The primary purpose of the OAC is to teach students about Objectivism. However, in my case the program also provided a major secondary benefit: the positive effect it had on the rest of my academic life.
The knowledge and skills I acquired at the OAC had a permeating impact across my academic studies: I noticed myself understanding the relationship between integrals and derivatives better as we learned about them in calculus class; the mixed ideological currents behind the women’s suffrage movement as we learned about it in American History class; the fatalistic worldview that manifested itself differently in Shakespeare’s comedies than his dramas (and the features of each genre that accounted for the differences) as we learned about it in English class. Even though the classes I was taking at the OAC did not touch on any of these topics specifically, they enhanced my ability to evaluate and appreciate them.
Through my four years of undergraduate study this effect grew exponentially, guiding my progress both as a university student and an aspiring intellectual. My OAC classes masterfully complemented my college classes: in my college classes I acquired the content and prevailing opinions in many fields of study, and in my OAC classes I learned how to understand and interpret that material. At the OAC, I systematically trained my mind to think, under the tutelage of experts who knew the questions to ask and the feedback to give in order to direct my understanding.
The OAC has served as an anchor for my thinking method and has, in effect, “kept me honest”. I could not “get away with” imprecision in the OAC the way I could have (and would have) in my college humanities courses; the OAC instructors’ intellectual radar immediately detected any gap in my understanding or any attempt to gloss over a confusion by means of flashy rhetoric—even when I myself was blithely unaware of having tried it. Thanks to the OAC, I have developed a clearer sense of how it feels to “get” an idea—as against being able to mimic its structure or recognize its pattern without having actually understood its meaning and its evidentiary basis.
By learning to integrate, concretize, and essentialize both in thought and writing, I have excelled in difficult college classes that would otherwise have frustrated and mystified me. Philosophy and related humanities classes have become, if not easy, at the very least navigable. The OAC has provided me and my classmates with a valuable guidepost in the difficult world of academia.
As an undergraduate alumna and current graduate student in the OAC program, I cannot recommend the program highly enough to anyone interested in learning how to think and communicate ideas effectively—and thus to take part in competently effecting cultural change.
Gena is an undergraduate at Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music, triple-majoring in philosophy, psychology, and vocal performance. She plans to attend graduate school in psychology and/or music. She has completed the four-year undergraduate program at the Objectivist Academic Center.