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History

The graduation requirement for the study of history is three years. Students should take World History during their freshman year. All students are required to complete Modern European History, generally taken during the sophomore year, and United States History, generally taken during the junior year. Electives for seniors explore particular historical subjects in depth, promote global understanding, and introduce social science concepts. With rare exceptions, students are not eligible to take these electives until they have completed Modern European and United States History. World and Modern European courses offer honors sections, and United States History students can take AP History to prepare for the Advanced Placement test. Honors and AP sections of senior electives are also available. Students are placed in these sections on the basis of past performance, standardized test scores, teacher recommendations, and, when necessary, department-designed applications.

World History (and Honors World History)

This course features area studies of South Africa, China, and the Middle East, focusing on the links between the past and the present and between Western and non-Western worlds. The first half of the second term is devoted primarily to a research project, where students learn research and writing techniques as they investigate pivotal events or other historical topics from different eras and various countries. A variety of materials and approaches are used in teaching this course, with careful attention given to developing strong writing and study skills. Use of primary sources, maps, literature, and videos helps students gain knowledge and stimulates curiosity about the past. Meets 4 times per week.

Modern European History (and Honors Modern European History)

This course emphasizes major themes in modern European history from the Renaissance to the present. By reading both textbook and primary sources, students learn to think about major historical issues. Students are introduced to political, economic, cultural, and intellectual history and focus on how these forces have shaped the modern world. Students hone their research, analytic, and writing skills through a variety of assignments and activities. Meets 4 times a week.

United States History (and AP United States History)

The major focus of this course is the development of the American nation as its population has diversified, its economy has matured, and its responsibilities have multiplied. The course emphasizes the analysis and interpretation of historical information. Students read primary documents as well as a basic textbook. Class discussions, lectures, and films help students integrate and appreciate what they are reading; additionally, they learn to synthesize ideas and facts by writing a major research paper. The Advanced Placement curriculum stresses various interpretations of American history and requires students to complete a substantial amount of college-level reading and writing. (Prerequisite: Modern European History) Meets 4 times a week.

Law and Society

This full-year, half-credit, course (meeting twice a week) is open to all Upper School students. The purpose of the class is two-fold: 1) to use historical and literary resources to explore the role of law in American society, and 2) to prepare for participation in the annual state-wide Mock Trial competition sponsored by the Mass Bar Association. Readings, discussions, films, and other resources will support the study of specific court cases in history and in literature and will provide an introduction to legal issues prominent at different times in American history. Additionally, the Mock Trial portion of the class will offer a hands-on opportunity to learn about legal methods and the legal process. (This course does not count toward the graduation requirement for history.) Meets twice a week.

First Semester Senior Electives

Honors Seminar: Global History Lessons

This honors elective will explore how an understanding of the past can help us navigate the problems we face in the world today. In our attempt to gain an appreciation for the usefulness of history, we will consider historians and authors in other fields as they examine historical events across time and throughout the world, and we will apply their approaches to global concerns in the 21st century. A central focus of this course will be on how change happens and how societies respond to significant environmental, economic, and political changes. Students in this Honors- level class will be expected to bear a heavier reading load, participate eagerly in class discussions, and prepare written essays or other projects more frequently than might be expected in other Senior Electives. (Prerequisite: a “B+” or better in AP United States History or an “A-” or better in United States History and teachers’ recommendations) Meets 4 times a week.

Global Scholars Capstone Seminar

This course is required for students interested in gaining recognition as a Thayer Academy Global Scholar. The course will encourage students to consider the meaning of “global citizenship” as we explore the role of national, multinational, and non-governmental organizations and assess their efforts in the area of global health, education, human rights, and economic development. Together we will examine the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and evaluate the current status of those rights in the world today; we will connect with Thayer graduates and discuss their experiences as “global citizens”; we will consider the limitations and the promise of NGOs as they set goals and try to improve our world; and with the support of the course teacher or another faculty mentor, students will develop an independent project to be completed in the second semester and to be presented to the community in the spring. (1 section; application required) Meets 4 times per week.

Economics

By introducing basic economic theory and examining both micro and macro concepts, this course provides students with an understanding of the many ways economics affects people’s lives. These theories are examined under the critical eye of the main economic ideologies, an approach designed to give students a perspective on the differences of opinion that dominate current economic discussions regarding inflation, unemployment, military spending, and consumer protection. [Please note: students who take this course in the fall will not be eligible to take AP Microeconomics in the spring.] Meets 4 times a week.

The Presidential Election and American Politics

Love Politics? Just want to learn more about this election? This class will follow and debate issues and tactics, plan a school meeting to help educate the student body, and run a school-wide mock election. After the election, there will be time to examine the problems a new President might face and the proposals a new administration might make, and perhaps explore key elections and Presidential events from the past as well. Meets 4 times per week.

History of Ireland

This is a survey course of Ireland’s 8,000-year history presented as a simulcast of past (history proper) and present (current affairs). The premise is that Ireland provides an effective case study for the concerns of contemporary peoples and historians: imperialism and post-colonialism, nationalism and globalism, religious and sectarian conflict, immigration and emigration, terrorism and conflict resolution. We explore how writers, filmmakers, and musicians have represented the rebirth of this “troubled” nation, and we ask provocative questions about nation building and defense. Meets 4 times a week.

