Courses

History & Social Sciences

R.G. Collingwood, a British philosopher, suggested that history is an inquiry that, in instructing us about what we have done, helps us understand who we are. At St. Mark’s, the History Department exposes students not only to facts, but also to the imaginative process of understanding and evaluating the significance of those facts in the light of the present day. This process is a catalyst for intellectual growth, for it broadens and enriches one’s perception of human activity as it sharpens one’s powers of analysis and communication.Students become acquainted with history in varying ways: through texts, assorted documents, autobiographies, narratives, passages from literature, and works of art. While most classroom time is organized around discussion of assigned readings and lectures, teachers pay specific attention to the skills students must develop in the study of history. Those include various proficiencies in reading and writing and the organizing of material with techniques such as outlining and note-taking.The process of historical research begins early and continues throughout the curriculum. In the required American History course, students must present a researched historical essay on a subject of their choice. This project is prepared over a period of weeks during which the student and teacher work together in the library on the paper’s research and preparation. Students in Form VI, with appropriate permissions, may undertake independent study projects with the sponsorship of individual department members. These projects are viewed by the department as one-term courses, but may be extended by permission. Courses are divided into yearlong and semester offerings. The yearlong course in American History for students in Forms IV, V, and VI is a graduation requirement (this course is normally taken in Form V). All other courses are elective in that they are not required by the school for graduation. Yearlong elective offerings are available for each form.

Classes

Third Form Seminar: Our Times - Year

Knowledgeable readers know that certain themes have reappeared on the front pages of major newspapers over the course of the last several decades. Included amongst these themes have been economic issues (globalization, the rise of certain developing economies, the spread of free market capitalism and its challenges, etc.), security issues (tensions and wars in various regions of the world, international terrorism, the evolving role of the U.S. as a superpower, etc.), cultural and social issues (the evolving struggle for expanded civil rights and opposition to that struggle,  the spread of AIDS in Africa, the expanding role of technology in people’s lives, etc.), and environmental issues (global warming, resource depletion, etc.). This course examines important ideas and events behind some of these headlines, looking both at current events and the roots of those events that extend back into the recent past. Students will read from traditional historical sources, but will also be expected to read regularly the New York Times and other news sources from throughout the world. In addition, the course serves as both an introduction to historical studies at St. Mark’s and a strong preparation for the Department’s other offerings.

Throughout the course, students practice using essential skills that will help them be successful at St. Mark’s and beyond. Students will acquire good habits of organization and preparation and develop proficiency in communication of their ideas in spoken, written and electronic forms. The class will encourage students to take an active role in their learning though projects, research and inquiry, and group work.  (Required for all III Formers).

Our Times: History of the Contemporary World and Historical Methods

Knowledgeable readers know that certain themes have reappeared on the front pages of major newspapers over the course of the last several decades.  Included amongst these themes have been economic issues (globalization, the rise of certain developing economies, the spread of free market capitalism and its challenges, etc.), security issues (tensions and wars in various regions of the world, international terrorism, the evolving role of the U.S. as a superpower, etc.), cultural and social issues (the evolving struggle for expanded civil rights and opposition to that struggle, the spread of AIDS in Africa, the expanding role of technology in people’s lives, etc.), and environmental issues (global warming, resource depletion, etc.).  This course examines important ideas and events behind some of these headlines, looking both at current events and the roots of those events that extend back into the recent past.  Students will read from traditional historical sources, but will also be expected to read regularly the New York Times and other news sources from throughout the world.  In addition, the course serves as both an introduction to historical studies at St. Mark’s and a strong preparation for the Departmental requirement.  (Open to new IV Formers)

United States History- Year

This yearlong course, which fulfills the school’s graduation requirement in history, concentrates on the major events and developments in the U.S. from the Colonial period to the 1970s. Besides textbook study, there are readings in primary and selected secondary sources. Some written assignments involve the use of the school’s library. This course is intended to prepare able students to take the U.S. History SAT II Test.  (Open to Forms V and VI, IV with Departmental permission)

Advanced Placement United States History - Year

This course is designed for the student with a particular interest in history, offering a more intense and faster-paced investigation of U.S. history.  Upon completion, students are prepared to take the Advanced Placement Examination and the U.S. History SAT II Test.  (Open to Forms V and VI with Departmental permission, which will be based upon the student’s performance in Third Form Seminar, overall academic performance at St. Mark’s, and interest in historical studies)

