The Great Books invite us into a millennia-old conversation, one open not to the mere technician of a narrow field, but one that demands participation of the whole person. A college major trains us in the latest skills of a field of study. By such training we become technicians of a sort, credentialed for a certain kind of labor.
The Great Books, however, go much further. They cultivate us to be citizens of, even participants in, an eloquent, imaginative community that cuts across time and place, status, race, and sex. The Great Books liberate us from the parochial blinders of our own times. They let us sail home with Odysseus, play the patriot with Cicero, love God with St. Bernard, and cry out against a contrived and plastic world with Goethe. In short, the Great Books humanize us.