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 History 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 three case studies in modern world history, focusing on the links between the past and the present and between Western and non-Western worlds. Past areas of focus have included South Africa, Cuba, China, and the Middle East, which allow students to trace themes of revolution and reform in a variety of contexts. Each unit includes its own specific research project to develop research skills, analytical thinking, and thesis-driven writing. 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 secondary sources, 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. 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 per 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 for AP United States History: Modern European History and teacher permission. Meets 4 times per 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 2 times per week.

Yearlong Senior Electives

AP United States Government and Politics

This course is a college-level introduction to politics and government in the United States and seeks to prepare students for active, informed participation in civic life. We will examine the historical and philosophical origins of the U.S. Constitution and trace the ways that government institutions, laws, and political culture have changed over time as we grapple with modern political dilemmas. Students can expect to read and discuss a wide variety of “texts,” from the Federalist Papers and Supreme Court decisions to public opinion polling data and cable news clips. We will also learn to account for bias as we interpret data and develop evidence-based arguments about political issues of personal importance to each of us. Prerequisite: U.S. History and teacher permission. Meets 4 times per 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 per week.

Global Scholars Capstone Seminar I

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. Application required. Meets 4 times per week.

America Between the Wars (1919 - 1941)

This course will take an American Studies approach to exploring American history in the 1920s and 30s. It will focus on the intersections of the political, economic, social, and cultural forces of the times. We will consider three different eras within the years between the wars: The “Roaring 20s” and its reputation as a time of fun, prosperity, cultural richness, and consumerism; The Great Depression and how impacted daily life in the cities and the countryside; and The New Deal and how it transformed American society. A wide variety of primary materials from art, photography and music to diaries and literature, as well as a few secondary sources, will be used. Meets 4 times per week.

The Cold War

This course will explore the global rivalry that developed between the United States and Soviet Union after WWII. Building upon students’ study of the Cold War in Modern European History and U.S. History, we will examine the impacts of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry on Latin America, Asia, and Africa, while at the same time probing more deeply into the political and military history of the Cold War in the U.S. and Europe. We will also explore the social and cultural impacts of the confrontation between the two superpowers. 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. Meets 4 times per 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 per week.

Second Semester Senior Electives

Global Scholars Capstone Seminar II: Independent Project

This course is required for students interested in gaining recognition as a Thayer Academy Global Scholar. Building upon the work undertaken in the fall component of the course, 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. Application required. Meets 4 times per 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 per 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 per 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 per 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 per 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 per 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 per 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.