Advanced Placement World History - Year

Far from an all-encompassing sprint through the entirety of human history, the AP World course nevertheless offers students the opportunity to explore the wonders of an extraordinary range of cultures and time periods.  The syllabus rejects the strict memorization of exact dates and political narratives in favor of an in-depth study of thematic trends, cross-cultural comparisons, and major events in the history of human and societal development.  Students will gain invaluable skills of analysis, critical thinking, and historical interpretation as we explore each new period, and will come to understand how the foundations were laid for the diverse and inter-connected world we now inhabit.  Topics include: how geography shapes societies, religious systems and their spread, political structures and social stratification, trade and cultural exchange, the impact of technological innovation and intellectual production, and the causes and consequences of war and revolution.  This course is recommended for students who have not taken U.S. History.  (Open to Forms IV, V, and VI with Departmental permission, which will be based upon the student’s performance in Third Form Seminar and overall academic performance at St. Mark’s.)

Advanced Placement European History - Year

This course surveys the history of Europe from the Renaissance through the collapse of Communism.  The course uses Palmer & Colton’s A History of the Modern World as well as many other sources to examine the events, movements, and people that influenced and contributed to the rise of Western civilization.  The course has several goals.  First, it prepares students for the Advanced Placement Examination by giving them a solid understanding of modern Europe’s historical narrative, including the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Absolutism, the Scien­tific Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Age of Political Revolutions, the Creation of Modern Nation-States, Imperialism, the World Wars, and the Cold War.  Second, beyond a solid understanding of the subject matter, students are given the opportunity to develop writing skills, note-taking skills, the ability to read and comprehend both primary and secondary materials in an analytical and critical manner, and the ability to present and defend cogent arguments both orally and in writing.  This course is recommended for students who have not taken U.S. History.  (Open to Forms IV, V, and VI with Departmental permission, which will be based upon the student’s performance in Third Form Seminar and overall academic performance at St. Mark’s.)

Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics - Year

This course examines the U.S. political system.  It provides an analytical perspective on U.S. government (the structure and function of institutions in this political system) and politics (how Americans select their representatives and how the representatives operate).  The course will explore the historical roots and constitutional underpinnings of U.S. government, how individuals behave and participate in government, how political parties, interest groups and the media interact with government, how the institutions of national government (Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy, and the Courts) operate, how government formulates and implements public policy, and the historical development of civil rights and civil liberties.  As we look at these subjects, we will also develop students’ skills and abilities, including their:  (1) writing and speaking skills;  (2) note-taking skills;  (3) abilities to read, comprehend, analyze, and critique both primary and secondary materials; (4) collaborative capabilities; and (5) abilities to present and defend cogent arguments.  Students will do this through a variety of assignments, including debates and research projects.  Finally, the course will spend significant time studying current events as they touch upon the U.S. political system (and students will be required to regularly read The New York Times).  (Prerequisite: U.S. History and Departmental permission, which will be based upon the student’s performance in prior history courses and overall academic performance at St. Mark’s)

Advanced Placement Human Geography - Year

Since geography is rarely taught in private secondary schools, students have little knowledge of what the world looks like outside St. Mark’s.  Throughout the year we will continually address the questions of why things are where they are on earth’s surface.  Topics will include:

The nature of the discipline

Culture, which includes sub-areas of        language,            religion, folk, and popular culture.

Population

Economic geography

Urban geography

Agriculture

Human/Environmental interaction

Students concentrate on studying human activity as it affects and responds to the world around us and will include all types of readings and interactive assignments.  This class involves frequent analysis of current world affairs as most have geographic connotations.  If you are interested in the world today and want to know more about why events happen where they do, Human Geography is a great opportunity to focus on the world’s people, places, and events.  (Prerequisite: U.S. History and departmental permission, which will be based upon the student’s performance in prior history courses and overall academic performance at St. Mark’s)

The Civil Rights Movement: 1954 to the Present - Fall

The Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal.”  The Fourteenth Amendment enshrines this concept in our Constitution when it declares that no one can be denied “equal protection of the laws.”  Nonetheless, a central theme in U.S. history involves the struggle between these relatively simple and lofty ideals and the reality of American life.  During the last fifty years, however, the U.S. has experienced a Civil Rights revolution. Moreover, as the ongoing controversy over gay marriage illustrates, this revolution is still alive.  This course will explore the Civil Rights Movement in the postwar era.  While a significant part of the semester will examine the African-American experience, the course will also look at the struggle for the equal treatment of women, Native Americans, the disabled, and homosexuals.  The material will be examined not only from an historical perspective, but also from perspectives informed by philosophy, current events, and legal analysis.  In addition to periodic tests and short papers, students will complete at least one substantial research paper and compete in at least three moot courts, during which they will formally debate issues such as affirmative action, homosexual marriage, etc.  (Open to Forms V and VI and to Form IV with Departmental permission)

