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Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC 29303-3663)
Christine Sorrell Dinkins (Project Director: September 2011 to September 2014)
Julie Sexeny (Co Project Director: March 2012 to September 2014)

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants
Education Programs

$20,297 (approved)
$19,989 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2012 – 4/30/2014

NEH Enduring Questions Course on "How Do We Best Educate Citizens?"

The development of an undergraduate seminar on the question, How do we best educate citizens?

This discussion-based first-year undergraduate seminar is jointly developed by Christine Dinkins, an assistant professor of philosophy, and Julie Sexeny, an assistant professor of English and film. The course approaches the issue of "what goals, content, and methods of education . . . best serve to educate citizens in a democracy" by challenging students "to critique the concept of education and its assumptions about citizenship." In the course's first unit ("Why do we teach and learn?"), students consider the nature of good citizenship, ask who has the authority to define it, and assess the value of education. Course readings include Plato, Republic, Books II and III; Friedrich Nietzsche, essays from Twilight of the Idols and Beyond Good and Evil; Mark Edmunson, "On the Uses of a Liberal Education: As Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students"; and Parker J. Palmer and Arthur Zajonc, The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal. The second unit ("What do we teach and learn?") considers what counts as knowledge, who has authority over it, the value of a canon of knowledge, and the effect of a canon on voices excluded from it. Readings encompass Plato, Apology; Jamaica Kincaid, "In History"; Richard Rodriguez, "The Achievement of Desire"; and Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author." In the third unit ("How do we teach and learn?"), the class addresses the best ways of engaging students in learning, the role of authority in the classroom, and the extent to which technology allows students to become independent learners. The readings include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile: Or, Treatise on Education; Plato, Republic, Book VII; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Books II and VI; Paolo Freire, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"; and Martha Nussbaum, "Citizens of the World." The core reading list also includes three contemporary works on the uses of technology in higher education. Professor Dinkins and Professor Sexeny each teach a section of the course in Fall 2012 and Fall 2013; the two groups meet jointly in the evening to view and discuss two films: George Lucas' THX 1138 and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist. Electronic postings and short documentary projects engage the college community in the subject.