacation without taking at least three or four with us.
Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you for your article. I love the Great Courses series! It is everything I wanted but could never receive during my undergraduate experience. When there is market demand for something the academy does not or will not provide, customers will go elsewhere. Considering tuition rates, even the most expensive Great Courses classes are a bargain.
Please read this:

Then, please read your final line: "Universities are certainly doing very well for themselves, despite ignoring their students’ latent demand for traditional learning. But they would better fulfill their mission if they took note of the Great Courses’ wild success in teaching the classics."

In your own words, universities are doing very well for themselves, which by your own admission is exactly how the market should work - they offer a service and it is apparently popular. You have an arbitrary opinion about how it could be improved, which, as the link I posted notes, is utterly devoid of empirical evidence - something I learned about while taking my Ancient Greek philosophy and Quantum Physics courses in college.
The best lectures I ever had, all while commuting... My son is 6 years old and he loves the Cosmology and astronomy DVDs. Although he understands an small percentage of what it is taught, he already knows more about the Universe, its origin, theories about expansion and black holes than any of the adults I know. It got him interested in chemistry and physics too and now we are " reserching" those topic with him...TGC is by far the best buy I have done.
Tim Taylor, who lectures on economics for The Teaching Company (Great Courses), was a colleague on the San Jose Mercury News editorial board back in the day. He was just visiting us with his wife and kids. They left this morning to go to a "renaissance weekend." Tim said he made the guest list because of his Teaching Company fame.
Ah - links are not allowed. Try cutting and pasting: / into your browser address bar.
You claim that "if [a Bowdoin student] wanted a course in American political history, the colonial and revolutionary periods, or the Civil War, he would have been out of luck."
Did you check the course catalog?
'according to their course catalog, they offered classes called “Colonial America and the Atlantic World,” “American Society in the New Nation,” “The Civil War Era” and “The Civil War in Film.”'
More debunking of this article sloppy, reckless, and factless here:

We discussed the Great Courses when you were here a few weeks ago. I enjoyed reading this articles, and thought that you might too.

Right, even as cultural conservatives are trying to kill off liberal undergraduate education, which is the part of the higher ed that most focuses on these topics, you can write a long screed like this without mentioning that?
>>Parents and children select the school that will deliver the most prestigious credentials and social connections.>>

Sadly, this is exactly what consumers of higher education should be doing in a marketplace where many graduates will be unemployed or marginally employed. Most Americans, including younger Americans, know that the key to career advancement, economic success and the avoidance of poverty for members of the decimated middle and working classes does not lie in knowledge, perspective or the lifelong acquisition of wisdom but in carefully nurtured practical and political opportunism. The Great Works of Western Civilization will, of course, survive this era's social decadence and economic collapse. But, for the time being, those in thrall to the hateful political correctness that has usurped academe in the world where employment opportunities are quickly vanishing have little choice but to cater to the pretenses of the rogues and scoundrels who currently rule the academic roost. It won't always be so. But, for now, we're stuck with it.
I've never read so many lies, unsourced accusations and unfounded conclusions in one place. Congratulations Ms. Mac Donald. A true achievement of modern discourse.
Second hand Great Courses can also be had quite economically from, if one wishes to save a few dollars over the Teaching Company's prices.
"Universities are certainly doing very well for themselves, despite ignoring their students’ latent demand for traditional learning."

Is there any evidence suggesting that college students or young adults have latent demand for "traditional learning?" The success of Great Courses selling to an older, conservative demographic says nothing about contemporary students' awareness of or disposition to the canon.

The author does not consider that this success is connected to the rise of other "books on tape" that appeal to commuters. What other companies prospered by providing high quality content to adult commuters? How much of that was fiction, non-fiction, contemporary, or classic?

"This past academic year, for example, a Bowdoin College student interested in American history courses could have taken “Black Women in Atlantic New Orleans,” “Women in American History, 1600–1900,” or “Lawn Boy Meets Valley Girl: Gender and the Suburbs,” but if he wanted a course in American political history, the colonial and revolutionary periods, or the Civil War, he would have been out of luck."

This is almost certainly disingenuous. Bowdoin is a very small school and I believe the only classes offered every academic year are introductory courses. Most courses rotate every other year. Art History 101 might not have been offered this year either, as it only came around 2 times in my tenure there. Perhaps he has retired, but Dr. Watterson's Shakespeare courses were legendary. I found Bowdoin to be too PC but pretending that you can't study the Civil War there is asinine. I concentrated in Modern European history and enjoyed my dead White males. The "non-Eurocentric" courses they forced upon me turned out to be highly worthwhile.

