Below we answer Frequently Asked Questions that come to us from prospective students & instructors. More detail about us may be found in our comprehensive Course Catalog (which can answer many of your questions before you ask). If you have a question (or special need) not covered here or in the catalog, go to the Welcome page, and contact any Dean or Instructor.
What’s up with your web sites?
Unfortunately we have had some uniquely sobering events recently. One of our Founders, David C. Irons, died unexpectedly and immediately of a heart attack in May of 2013. He was the owner of our former shermaninstitute.com site. When that was basically locked down by the host, we acquired a new URL (.INFO), and began rebuilding. We also own .US (the new main academic site), .COM (now a collection of sub-sites for our various schools, and .NET (used as an e-mail server only). (.ORG is also ours, and calls there point back to .COM for the moment.) Sometimes with adversity comes something better. We had to rethink our entire academic delivery system, and established a 5 year technology plan.
In Phase I of that plan, we ceased hosting pretty much everything with other providers, and internalized our own server systems. Then came the thunderstorm season (June 2015), and we were hit with a side-splash of lightning just as we were migrating into Phase III of our upgrade plan. We received a spark-fried server, toasted hard drives, lost web sites, etc. You are now viewing the Phase III rebuilt server, with what might actually be Phase IV delivery.
So please pardon the dust and accept our apologies as we get everything in place, and roll these new systems out one aspect at a time. Don’t worry — our critical delivery system for all previous materials is returning. All courses, student transcripts, e-texts for those courses, and anything else that enables us to actually teach and keep our students advancing, is in place. More info on that can be found on the “Welcome” page. We “USE” technology, but burps in it do not shut us down, even if the whole system crashes.
I discovered Sherman Institute after the start of courses for this Semester. Is there any way I can still get in?
In fact, you do have several options. Many instructors have begun using a continuous enrollment plan. In short, if the instructor permits it, you may jump into a course at any time, participate with the existing students in their lectures, etc. You will still be at week one on your syllabus at the time you enter, and will still have to do all projects in order, regardless where your semester-mates are in their studies. But in that manner, you can catch up on your own, and complete the course on your own 12 week schedule. Another option is called a “mini-mester” where you can start at the 6 week point. In that case, you will complete a 12 week program in six weeks, doubling up (weeks 1 & 2 for your week 1, etc.). You will make it to the end of the course at the same time as the general end of that semester. Some instructors prefer that approach over the continuous enrollment option, although the work load may be considerably harder if it is a reading-intensive course. But either way, if you miss the start date for a semester, contact your instructors immediately to let them know you’d like to get in ASAP. Odds are good they can make it happen.
What is the procedure for registering for a course?
Registering for a course requires simply notifying the instructor of that course of your interest. Their e-mail addresses are hyperlinked on the current semester schedule. Once you make contact, they will handle general enrollment situations, invoice you directly for the cost of the course(s), etc.
What is the procedure for registering for a certificate or degree program?
Contact the Dean of that program. They will help you in many ways with even customizing the program you want for your Personal Academic Plan. From there, you may decide to just take a few courses to “test the waters” before actually registering for that program. When you are ready to register at that level, your Dean will assist you further.
Why are payments made to individual teachers instead of making a single payment to the Sherman Institute?
Sherman Institute is not a traditional “education business.” The instructors do NOT work for us. Rather, they are independent contractors (or “tutors” using a rather historic term), who have created their own courses. These courses are their personal intellectual property. However, they work with (not for) us in that grades they assemble are then logged in a transcript that we (our Deans) compile as each student progresses through their own program.
How and when are refunds processed in the event I withdraw from a course?
If some situation presents itself requiring a student to withdraw from one or more courses, it is important to contact the instructor(s) involved immediately. If this occurs before the course starts, or within a week (seven days) of the first class starting, the student may request a full refund from the instructor(s). Fees paid are NON-REFUNDABLE after that point, for a number of reasons. It is the instructor(s) obligation to make refunds directly to the student.
Why does Sherman Institute not request a Social Security Number of students?
