"Reacting was completely unique in my college experience. In playing those games, the words of Gandhi, Socrates, and other historical figures became mine, transcending the academic distance to which I had grown accustomed... Their thoughts, their histories, their biographies are real and alive in my mind."
—Amanda Houle, Barnard College alumna
Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills.
"I have never seen students this engaged. They write more than the assignments require; everyone, shy or not, participates vigorously in the debates. They read important texts with real understanding, making complex arguments and ideas their own."
—Larry Carver, Director of the Liberal Arts Honors Programs, University of Texas at Austin
Pioneered by historian Mark C. Carnes, Reacting to the Past (RTTP) has been implemented at over 300 colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. To support this growing network, the central program office at Barnard organizes both regional workshops and an annual institute to introduce faculty to the games. It also hosts an interactive web site where affiliated faculty can share course materials, questions, and advice.