"Almost no one comparison-shops for colleges based on curricula."

Bull. I have followed the college drama of hundreds of HS seniors. Some go straight for the name, but many students are more thoughtful and look into the departments of their prospective majors and know better to exclude a college from consideration because a single faculty member (or 2) upset some conservative ideologue.

This article is built on a mound of tenuous assumptions.
I am a regular buyer and listener of the Great Courses and I think they are worth every penny. The only thing I wish they would do is get more orthodox professors for the courses about Christianity--Bart Erdman is the theological equivalent of used toilet paper. But I can't really fault the Great Courses for giving customers what they obviously enjoy.
Just yesterday I bought three audio courses on the Iliad, Oddessy, and Aeniad. Each course was on sale for under $20 US. I commute several hours each week, so these courses are truly a blessing.
One wonders about the project's long-term future when (as English professor Louis Markos observes) those using the courses are, "mostly older professionals with successful careers". As older literate generations capable of handling material more demanding than a pumpkin pie recipe die out, will many of those who follow be able to cope with the courses? Or prepared to try to cope with analysing, rather than merely memorising the opinions of their lecturers?
The current state of higher education (in ny neck of the woods they refer to themselves as "hi-ed") in the US is dismal. I graduated from a state school with a BS and afterward wondered why I was so ignorant of the classics, history, philosophy and had wasted so much time on "truth" ccording to leftists. Thank God for the internet. I wish I could afford these courses. Good for Rollins and a pox on the "educational" establishment.
Here's another way of accessing a higher education based on a great philosophic basis.
A New Economic Theory
Based on Liberty & Justice.
Masters Degree & Ph.D. Offered
This is the future and colleges should pay attention. At one time, I was working on developing continuing medical education courses on line. Web MD beat me to it. Soon, the on line courses will replace the graduate students who teach lower level courses in most universities.
I am a devoted Great Courses student!!!
Funny, I thought the Chaucer course was wonderful!
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Thank you for this excellent article. Your description of the typical audience member - professional and educated in another field - certainly fits me. I have puchased 7-8 courses, including Seth Lerer's great, "History of the English Language." It is such a pleasure to listen to good speakers on academic subjects WITHOUT all [mostly all] of the politically correct ax-grinding. The essence of "civilization," traditionally understood, is the pursuit of some ideal, as well as beauty and excellence. Today's academics seem to detest these things. It's unforgivable. Will Durant said we are all pieces of darkness groping for the light. Most of today's college students are groping in vain, and it isn't their fault. Thank goodness for the Teaching Company and the "Great Courses."
Daniel Robinson is the best. Michael Segrue is the best. Rufus Fears is the best. They and many of their colleagues at The Great Courses have earned my sincere gratitude. What fun!
P.S. One question. I still can't figure out WHether that's canned applause at the beginning and end of each lecture or whether they're actually performed before a live audience. Seems like it would be a big expense to assemble all those people. Any answers?
Heather hits another home run. I thought I was the only one listening to the four-box set on Verdi. I was actually feeling sorry for this company because I couldn't imagine there was much of an audience out there. Great to know so many people still want to be educated and there are people who still know how to do it.
I was going to share this otherwise excellent article with others, but the gratuitous bit about Nancy Reagan deterred me.
Hillsdale College in Michigan teaches a
"Great Courses" course, a requirement for freshmen, and also two semesters.
I first discovered The Teaching Company when, about four years ago, my work started to require a long daily commute. That changed those long morning and evening hours from being a frustrating waste of time to two of the most productive parts of my day.

Music. History. Literature. Science. So many courses! And most all well taught. Bravo The Teaching Company!
Do not enough money to buy a building? You should not worry, because that is achievable to take the credit loans to work out such problems. Thus get a secured loan to buy all you require.
According to my analysis, billions of persons on our planet get the credit loans at well known creditors. Hence, there's a good possibility to receive a consolidation loan in any country.
My daughter, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Washington, did one year at Georgetown Law before her congenital heart disease began to seriously limit her life.
She spent her last five years living at home with us, on oxygen, unable to work, limited in her ability to walk or drive. She loved listening to courses by The Teaching Company, which she checked out from the library.
Because it was one of her happy pasttimes, I mentioned in her obituary that she enjoyed "listening to great courses on tape." I did not even mention the name of The Teaching Company.
At her memorial service, a huge floral arrangement arrived, signed "Your friends at The Teaching Company."
What an act of kindness! I, too, enjoy the Great Courses, but even more I admire a company that would reach out in such kindness to a bereaved family.
Universities' "free online courses" are mentioned in passing, but they deserve a bit more consideration in this context.

