Religion 348: The Secularization of Whitman College
Students in REL 348 use materials in the Whitman College and Northwest Archives to investigate possible factors behind the secularization of Whitman College. When Whitman became a college in 1882, it very much functioned as a cog in the engine of an informal Protestant establishment that claimed that without the inculcation of Christian (i.e., Protestant) virtues, students would lack the necessary self-restraint that citizens in a self-governing republic required. After seminar discussions of the secondary sources that survey the social, intellectual, and institutional reasons that prompted universities and eventually colleges to buck the Protestant establishment and its hold upon the curriculum, students focus upon Whitman College and its history, choose topics for archival research, assemble and examine primary and secondary sources, formulate historical questions and thesis statements, and eventually produce a 20 to 25 page research paper. The goal of the course is to help students, particularly majors in Religion, graduate from writing short analytical papers characteristic of Whitman’s first-year Encounters and survey courses in Religion to writing a senior thesis, required of every major in the Religion Department.