Introduction to Psychology

In this psychology course, we will learn about some of the major areas of psychology, e.g. scientific research in psychology, learning and cognition, cognitive and social development over the lifespan, sleep and hypnosis, memory, motivation, personality, the treatment of psychological disorders and topics in social psychology (attitudes, prejudice, conformity, obedience, attraction, antisocial behavior, prosocial behavior, etc.). Our exploration of the field will rely on nightly reading assignments, discussion, and review of both current and classic research in the field. Students will learn to be critical consumers of research studies and to understand the components involved in designing a good research study. If you are interested in gaining a more scientific and objective understanding of why we humans act the way we do, particularly in relationship to one another and in groups (the social context), this course will interest you. Meets 4 times a week.

Modern American Culture

This course is designed to study American Pop Culture (music, television, advertising, fashion, etc.) since 1950. Students will use a specific form of analysis called “semiotics” to look at various signs and symbols of American culture, with particular emphasis on race, class, and gender issues, to gain a greater understanding of each era and of cultural trends across the decades. Students will use a mixture of research, analysis, reasoning, and thoughtfulness to learn about American Pop Culture and to complete a variety of individual and group projects and papers. Meets 4 times a week.

Second Semester Senior Electives

AP Microeconomics

Relying on Jeffrey Perloff’s Microeconomics, Professor John Gruber’s MIT OpenCourseware lectures, and in-class discussion sessions, problem sets, and supplementary work, this course will provide a true college-level introduction to the field of microeconomics. We will explore the fundamentals of supply and demand in a market economy by focusing on the factors influencing the decisions of consumers and producers, and we will consider how those decisions play out under the conditions of perfect competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. (Prerequisite: Mr. Dunne’s permission, granted during the course registration period, based upon previous History grades, math ability, and teachers’ recommendations) Meets 4 times a week.

African History and the Afro-American Experience

This course emphasizes the social, economic, and cultural history of Africa from ancient to modern time. The study of representative events and issues from selected areas of Africa enables students to develop an understanding of the complexities of African history and provides the background to study effectively the Afro-American experience. The latter portion of the course concentrates on nineteenth- and twentieth-century figures, events, and issues. Use is made of novels, biographies, monographs, and films. Meets 4 times a week.

Art History

This course introduces students to the history of world art and architecture from Ancient Art through Impressionism. The course will include the study of materials and production. In addition, we will address issues such as gender, culture, identity, power, religion, and the reception of the art (both ancient and modern). We will examine the purpose of art in different cultures and the increasing emphasis placed on art’s critical function in society, both culturally and politically. Meets 4 times a week.

Resolving Global Conflicts

Should the United States intervene in Ukraine? How should the U.S. respond to the threat of ISIS? What role does the UN or the United States have when a group like Boko Haram kidnaps students in Nigeria? What can we learn from past crises, and how can we apply historical lessons to current global conflicts? In this course, we will examine how leaders and organizations have tried to resolve global issues in the past and apply these lessons to current global conflicts. By using a case study approach, students will learn about the historical roots of conflicts and will assess the challenges in resolving them in today’s world. Depending on current events next spring, topics might include war, religion, economics, the environment, health care, gender, or children. Our examinations will rely upon a variety of sources, such as readings, film, and the internet. Meets 4 times a week.

Contemporary Issues

Using a variety of materials and methods, students will examine current issues that affect both the United States and the global community. The exact course of study will depend a great deal on what topics most interest this group of students. Issues explored this past year, for example, included: abortion, capital punishment, and our “Fast Food Nation.” Meets 4 times a week.

Introduction to Psychology

In this psychology course, we will learn about some of the major areas of psychology, e.g. scientific research in psychology, learning and cognition, cognitive and social development over the lifespan, sleep and hypnosis, memory, motivation, personality, the treatment of psychological disorders and topics in social psychology (attitudes, prejudice, conformity, obedience, attraction, antisocial behavior, prosocial behavior, etc.). Our exploration of the field will rely on nightly reading assignments, discussion, and review of both current and classic research in the field. Students will learn to be critical consumers of research studies and to understand the components involved in designing a good research study. If you are interested in gaining a more scientific and objective understanding of why we humans act the way we do, particularly in relationship to one another and in groups (the social context), this course will interest you. Meets 4 times a week.

Sports and Society

In this course, students will explore the relationship between sports and society in the United States. Students will consider the importance of sports to local, regional, and national identity; the concepts of the hero, antihero, and role model; issues of racial and gender equality; positive and negative values promoted through sports; and connections between sports, religion, and politics. The course will depend upon a wide range of sources, including excerpts, articles, feature films, documentaries, and works of fiction. Meets 4 times a week.

Visions of War

In his influential book The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien explores the concept of “how to tell a true war story.” We will consider the same by looking at how war stories—conveyed through various means—shape our understanding of history. Most specifically, this course will examine the presentation and representation of America at war in Vietnam and the Middle East. We will consider how these wars are fought with a focus on issues such as fear and courage, leadership and brotherhood, race and gender. What are the effects that war has on soldiers and the society to which they return? How does America choose to view and remember its violent conflicts—how do we interpret current events and memorialize the past? The course will cover a wide range of artistic and historical material including literature, film, music, personal accounts, propaganda, war memorials, and other historical documentation. Meets 4 times per week.

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