One key difference is that the courses on iTunes U are available FREE (vs. the hundreds of dollars for the courses here).

That is a very public-minded use of the great universities' huge endowments.

And, believe it or not, the universities' FREE courses are not all drenched in leftism.

Here are two great ones from Yale - a university with which I believe Heather Mac Donald has some familiarity.

Keith Wrightson "Early Modern England"

Roberto González Echevarría, "Cervantes' Don Quixote"
Richard Vigilante August 29, 2011 at 4:57 PM
What a terrific idea for a piece and well done in the usual MacDonald manner.
To Keith's point, I agree. When I and a friend took computer science in college 20 years ago, my friend complained that he had a history requirement. He said, "When am I ever going to use that?" He would rather have skipped it. He thought the only courses that were important were mathematics, science, and engineering. Science and engineering courses have been seen as the "career" majors, ones where you can apply your skills to get a high-paying job after graduation. This is not necessarily true, but that's the perception of parents and students. I've read other accounts about perceptions in college, and their assessment is the same: The humanities suffer from being seen as economically irrelevant. And one can reasonably assume that the inroads that PC has made into the humanities is due to a search for relevance for the school with students.

I can say with some confidence that as someone who has worked with computers on a technical level for years, that an interest in history is what has saved me from a life of drudgery. It was not traditional history that saved me, just the discipline that has prompted me to look at great technical accomplishments in my field, an interest that is severely lacking in it. In fact, this is not unique to my field. I have heard similar complaints from historically-interested people in engineering. Perhaps the sciences are the only technical fields where historical knowledge is seen as practically a requirement in order to carry them out competently, since "reinventing the wheel" (ie. repeating history) is frowned upon.

My interest in the humanities has grown in the last few years, because I've been advised by a sage "great one" in my field that it would improve my outlook on how technology can improve civilization, not merely be the "neat new toy."

Thanks, Ms. MacDonald, for talking about the Great Courses. I remember getting catalogs from The Teaching Company years ago in the mail, which I'd just throw away. I saw it as a repeat of college, and the teaching of subjects that didn't feel relevant to me at the time. Secondly, the prices for the courses looked pretty steep. I said presumptuously to myself, "Been there. Done that." Little did I know what a mediocre education I had received. Since learning that the company I "threw away" taught the classics, and that they are worth learning, even for someone like myself, I've been curious about it, but I had forgotten the name.
I have been a customer of The Teaching Compqany for nearly two decades. In my opinion it is the finest company in America, by far. And since I was a stockbroker for 30 years, I know a little about the universe of companies out there. dq
Love the Teaching Co. My favorites are the Arts and Science Lectures . Huge courses on Western Art? Really! And, of course, they require lots of visuals as does the immense astronomy course (beautiful!).

For a quick view of what's needed in literature there's nobody better and more entertaining than Prof. Rufus Fears. His lecture on books that teach a moral lesson or "The History of Liberty" or "Greek and Roman Heroes" are a must!
As a regular user of the Great Courses over the last few years, I agree that they provide a great product. I think, though, that Ms. MacDonald, and many others misdiagnose the decline in student interest in the "great books". In my experience as an undergrad at a flagship state university, only a relatively small percentage (say 10% to 20%) of students skipped courses in the classics in favor of the more PC courses in lit crit or gender studies. A great many more students (say 80% to 90%) skipped these courses because they were difficult and nor related to something that would immediately enhance their marketability after graduation. In my opinion, the decline in student interest in the humanities is much more due to a focus on credentials and economic outcomes than due to the increase in political correctness.
What a marvelous idea! I always wanted to make several billion dollars and offer a US History and literature course (all expnenses paid, meals and a per diem plus trip to DC included) to smart middle school and high school kids, especially hispanic newcomers. To by pass the Schools and pass on what seems to have been shelved in the last 45 years. Not having made that billion, I wish some silicon valley type would underwrite this series of courses for smart kids.
I have been listening to the lectures produced by this company from the time it started. I am a retired Catholic priest, and I have to spend my money wisely, and I think of the many recordings I have purchased from The Great Courses as a good investment in postponing my intellectual decline.

