What is the Summer Reading Program?
All new freshmen will receive a copy of a common book to read in the summer before they begin their first year at The Mount. Students discuss this book during Summer Orientation with their Orientation groups and peer mentors, and return to several of its themes throughout the academic year in classes and in the First Year Symposium course. New students will receive the book and a reading guide early in the summer before their freshman year so they have plenty of time to read and reflect on the themes of the book.
The summer reading is Being Human, edited by Leon Kass, selections of which will be identified for students to read.
What does it mean to be human? What makes us human? What gives us dignity? What can make us happy? What makes life worth living?
Formulating and seeking answers to such fundamental questions is at the heart of a liberal education.
Everyday social practices and common technologies raise the question of what human life is for and why it is valuable. Every day, in our personal challenges and choices, we must confront these questions. With the way we lead our lives, we speak answers to these questions.
To prepare you for the First Year Symposium, we are providing you with one of the course books over the summer: Being Human: Core Readings in the Humanities. As Leon Kass explains in the preface, the book originated from very particular concerns. Kass chaired a president’s council on bioethics, which was charged to examine the moral, social, and political implications of biotechnologies like genetic engineering and cloning. But Kass and the men and women who comprised the council recognized that in order to assess whether these various biological techniques are beneficial or harmful for human beings, they needed to consider what human beings are in the first place. They could not address the new and very specific concerns of biotechnology without examining more general and enduring questions about the meaning of human life, questions “about birth and death, freedom and dignity, the meaning of suffering.” Making this connection—linking particular issues, values, techniques and choices to a vision of the human person—is a hallmark of a Catholic liberal arts education.
So we provide this book, which gathers a variety of readings from different perspectives and genres, as a tool to facilitate reflection. It doesn’t settle the questions of the meaning of being human. But that doesn’t mean that these questions are fruitless, or that any answers are just matters of opinion. Rather, the readings collected in the book demonstrate how inescapable such questions are, and how rich is the wisdom to be gained from those who have sought to answer them with thoughtfulness and care.