Sherman Institute does NOT use Social Security Numbers in student transcripts (your e-mail address is all we need for that), or for tracking a student in any way, shape or form. If a transfer student provides an existing transcript to any of our Deans, and wishes to use a magic marker to blot out the SSN on what they give us, no problem. (In fact, we prefer if you do that — no sense giving us that number.) We don’t want it, don’t need it, have no interest in the responsibility of protecting you against “identity theft,” etc. Simple policy here: SSN’s are a government tracking number. We are not a government operation, we take no money or other benefit from government. It is beyond useless to us.
Further, you will not find this campus giving or requiring “biometric” forms of identification connected with student activites. Your DNA is your property. We do not want a sample of it. We are not obsessed with facial recognition software either. Relax. This is Sherman Institute.
Is the Sherman Institute an accredited institution?
No. There are many myths about accreditation, and if you believe a school “must be accredited to be legitimate” (or other such myth), take time to read a good analysis (REPAIR LINK) that explains accreditation succinctly, and much of why Sherman Institute is not seeking someone’s “approval” of our curricula or individual courses.
When introducing Sherman Institute to new audiences, a frequent question is “Is it accredited?” We honestly say we are not (almost with an apology) because of the brainwashed condition of the person who asks. But in truth, we have no reason to apologize. It is sad that most of our society has been tricked into thinking that only an accredited college can provide a “quality” education. Yet, the people graduating from those colleges frequently are unable to tell you on what side of the Mississippi you will find Kentucky or who the Vice President is. In fact, a recent “poll” was conducted among supposedly intelligent people in which they were asked which plan is better–Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. Not one person interviewed knew that the plans are one and the same. Such is the state of many graduates with “accredited” degrees.
Dr. Richard Hoyer, himself a highly accomplished individual who has worked for accrediting associations, says [see linked article above] that “Laypersons and professional alike have been brainwashed to think that to have a legitimate college or university degree, it must be accredited.” He explains that the accrediting process began in the 1950s as a means for colleges and universities to demonstrate to the federal government that they had a “basic level of quality in their institutions and programs” in order to qualify for federal funds such as student loans and grants.
Accrediting organizations are third party groups who establish the rules, examine the school, and collect enormous fees for their “service.” The resulting accreditation is nothing more than their opinion, an opinion which could be completely different if the process were conducted by a different group. In other words, it’s a follow the money thing. The more money you can afford to pay, the more likely you are to get accreditation. It has become more of a “protection racket” than a truly meaningful audit. Pay the fees, do what someone demands, get the “status” of accreditation, along with the flow of money from government that comes with its own strings on what can be taught, who can be hired, etc.
Indeed, private schools that are Theology-centric (such as S.I.), would have a difficult time getting accredited, even if we sought it. Secular accreditation bodies have no constitutional yardstick by which to measure Theology programs. They are prohibited by the bill of rights from doing so. Indeed, they could probably be forced to grant accreditation (even to sub-standard schools) if someone cared enough to test the theory, because to refuse it on theological grounds would be inviting major law suits. But why even bother? It would just subject the school to considerable paper work, cost thousands we would have to pass on to our students, and for no real benefit to us.
First, Sherman Institute does NOT take any “federal funds” (or state government monies, for that matter). Therefore, there is absolutely no reason in the world for us to seek their (or any other) “accreditation.” We have no reason to “prove” our curricula meets their standards. Indeed, comparing our courses, one for one, with those of accredited schools, one would find that we meet or exceed the levels of actual learning (which is, after all, the whole purpose of attending any school). Put our EN-102, for example, against any first year Speech course you wish. At what other campus will you study and work from two different speech textbooks, and have read from the Great Books some of the classic oratories of all times, knowing the foundation of “Rhetoric” as practiced by both political speech writers, and theologians? We teach, and let the student judge for themselves if they have learned something. Because they pay for their studies here directly (without federal grants, etc.), the ultimate “accreditation” for us is whether or not they return.
That said, if you wish to apply your studies from here into another institution, it is up to the student to contact the other institution for information on such transfers. Credit hours earned here may or may not be accepted by other higher-learning establishments. We will, on student request, forward a copy of your transcript (and syllabi of the courses you have taken if needed) to the other school. (This shows them the learning covered.) If you have earned credits from other schools, whether accredited or not, we may accept those credits toward programs or degrees here. Contact one of our Deans for more details, and provide the Dean a copy of the transcript from the other school(s).
