Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines

Volume 32, Issue 1, Spring 2021

Erik Goldner
Pages 19-36

Teaching the Enlightenment in the Twenty-First Century

This article presents both practical tips for, and explores theoretical considerations related to, teaching the Enlightenment in the twenty-first century college classroom. It begins by reviewing some of the many resources instructors today can use as they guide their students through the Enlightenment. It then explores how scholars’ understanding of the period has changed over time, before examining what students learn about the Enlightenment before they come to college, and then considers the politics of teaching the Enlightenment today. The article then pivots back to the practical and explores the many things we can do with our students as we engage with the Enlightenment. However the Enlightenment may be conceived—whether as one or many, reformist or revolutionary, a movement or a series of debates—this article argues it is vital we keep teaching it in these times.