I wrote a latter of thanks to William Kloss, one of the lecturers in the history of art, and I told him that I have been reading at least four or five books a year on art history for the last forty years, and yet I learned something significant from each of his talks. He is typical of the quality of their professors.

I firmly believe that the assumption that one knows all that he will ever need to know is the beginning of senility. I am grateful to this company for enriching my life. If it were a non-profit, I would send whatever donation I could afford.

I am suprised that they make a profit, not because of lack of a valuable product, but because the company seems to be more of a cause than a corporation, the cause being, of course, improving the cultural life of our culture.

I pray for their continued success. and I thank God for the good they do.

I am a Great Courses customer - have been for quite a long time, and I would add this:

Like many adults I know, I wasn't really ready to learn this material when I was in University. Some of it was available (back then), but I didn't see the value in it until mid-adulthood.
I too love the Great Courses. Even though these are indeed introductory courses, what I've learned from going through them is just how shoddy my education actually was. It's embarrassing. Not only for myself, but for the whole educational system we've created (or destroyed) here in the United States.

I have been a fairly motivated self-learner most of my life, but nonetheless these courses have helped immensely. What is gained are the insights of someone who has dedicated much time and effort learning the material. Yet for me what it provides that is of great value to me is a basic narrative on which to build more complex and more accurate views on the great minds of (mostly) Western Civilization.

Besides one can always order books from the recommended reading list to further one's exploration into any given subject. The reading list will be like red meat to book junkies. Why would I plunk down tens of thousands of dollars for some academic nonsense when I can get something of far more value for much less!?

One last note: the courses aren't really as expensive as reported in this article. They are frequently "on sale" and go for considerably less than their supposed "list price". A simple, but effective, marketing ploy. Which admittedly would be annoying if I didn't love the product so much!
Dr. Mac Donald wrote, “ ... a literature professor at the University of California at San Diego, does not chastise Milton for sexism in the famous description of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost:

For contemplation he and valour form’d,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace,
He for God only, she for God in him.

Might she have criticized Milton for sexism, if he had written, “ ... he but for the God in her”? Perhaps greater familiarity with Milton and the Old Testament might have offered some appropriate perspective.

Dr. Mac Donald did not impute sexism to ‘the canon,’ as all written by men.
To put it simply: people are more interested in what Shakespeare or Aristotle have to say than in what the last generation of academic cultural theorists have to say. The real joke is when radically revolutionary (in both politics and art)figures such as Milton are derided for being "dead white males" by professors who have never taken a genuine risk in their whole lives.

I can recommend, enthusiastically, "The Cathedral", presented by Prof William R Cook. The Prof is enthusiastic, interesting, and the CGI representations of the various buildings are very well done.
And... Prof Cook just LOVES cathedrals!

Thanks for this tip; I will put it on my list. I have been blessed enough to visit the major Cathedrals of Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria,England, Ireland and Scotland.Of course I have visited a few in theUSA but none has the grandeur or history of the Euopean Cathedrals. Cathedrals in Latin America some close. But even the gorgeous Missions of San Juan Capistrano or San Diego are like village mission stations by comparison.
I knew the Great Courses were successful. Let me tell you the quality of the materials is FIRST RATE, though as MacDonald says they tend to be introductory in the way Will Durant was. I have SOME books on tape (or CD) and some of these courses -they are a good value. But I agree with a writer earlier that said they are superficial compared to in depth reading. I enjoy National Geographic or the History Channel also but usually I find them superficial. But that's what I would say about a subject area I know well; for most people these courses are a fine introduction. They are a point of departure to make one read on. And you can't beat them for long drives in the West. I usually alternate with instrumental music, then recorded books, then songs (If alone I sing along -keeps me awake as the evening rolls on).

J. Rufus Fear –an authority on Lord Acton is one of the lecturers and so is Allan Guelzo. These are first rate authors and researchers though I never once read any of them in college. They tend to be University of Oklahoma types or ISI types. I think there is no question they tilt Right; though they have a few greedy liberals there (but not too many LIBERALISM is BORING…it’s the ESTABLISHED RELIGION it doesn’t sell. It’s a sexy as the Church of England.)