The Middle East Since 1800 - Fall

In an area of the world that has come to dominate newspaper headlines, it is often surprising how little we truly know about the Middle East.  The goal of this course is for students to gain an understanding of recent events in the Middle East through an examination of the region during the 19th and 20th centuries.  To this end, students will begin with a study of the Ottoman Empire and European imperialism in the region.  From there, they will direct their attention to the nationalist movements that emerged in the Middle East, with particular focus on developments in Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Further, students will devote time to studying the modern history of two countries in the Greater Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The course will conclude with a topical examination of 21st century developments, including the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, the rise and expanding influence of Iran in the region and the decline of nationalism in an age of Islamic resurgence.  (Open to Forms V and VI and to Form IV with Departmental permission)

Sacred Places: Sites of Spirituality - Fall

Also RL62

In this course the students would explore a variety of sacred sites of the world and learn what makes places sacred.  These sacred sites would include both natural areas, such as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Ularu in Australia, as well as manmade sites such Borobudur in Java and the Vatican in Rome.  The overarching framework for looking at the sites is set by the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai who argues that places are created rather than born, and that it is how we as humans interact with a place that creates meaning for a place.  Appadurai identifies three aspects in this process that are essential: agency—i.e. what people do at a place and who’s allowed to be there; sociality—i.e. what kinds of interactions take place at the place; and reproducibility—i.e. what one has to do to pass the locality on to a new generation.  In addition the students will learn about the religions associated with each sacred site studied.  This course also fulfills one semester of the Religion Department requirement. (Open to Forms V and VI)

Principles of Economics - Spring

From the frequent debates on Capitol Hill about tax policy to the recent financial meltdown on Wall Street, the field of economics has much to contribute to our understanding of the modern day U.S.  The objective of this semester long class is to introduce the models and theories of the discipline, thus equipping students with the analytical tools needed to comprehend economic policy.  To this end, the first half of the semester will be devoted to microeconomics.  Topics discussed in this unit will include: opportunity cost, comparative advantage, supply and demand, and different market structures.  From there, the course will shift its attention to macroeconomics and examine topics such as inflation, unemployment, fiscal policy, and monetary policy.  Frequent attention will be paid to applying the concepts discussed in class to current events.  Finally, the course will also include a historical survey of important developments in economic thought.  (Open to Forms V and VI)

The Court and the Constitution- Spring

Throughout its history, and especially during the last century, the United States Supreme Court has confronted many of the issues that define our society. Abortion, affirmative action, religious freedom, segregation, gender equality, and campus speech codes are but a few of the areas where the Supreme Court has made decisions that affect almost every citizen and resident of the United States.  In fact, it is difficult to think of an important issue in U.S. history that the Supreme Court has not addressed.  This course examines this powerful institution by focusing on Supreme Court decisions that attempt to resolve the often conflicting rights of individuals and the broader interests of society.  Issues studied include freedom of speech and religion; the rights and protections afforded those who are accused of crimes; privacy issues (such as abortion); and equal protection under the law for women, racial minorities, and homosexuals.  The course is largely taught through the case method, in which stu­dents read and analyze the Court’s briefs and opinions, although students also read other sources so that the Court’s decisions are placed in a proper historical context.  The class concludes with a moot court in which the students will assume the roles of lawyers and judges in order to present and decide a Supreme Court case on an issue of interest to the students.  (Open to Forms V and VI and to Form IV with Departmental permission)

Cultural Anthropology - Spring

Cultural anthropologists investigate the range of human experiences in a non-ethnocentric manner, seeking to understand human universals on the one hand, and the uniqueness of human cultures on the other.  In this introductory college level course students will focus on topics that are relevant to the study of cultural anthropology, such as religion and spirituality, race and ethnicity, adaptation to different environments, social change, gender roles, cross-cultural psychology, child rearing practices, and residence and marriage patterns.  In addition students will learn about the process of conducting anthropological field-work through participation in an ongoing local research project.  Case studies, ethnographic texts, documentaries featuring cultures from around the world, and a textbook are used.  (Open to Forms V and VI)