What good is a “Liberal Arts” degree in today’s highly specialized workplace?
Despite the appearance of modern academia focusing on technical or trade schools, a well-rounded education is still considered “best” in a very wide array of potential jobs. Those with skills in writing can find work in many places that trade specialists could not. Just pondering the number of jobs that are writing-intensive (lawyers, medical transcriptionists, translators, government, authors & journalists, etc.) could go on for pages. By having a broad background — English, History, Science, Foreign Languages, etc. — you can move faster in the “white collar” work field than those without these skills.
There seems to be several types of “registration” involved. Can you explain them?
First, there is ADMISSION to Sherman Institute. To be a student here you need to complete a one-time Admission Application, and pay the fee to the Registrar. They will give you a Sherman Institute e-mail address, pass on parts of the application to the proper people who review it, contact your references, and approve that aspect of being a student here.
Secondly, when you know you want to start taking courses, you will have an account created on the primary academic web site (.US). This registration is FREE, and enables our instructors to open the doors to their classrooms to you. You begin contacting the instructors of the courses you wish to take.
Thirdly, these instructors will typically invoice you for their courses, and you pay them DIRECTLY (as noted above). This is considered ENROLLMENT in a course.
Fourth, if you want to obtain a certificate, or any degree, major or minor, then you must also REGISTER for that PROGRAM. This is done directly with the Dean(s) of the Program(s) you wish to participate in. For example, to obtain a Bachelor’s in Theology, with a Minor in Political Science, then you need to Register with the Theology Dean for that program, and the Political Science Dean for the Minor.
Often, people will start here and take several Semesters of courses before registering for a program, or declaring their major. That is perfectly fine — enabling you to test the waters, and our people to get to know you, before you make a major commitment.
Your videos and sites speak of both electronic and print books. Which do we need here?
That depends on several factors: what you prefer, what your instructor(s) suggest, what is available one way or the other, and a bit of common sense. As it stands right now, over 90% of the texts and monographs used for instruction at S.I. are available electronically. So if you download something, and want to read the PDF from the computer screen, or if you prefer a hard copy, that choice is yours. That said, there is a bit of common sense involved with certain texts. I doubt many people will try to read an 1800 page tome like “Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire” (Edward Gibbon) from a computer screen. I know I wouldn’t want to try it. Nor would I want the toner cost and time invested trying to print it, even from a high speed laser printer. A 20 page monograph is a different matter. But we do have almost every title from the Great Books of the Western World, and all the Harvard Classics, and hundreds upon hundreds more such antiquarian tomes available as PDF, E-Pub and plain text files. We do recommend acquiring your own Great Books collection in hard copy, particularly if you are enrolled in a program (as opposed to just taking a single course). Also, there are some texts that just are not available as PDF’s etc. Some of these current-copyright titles must be acquired in print from the source. (We don’t sell any books here.) Your instructor will let you know what’s going on with the texts for their particular courses. Hence, it is wise to enroll several weeks before opening day. If you need to order a text, it may take a week or two to arrive. Our “Building Your Library” video offers many suggestions for getting off to a running start, saving money in the book auction arenas, etc.
What are Trivium & Quadrivium courses?
Historically, the Trivium consisted of Grammar, Rhetoric and (depending who you consult) either Logic or Dialectic. These formed the “three roads” of general education on the “reading, writing and communicating” aspects of academic training. The Quadrivium consisted of Mathematics (the “grammar” of numbers), Geometry (numbers in space), Music (numbers in time), and Astronomy (numbers in space and time). As a group, these seven aspects constituted the substance of the “liberal arts” which formed the foundation of all learning until approximately the time of John Dewey (early 1900′s in impact), and the subsequent “specialization” of education tending to favor the “vocational” arts, as opposed to the “liberal.” The purpose of T & Q components in classical education was to present to the student the broadest perspective, so that no matter what problem was later confronted, the mind was trained to rationally and comprehensively evaluate it and find the solution. In short, it created great thinkers, like J.S. Mill, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and a litany of America’s Founding Fathers, inventors, statesmen, etc. (Hence, our “Great Books” line of thinking.) Where modern academia creates a litany of specialized titles (Humanities, Social Science, etc.) for things that generally fit within the classical groupings, and still more for the Vocational side of training (Building Trades, Cosmetology, Computer Science, etc.), true classical education recognizes that with the right T & Q foundation in place, the student can pick up any of the vocational specialties with relative ease, if that is what is needed at some point in their future. Classically-educated corporate leaders often respect that a person with a solid T & Q foundation can be specialty-trained in nearly any aspect of business where they are needed, where a person with niche-only training would be lost if, for example, moved from an assembly line into marketing, or accounting.
