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Philosophy professor wins prestigious “Enduring Questions” NEH grant

April 13, 2010

Peter Bradley, assistant professor of Philosophy, has won a prestigious “Enduring Questions” grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The “Enduring Questions” grant program supports professors’ efforts to develop courses that “will encourage undergraduate students and a teacher to grapple with a fundamental question addressed by the humanities, and to join together in a deep and sustained program of reading in order to encounter influential thinkers over the centuries and into the present day,” according to the NEH Web site.

Examples of “Enduring Questions” include “What is the good life?,” “What is happiness?,” and “What is good government?”

Bradley, who is also the acting director of McDaniel’s Honors Program, plans to use his grant to develop a course that will examine the question, “Why Be Educated.”

“Being educated is generally held to be, if not a moral imperative, morally preferable to being uneducated. But why?,” Bradley asks.

Bradley says he will design the course this summer and teach it as part of the College’s First-Year Seminar in the Fall 2010 and during the Fall of 2011.

Students will discuss the works of great thinkers – from Plato to Aristotle to W.E.B DuBois to Ghandi – and be required to apply these views to their own understanding and critique of higher education by looking at McDaniel’s curriculum, as well as the curricula of other American colleges and universities.

They’ll maintain a class blog in an effort to form a community discussion on the topic, interact with educators via video-conferencing software to explore the question of the value of formal education, and participate in campus forums on the history and theory of liberal education.

Bradley says the questions he wants students to explore include: Is an educated person a more moral or virtuous person than an uneducated person? Are the liberally educated somehow better people than the technically educated? Are those who grapple with the ‘enduring questions’ better equipped to adapt to the complexities of modern life than those with a technical, vocational education?

Bradley says most students should, but probably rarely do, ask themselves why they should be educated before they ask themselves which major they should choose, which career they should pursue, or even whether they should attend college.

“This course is designed to rectify that fault,” he says.

Created in 1965, the National Endowment for the Humanities is one of the country’s largest financial supporters of humanities programs, according to its Web site. NEH grants typically support projects at cultural institutions – such as museums, libraries, colleges and universities – as well as individual scholars.