The History Department seeks to help students develop an analytical understanding of the cultures, societies, institutions, leaders, and events that have shaped the broad social evolution of the world and, more specifically, of the United States, preparing them to undertake active and responsible roles in society.
Offering a program of required courses which exposes all students to the study of geography, ancient and medieval history, modern European history, and American history, the department works to instill in students both an awareness of and a curiosity about the ever changing nature of the world in which they live. Through their study of history, students cultivate an informed appreciation for their own culture and national identity, and they develop a new perspective on cultures and traditions that are fundamentally different from their own. Cognizant of its role in "citizen building," the department seeks to provide students with the intellectual and moral foundation for constructive participation in the democratic institutions that affect both their own lives and the lives of those around them. As they actively engage the past and apply a critical and reflective eye to those events that have shaped contemporary society, students achieve a better understanding of their own lives and become prepared for future challenges.
The teaching methodology in all courses includes frequent opportunities for discussion, as well as regular oral presentations by students. Independent student work consists of reading assignments, topical projects, brief analytical papers, and research papers. Essential skills of critical and creative thinking and expository essay writing receive particular emphasis in the upper grades. The department employs various forms of audiovisual media to complement the curriculum.
A history course is required in grades seven, eight, ten, and eleven. Many students pursue electives in their senior year. Upper School courses are taught on AP, honors, and standard levels.
- Modern European History
- US History
- AP US History
- Advanced Topics in US History
- AP US Government
Required of all seventh grade students, this course helps to develop basic skills in geography, including map reading, map making, interpretation of geographic charts and diagrams, acquisition of some technical vocabulary, and collection and analysis of factual information with an eye toward problem-solving. Students study the interrelationship of geographic, economic, and political factors in today’s world, accumulating a store of information, which will lay the foundation for future readings in history, politics, and economics.
Ancient & Medieval History: Required of all eighth grade students, this course surveys the ideas and events that preceded and contributed to the formation of the “modern era.” In their study, students investigate time periods from the advent of the River Valley civilizations to the waning of the European Middle Ages. Though particular emphasis is directed toward the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as the rise of Christian Europe, the course is designed to make students aware of the parallel achievements of non-European civilizations of each era, especially those in China, India, and the Islamic world.
This tenth grade course focuses on developments in Europe from the sixteenth century to the present. The course seeks to present historical facts as accurately as possible while still exposing students to a variety of viewpoints and conflicting interpretations of the eras studied. Special attention is given to the French Revolution, the rise of nationalism, the First and Second World Wars, and the Western World since 1945. Students do frequent writing, including research papers. Oral presentations are another regular feature of the course. Some students in the honors sections are invited to take the AP Modern European History exam in May.
This eleventh grade course surveys the political, economic, social, and cultural evolution of American society. Its focus spans the colonial period to the present. Emphasis is placed upon the exploration of concepts vital to the understanding of the American tradition. The main text is supplemented by outside readings where appropriate. A research paper of eight to ten pages is required in the second semester.
This junior year course focuses intensively on the 20th century, considering the works of important American historians as well as textbook readings. Students become proficient in responding to questions based on primary source documents, and they learn to devise free response essays that are both effective and efficient. While the course involves some lecture, seminar-style discussion is emphasized and preferred. All students are prepared for and are required to take the AP U.S. History exam in May.
This course examines in depth the most controversial decisions the U.S. faced during the 20th and 21st centuries. Questions studied will include the following: Should we have joined the Allied efforts in World War I and II? Did JFK handle the Cuban Missile Crisis properly? What should have been U.S. policy in Vietnam and, more recently, in the Middle East? What is the proper role of the U.S. in world affairs—policeman; last, best hope of humanity; or Fortress America and isolation? Public speaking skills are emphasized as student’s research, prepare, and defend positions on all these issues.
This course features a study of American government at the national, state, and local levels. It examines the three branches of the United States government and outlines their responsibilities. The Constitution is studied, with special attention given to the Supreme Court decisions that have shaped our nation into a strong federal system. Other topics examined include citizenship, civil rights, and the politics of American democracy. An oral presentation on a designated Supreme Court case serves as a culmination of the course for each student. All students are prepared for and are required to take the AP U.S. Government exam in May.