Why is Sherman Institute focusing on T & Q academic pedagogy?
There is only one time-tested strategy for education that creates the brilliant mind: grounding undergraduate and graduate level studies on the Trivium and Quadrivium FIRST, and expanding into specialty zones according as the student is “called” for their life’s work only after that foundation is under them. All other forms of education are based on an “I need trained for a job” mentality that may, under good circumstances, produce good laborers for various aspects of a corporate nation. But it does not produce well-rounded citizens who can become the inventors, proprietors and leaders needed for society to have places for all the laborers to work! In short, vocational colleges are training generations of people to be serfs, and few (if any) to lead the sheep productively otherwise. T & Q based Liberal Arts programs create the leaders. Sherman Institute, in today’s climate, is certainly not a good fit for the “credential worshiper.” Our degrees will not teach you a specific job. We teach adaptability, so that when the rest of what’s left of our industry leaves for foreign lands, someone around is smart enough to pick up the pieces and start over.
Your catalog uses categories other than Trivium & Quadrivium. Why?
In short, very few people today understand those two terms. So we have tried to classify things under a more familiar set of terms. That said, we look at the big picture, and teach according to the classical standard, regardless of a title. “A rose by any name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare). Courses falling into the “Classical Concepts” category generally translate immediately to a Trivium or Quadrivium program. Some cover more than one of the Classical standards. History, for example, involves Rhetoric (stories) over Mathematics (the timeline of society). Theology involves Logic, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, as well as Mathematics (the timeline involving prophecies & History), and other aspects including sciences. Political Science titles involve high-level grammatical work (law), deep levels of Rhetoric and Dialectic (persuasive writing for social change), etc. So you can find traces of the T & Q in pretty much every course we offer. Even a 100 level speech course is a classical study in rhetoric, any way you slice it. The difference at Sherman Institute is that we don’t use textbooks that bury the term “rhetoric” in a footnote to the study. We embrace classical rhetoric as the foundation of speech writing. With that understanding, you can identify a snow-job political speech when you hear it. And you’ll be a better persuasive writer when needed as well.
Do I need to have an Associate or Bachelor’s degree to enroll in Sherman Institute courses?
Look at the course number for the one(s) you want to take. Any course numbered at the 100 level is a college freshman level offering. 200 = Sophomore. 300 = Junior. 400 = Senior year. 500+ are designed for Graduate-level (Masters and above) studies. That said, our standards are a bit higher than the average community college. Depending on your academic foundation, you may have a Bachelor’s degree and find our 200 level courses challenging. Incoming students are encouraged to start with something appealing (so you are properly motivated), and get in the groove of our program. Talking with your Dean about your academic goals is a good first step. Develop a Personal Academic Plan.
If I am already (insert age above 20 here), will you offer remedial courses to get me in study mode, and refresh those things that I probably forgot somewhere around 10th grade?
Yes! Courses announced with a number in the 90′s are either “remedial” or “college prep” offers, designed exactly for that reason – to refresh your memory, and establish an entry-level of understanding required for more involved reading and writing projects for Sherman Institute. Our programs are not designed as a walk in the park. But if you are able and ready to learn at a higher-education level, these will fit your style nicely.
I have a home-schooled youth, not quite ready to graduate, but capable of higher studies than I can offer. Can you take (him/her) in your programs?
Yes. We will accept any grade level above age 14 (with parent’s consent) into our programs. If they are still pursuing a high school diploma, we suggest not overdoing it with more than perhaps two courses per semester, until they get in the swing of more advanced learning programs.
I have (x) degree [or already built courses], and would like to become an instructor for S.I. [or would like to post these courses through S.I.] What do I need to do?