I believe they have their origin of course in Gilbert Highet’s literary and cultural recordings. (made circa 1954-1959 for WQXR). A selection of Highet’s talks are still available on CD. Highly recommended though most of Higet's talks are found in his books. The collection tends towards the traditionalist. There are a quite a few courses on the Bible also C.S. Lewis a figure nearly ignored in universities but who has never gone out of print and is an icon for many traditionalist Americans.

Ms. MacDonald doesn’t mention that these courses are very popular with US Naval officers. Today many military study on line at American Military University –though there are still strong contingents at UVA- but they also favor sefl-study courses like this. THey know most colleges (especially in the liberal arts) will tilt towards the Left.

So do I.

I have not enrolled in a single college literature class since 1991 (and THAT literature was all classical Spanish literature with some references to French, Italian and English precursors and influences). Why?

Believe me I look at college catalogues from time to time and there are night classes at CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD.

But it is always multicultural New Left TRASH??? I am going to waste my evenings on that? Life is too short. I will vote with my feet and my pocketbook by buying GREAT COURSES and buying books that interest me and that I will re-read. I prefer enduring classics and non-fiction. As a matter of fact I will sit down to re-read EAGLE AGAINST THE SUN by RONALD SPECTOR. Earlier I was re-reading Cicero and Gary Wills. Of course this being Sunday I also read (and listened to ) excerpts from the Bible. I am not ashamed to say the Bible is one book I can honestly say is never off my reading list. Besides being an enduring classic of wisdom and faith it is a masterpiece of literature.

PS The painting that accompanied the article was my father’s favorite in the Metropolitan. We always went to see it (especially after they put RETURN OF THE HIGHLAND WARRIOR in storage). It is Rembrant’s ARISTOTLE CONTEMPLATING THE BUST OF HOMER. We went to see it together for the last time in December 1999. It was a great day –we had dinner together –also for the last time –at the Pamplona (established 1964 by the cook of the Spanish pavilion at the NY World’s Fair. It had for as long as I knew it excellent Spanish cuisine and was not too fancy. IT was small like a Spanish meson.

I'm glad these courses are less PC than the universities, but they still contain far too much hand-holding. Really great education is in buying great books and reading them.
I can recommend, enthusiastically, "The Cathedral", presented by Prof William R Cook. The Prof is enthusiastic, interesting, and the CGI representations of the various buildings are very well done.
And... Prof Cook just LOVES cathedrals!
I enjoyed reading this article. Just think what universities could be (and should be) offering to students in universities all across America. And what about a TV channel that offered interviews with outstanding professors on some of these topics. America might return to reading the classics and "critical thinking" might become something other than a trendy phrase.
QUOTE: taught without the politically correct superiority and self-indulgent theory common in today’s colleges.


If you would actually READ the Teaching Company catalog in detail, not just the headlines, as I have done three times (although not in the past 2 years), you will find it heavy laden with "the politically correct superiority and self-indulgent theory common in today’s colleges..." perhaps because every lecture TC sells was recorded by a presently serving college professor.

After my lengthy perusals of the catalog, I purchased 5 courses which seemed neither hopelessly PC nor overly elementary.

I have watched parts of two of them.

They are not bad. Sleep inducing, but not bad.

But they do point up the failing of the lecture system itself: ridiculously low information density, as compared to books -- or even as compared to movies.
I actually used Teaching Company lectures to supplement the class time/lectures I was receiving as a graduate student in history at the University of California, Irvine. These are the "missing" lectures that students just don't receive any longer at institutions of "higher learning."
Enjoyed your article. Had not realized that the name had changed from the Teaching Company to the Great Courses until now even though I receive their catalogs regularly and order courses from time to time.

I agree that most of them are excellent. I also agree with your last paragraph. Most of us, however, didn't "know what we missed" when we were younger and without the benefit of life's experiences and additional knowledge.
We love the great courses - I get them for our children - 18 and 15 - to be sure they're getting the solid classics overview that I know they're not getting in high school or college. Additionally - my husband and I find them very worthwhile for refreshing/upgrading our classical knowledge. And yes, we wait for the sales. Just got CS Lewis (though our daughter hates the way he pronounces "Aslan") and the Jazz overview. The Jazz is not only for our son, in HS Jazz band - but for his band directors. Good overview material, that they can use either to illustrate an approach/or style, or for general class use on a down day. And at $19 on sale, an easy way to earn points as an involved/aware/helpful parent!