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REFORMING THE EQ CURRICULUM

AUSTIN HOOD ’21 | STAFF WRITER • Love it or hate it, Enduring Questions is a right of passage for all current Wabash students. The course, which is required for all freshman, is taught every year in the spring and is centered around readings which facilitate discussion among first-year Wallies. The readings and structure of the class have been periodically reworked since the course was first offered. The syllabus will require new texts when this year’s freshman take it in the upcoming spring semester.

Enduring Questions, or EQ, was introduced in 2011 as a successor to Cultures and Traditions, a full-year required course for sophomores. The course, created by a group of students and faculty, intends to develop skills that are seen as necessary to academic success at Wabash.

“To some extent we are building on what students learn in their tutorial,” Cheryl Hughes, Chair of the Philosophy Department and one of many faculty members involved with setting the EQ syllabus, said. “We are emphasizing writing, good critical discussion, good reading, which are all skills necessary to success at the College. A class where students read interesting and significant class together without a real expert is a valuable experience. In short, it’s about asking questions. That’s really valuable to the liberal arts and to society in general.”

A re-working of the syllabus has happened numerous times since the course was first offered. The fluidity of required readings was in fact a feature that was included in the framework of the course.

“Professors get excited about new texts, we like to keep the course fresh for faculty,” Robert Royalty, Professor of Religion, who was heavily involved in the creation of the course said. “In some areas we are planning on simply swapping out texts so that they still raise important questions. I think we want to explore new ways of exploring issues such as identity, class, race, and gender. Some of the previous texts gave too many answers and weren’t raising enough contemporary questions. There’s always an ongoing experimental nature about keeping the course open to instructor creativity as well as commonality.”

Among the readings being removed from the syllabus for the spring semester is the graphic novel Watchmen, created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir about life in Appalachia by J.D. Vance, is one of the texts being introduced to EQ next semester.

In addition to readings which replace texts that deal with existing topics within the EQ framework, new topics will be addressed in the re-worked spring semester syllabus.

“There are often ideas of new topics, different kinds of question,” Hughes said. “This year, for example, we are adding a section on mental health. We also haven’t been satisfied with discussion on gender, so we are adding readings on that. This comes from faculty interest and a sense that students would benefit from these discussions. The beauty of this class is that these texts are rich and many other questions arise is different classrooms. Classroom discussions aren’t limited at all to the basic framing questions of the course.”

Even with the reworking of the syllabus, many Wallies hold a critical view of Enduring Questions.

“Enduring Questions as a successor to Cultures and Traditions is a failure,” a sophomore who requested that his name not be printed said. “My main opposition to the course is the vacuousness of the questions. The questions asked do not merit the class time dedicated to them and freshman are unprepared to answer them. So you spend up spending weeks discussing basically nothing. It’s just not the best use of everyone’s time. Studying what it means to be humans for three weeks is worthless, not because being human is worthless but because of the discussions. The discussion essentially consist of a lot of mindless platitudes and talking in circles.The fundamental problem with the course is that it spends a lot of time posing questions that don’t merit a lot of discussion or are simply not worth asking. For God’s sake I should understand that after taking the course for an entire semester.”

However, not all Wabash Men find themselves in opposition to EQ. The opinions are varied.

“The course is important because it raises questions and build critical thinking values that are necessary to living in a changing world,” Immanuel Sodipe ’18 said. Sodipe worked as a preceptor for the course his sophomore year and will be doing so again next semester.

“I think that the course get students who are not accustomed to thinking critically about society and culture to do so,” Sodipe said. “I think it’s a very good way to get Wabash Men to start thinking about really important issues.”