The first step is contacting either a Founder or Dean. Certainly you have a resume to hand off, and information about your skills/courses. Be prepared to send that to your first contact. Know that we are always looking for qualified, motivated teachers, and courses to plug in to our growing curricula and programs. The things you need to know up front include:
- We do not “hire” anyone. Your students will pay you directly;
- We use Moodle academic software on our .US web site in which to build and deploy our courses. Therefore be prepared for a learning curve associated with that;
- Because you are self-marketing, we try to produce one-page course flyers that explain the course, where it fits into larger programs, etc. You will therefore need to provide such marketing materials, if you realistically expect students to find your courses, and find them desirable enough to pay for;
- In some cases, we would put the right instructor with already constructed courses. But that is the exception. Generally the savvy instructor will look for courses where instructors are needed, build their own syllabi to deliver the course, and launch it. That implies you have more talent than just to grab a McGraw-Hill textbook, and teach from it. You should have access to a set of the Great Books of the Western World. Find a (GB) course in our catalog that is yet undeployed, build the syllabus with GB readings, submit the syllabus to the Dean wherein your course would fit, and get it approved.
If all of that hasn’t yet scared you away, great! Here’s what we need from you:
- Education commensurate with, and practical experience in, the field(s) where you want to apply your skills;
- An entrepreneurial attitude;
- The ability to create your own syllabus for each course you want to teach;
- To work with our Textbook Review Team, developing our program from scratch, with texts we have selected or are researching for assorted courses (or that you have written);
- Personal possession of a set of the Great Books of the Western World for any course(s) where they are employed, and/or personal possession of any other text(s) to be used in the course(s) taught;
- Available hours in which to conduct distance-based classroom conferences sufficient to deliver student interaction in a “live” environment, time to grade and instruct your students generally, and the time to participate with general Sherman Institute teacher-centered instruction on use of our web site and other tools.
In general, it takes a minimum of 40-60 hours time to create a good syllabus from scratch. This is a personal investment of your own. We will look at your educational background, and if selected to be an instructor, the courses on the master list will be reviewed. Those where you feel comfortable can then be offered to you for development. Courses that are already in development are reserved for the instructor(s) handling those programs, except that on occasion an otherwise busy instructor may “farm out” instruction for a semester.
Our semester length is 12 weeks. Therefore, syllabi created for all except pure “Continuing Education” classes are expected to be delivered in that time frame. Within those rather broad guidelines, and other things we will simply refer to as what should be presumed “common sense” and “within the bounds of reality,” the manner in which you teach the course(s) is left fairly well to your creative discretion. Upon review by the Dean of the program wherein your course(s) fall, that syllabus will be approved and the course slated for delivery in those appropriate semester(s) of a given year. This again, is fairly flexible, based on market, year level of the course, and other common sense considerations.
This syllabus will be your intellectual property. Who may use it, and how it may be used, is up to you. As an example, let’s presume the demand for your course is so great in a given semester that even after splitting your own student load among three classes, you can no longer teach more students. Sherman Institute wants to use the syllabus and have another instructor offer several more classes. You could license it to that instructor for a flat fee per student, a flat fee per course, or you could license it to Sherman Institute for a year. In that way, you make money for your investment of time creating the course.
Let’s say also that you write your own niche-specific textbook for the course. You will be selling your book (as you otherwise do for classes you are personally teaching) to students and instructor, thereby generating additional income via royalties. (Now you see why we want an entrepreneurial attitude?)
In general, we have set a broad policy on the cost of taking assorted courses. However, within that policy you have some flexibility in pricing the per-student cost of taking your class. Demand, academic level, and other market factors can influence a “realistic” cost for a student. But the final decision, within those parameters, will be yours. Furthermore, Sherman Institute does not touch your money. What you charge is what you receive, directly from the student. When attending here as a student, whether enrolled as a full-time, degree-seeking candidate or as a Continuing Education (adult) occasional student, Sherman Institute really charges nothing directly to a student. Deans assess their own fees, etc.
