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This first required course for the Doctor of Education degree program, The Great Conversation: The Cornerstone Course is specially designed to guide the student through the process of designing her or his program of study. Students are introduced to the interpretive process used at the university by learning how to write effective higher order evaluative questions which prepares students for the in-depth discussions that follow in this course and throughout their studies in the doctoral program. Students learn how to best utilize Encyclopedia Britannica's 60-volume set of the Great Books of the Western World in order to get the most out of their doctoral studies research. Finally, students choose the additional coursework and begin the preliminary work towards planning the appropriate legal research in preparation for designing the applied project.

At the heart of the curriculum at Harrison Middleton University is discussion. In The Great Conversation: The Cornerstone Course, the student participates in a series of one-to-one discussions in which he or she will discuss the learning objectives and the expected outcomes for the Doctor of Education degree program they are designing. These discussions are in-depth conversations, based on specific readings, which explore the history of education in Western culture and the significant issues concerning education today.

The best way for students to develop a sophisticated knowledge of education is through a careful examination of ideas, topics, and subtopics discussed by the greatest minds of Western cultural across the past twenty-five centuries. By using a combination of primary source documents from Great Books of the Western World and legal documents - federal and state laws, regulations and rules - the Doctor of Education degree program ensures that students acquire the breadth of knowledge that is the hallmark of an excellent liberal arts education while exploring the educational environment in today's world. Some of the topics students explore include: the means and ends of education, the kinds of education (physical, moral, liberal, professional, religious), the training of the body and the cultivation of bodily skills, the formation of a good character (virtue, a right will), the cultivation of aesthetic taste, the improvement of the mind by teaching and learning, the profession of teaching (the relation of teacher and student), the means and methods of teaching, the nature of learning (its several modes), the order of learning (the organization of the curriculum), learning apart from teachers and books (the role of experience), the acquisition of techniques, preparation for the vocations, arts, and professions, education and the state, and historical and biographical observations concerning the institutions and practices of education.

No idea stands as an isolated, self-contained entity. In addition to a comprehensive study on topics and subtopics concerning education, Doctor of Education degree program students expand the research and study by exploring the interrelationships between ideas, for example, the relationship between education and citizen, constitution, democracy, government and state. This provides the most intensive and detailed research.

Students select readings from the Great Books of the Western World that contain the works of 130 authors and includes 517 selections. As large and diverse as the number of works in the Great Books of the Western World is, they do not exhaust the number of authors or books that have made a contribution to the ideas of western civilization. Students may also explore the works of authors from an extensive list of additional readings. The authors raise persistent human questions, and their different interpretations of those questions reveal a variety of independent yet complementary meanings. Whether the works are epic poems or political treatises, and whether the subject matter is scientific, historical, or philosophical, they are all linked together. Through the centuries, the great authors introduce, support, elaborate upon, respond to, and criticize each other. Students at Harrison Middleton University explore different facets of an idea as it is discussed by various authors. For example, students will find that Dewey was influenced by Aristotle, Plato, Ptolemy and Copernicus. Toqueville cites nineteen other authors.

In addition, students are required to do comprehensive legal research in preparation for designing the applied project. After completing the coursework and the legal research, students are required to report the findings and propose recommendations for addressing an issue or problem in a scholarly legal article. Upon approval, students then execute their plan for an applied project.