The only time there will be any interference whatsoever would be in the case of a student dropping your class within the specified “add or drop class” time policy. In that case, you would be expected to refund the fee directly to the student (if they simply drop the class), or to transfer it to the other instructor(s) involved (if they transfer into a different class) within the appropriate time specified in that policy.
If you want to be successful, the best guarantee of that is for you to help us all to be successful. That implies another element of an entrepreneurial spirit: marketing. As we are not capitalized with a million dollar advertising budget, much of what we will rely on will be good-will among our students and professors. Reach out to your personal network, letting people know what we are offering. Every student brought in for Sherman Institute will be more potential students for you. Every student brought in by other instructors will then flow your direction. This should be viewed as a start-up, team effort. Together we stand, alone we will be stood on.
As a contract instructor (or Dean), you should understand the basics of your contractual relationships here. First, when you agree to teach any course, there is created thereby a contractual relationship with Sherman Institute. Honor that, regardless of what comes from it. If only 10 students come in the first semester (if that is our agreed-upon minimum student enrollment), teach it with all the vigor you would under better circumstances. Secondly, when students enroll in your class(es), there is a similar but separate contractual relationship between you and them. Your obligation is to teach, their obligation is to pay your instructor fee, and to learn from you. If you keep your focus on those fundamentals, the trickier situations tend to take care of themselves over time. (Or at least, your involvement with delicate situations certainly becomes more clear as to how to best handle them.)
WE ARE NOT:
- An “employer.” We offer no benefit package(s), insurance, or other such programs, nor do we deduct any state or federal taxes from monies you receive from your students. Any tax liability is your own responsibility to report, submit in a timely manner to the appropriate taxing agency, and etc., as you determine that liability and obligation to be.
- An “accredited” University. Therefore, there are no “tenure” or other traditional academic systems in place to insulate you from the “real world” of the free market. If you meet your obligation to your students and want to be here, and all other market factors acting upon us are favorable, those are the only assurances offered or given that we can continue working together for any period of time. We cannot promise anything to ourselves, so we cannot promise anything to you. We can offer you a common place, among others of like-minds, where you can find students and students can find you. Beyond that, our collective fate is in our collective hands.
• Independent Study Courses
Did you know you can take the vast majority of courses offered by Sherman Institute in Independent Study mode? If you see a course listed on our allied web sites that pique your interest, contact the instructor (whose name appears right under the course title/number). Even if the course is NOT listed as available during the current semester schedule, or if there are less than 3 interested students for a given semester, or if you missed a semester enrollment deadline, that instructor may offer it to you one-on-one! Imagine – your own PRIVATE, tutoring experience. By taking the course, virtually everything obtained in the semester classroom setting is available to you – including regular interaction (although private) with the instructor. Better yet, you get the quality of attention no student finds at major universities.
• Personal Education Programs
Did you know you can design your own tailored Program at Sherman Institute? Certificate Programs are typically 21 (+/-) credit hours. Associate Degrees are typically 70 credit hours. Bachelor Degrees are typically 140 credit hours. Contact the General Studies Dean for a consultation. By collecting courses from any of our niche offers you can build your own certificate or degree program as your academic needs warrant. Want a Political Science, History, Theology, Journalism, English, or other certificate/degree? All you need do is ask, design, and launch your studies! Where a specific “vocation” is on your mind, your program can be tailored to that need. But it will still contain the foundations necessary to give you the “liberal arts” education so desired.
• Need to fill gaps in your education?
Since starting Sherman Institute, our Founders and Deans have been amazed at the number of adult students looking to bridge gaps in their former education. The deliberate dumbing-down of the populace has become more recognizable among those with advanced (Bachelors +) degrees. Care to take classes where the average student already has a Bachelors or Masters? Sherman Institute seems to fit that billing. Studying with such bright people rubs off on everyone involved. This is the place people seem to wind up when wanting to obtain what was ignored in late 20th century, numbers-oriented and grant-driven universities. Think you are missing something? Sherman Institute can help with that.
These FAQs have not answered my question(s). What are my options?
Submit your question(s) by e-mail to a Dean. Deans are aware of most subjects about which you could possibly inquire, and are always assisting students in attaining their educational goals. To speak to a real human being (which is still the best), you can contact Aaron via 803-369-3605. Leave a message if he isn’t at his desk — day or night.