History department

History and Social Science

Philosophy

Walker's history department

The history and social science department faculty seek to teach our students to be active, informed global citizens who can distinguish between observation, opinion, and argument, and who can reject weak arguments and bandwagon thinking. Throughout their core courses and electives in the social sciences, students will examine the actions, forces, and systems that transform society — past and present. These investigations push them to think deeply about the human condition and recognize complexity. We are committed to arming students with basic competencies in critical reading, historical reasoning, writing, speaking, listening, and effective research skills.

Learning activities and assessments encompass a variety of formats ranging from Harkness-style discussions or debates to traditional tests or document-based questions, to videos or other presentations. All students in the junior year U.S. history course will write a full thesis paper. The graduation requirement for History is 3.5 credits. Core courses in the department are Global Connections, Foundations of the Modern World, and United States History. Electives offered are subject to enrollment and may be offered in alternating years. Enrollment in all honors and advanced courses is subject to departmental approval.

Faculty

Carol Clark-Flanagan

Carol Clark-Flanagan

Director of Faculty Development/History & English Teacher
B.A., Cornell University
M.A., Trinity College
Elisa Del Valle Cardona

Elisa Del Valle Cardona

Director of Social Justice and Inclusion
B.A., Smith College
M.A., University of Massachusetts
Nathaniel Johnson

Nathaniel Johnson

History Teacher
B.A., Furman University
M.Ed., Old Dominion University
Kathleen Minahan

Kathleen Minahan

History Dept. Chair
John Monagan

John Monagan

Dean of Studies
B.A., Johns Hopkins University
M.S., Drexel University
Brendan O'Dwyer

Brendan O'Dwyer

History Teacher
B.A., SUNY Purchase
M.A., Wesleyan University

Courses

Middle School Courses

History 6: Ancient Cultures

Required Course for Grade 6

Ancient Cultures emphasizes how anthropologists and historians study the past. Through discussions about prehistory, written documents, and material remains, students identify the sources that inform the study of history. This yearlong course focuses on the study of ancient civilizations including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and China. In each unit, students gain an appreciation for the geography, government, art and architecture, religion, daily life, and major achievements of each civilization. With a combination of individual and group work, students learn analytical and critical thinking skills while also developing collaborative skills.

History 7: Modern Cultures

Required Course for Grade 7

This course focuses on the same regions of the world during modern time periods, enabling students to see that landforms and resources that affected life thousands of years ago still affect people today. Students who learn about Ancient Egypt in Ancient Cultures will learn about Northern Africa in Modern Cultures. Other regions covered will include the Middle East, East Asia, Europe and North America. Before studying specific regions, students will undertake a unit on reading and understanding maps, as well as a unit on important geography terms, including the study of geography itself, climate, and vegetation. They will then move into more abstract topics such as the concept of place, how trade affects an area, and the movement of ideas.

History 8: American Identity

Required Course for Grade 8

The goal of this course is to identify and examine some of the people, ideas, and events that helped shape the American identity from its earliest peoples and colonial development through the Civil War. Students will explore the changing definitions of democracy, rights, justice, and the "American Dream" in their examination of individuals and groups in early America. Using a combination of primary and secondary sources, students will strengthen their reading, note-taking, research, and writing skills. Students will be assessed on a combination of homework completion, writing assignments, unit tests and projects.

Upper School Courses

Global Connections

Required Course for Grade 9
Credit: 1

This course is designed to challenge students to assess the modern globalized world through the study of the systems and processes of globalization throughout human history from our first societies to the present day. Global Connections provides students with an intensive introduction to, and ongoing instruction in, the research and writing process. Students will also develop historical thinking skills such as evidence evaluation, corroboration, and interpretation, deploying these skills not only to study the past, but to grow as critical consumers of information in the digital world. In lieu of a traditional textbook, the course utilizes a variety of rich texts from contemporary social scientists as well as works of literature in order to explore how greater historical movements impact the individual.

Foundations of the Modern World

Required Course for Grade 10; Honors level also available
Credit: 1

Foundations of the Modern World is an inquiry-based course that investigates how ideas, individuals, and social, political, and economic forces can serve to both integrate peoples and proliferate differences. Building on students’ understandings of worldwide patterns of interaction from Global Connections, Foundations will zoom in on the world since 1500, beginning with the birth of the modern nation-state. Students will first explore how historians interpret and reinterpret the past, then move into 18th century ideas and revolutions, the causes and effects of global industrialization and imperialism, and global war and peace. The course will culminate with a research project assessing how an individual can impact the world. Within each unit, students will examine how historical themes connect to, and help explain, modern world events as they unfold. Rich content and intentional skill instruction work simultaneously throughout the year, as students engage with a variety of written, visual, primary and secondary sources, hone their historical thinking skills through developing evidence-based arguments, and communicate their ideas through clear, compelling speaking and writing.

Honors Foundations of the Modern World

Open to Grade 10
Credit: 1

This course will cover the same content and themes as Foundations of the Modern World, incorporating more challenging readings and aiming for highly developed and nuanced writing. Assessments will largely center around document-based writing, and students will use scholarly sources to complete a final research paper.

Introduction to U.S. History

Open to Grades 9-12
Credit: 1

This full-year course is designed for new international students as part of the LINGo program and fulfills the U.S. History credit requirement. The class will survey United States history from the era of European exploration and settlement to the present, by taking a chronological approach to specific topics. Girls will be encouraged to speak during class, often through daily summaries, group work and debates. They will be exposed to multimedia aspects of the topic at hand to render a comprehensive view. Assessments will ask the students to analyze the material by comparing and contrasting, categorizing, explaining and describing – skills that move the material to higher-level thinking. The goal is to encourage critical thinking, while strengthening reading and writing skills.

U.S. History

Required Course for Grade 11; Honors level also available
Credit: 1

This course surveys the history of the United States from early European/Native American encounters up through the 1970s. Extensive use of primary documents familiarizes students with voices of the past, while secondary readings offer students varying scholarly opinions on such issues as ethnohistory, slavery, social reform, labor, Vietnam, and globalization. Students study the influence of geographic features on agricultural and industrial development, foreign policy, and the character of American people. The interaction between the private life of citizens and the public world of government is examined in each unit as students consider how people seek to safeguard their way of life or to press for change and, in doing so, alter the role of government.

Honors U.S. History

Open to Grade 11 (May be taken senior year if a scheduling conflict arises)
Prerequisite: Approval of department.
Credit: 1

Honors U.S. History covers the same content as U.S. History at a pace and depth that is greater and more challenging for our top students at this level. This course surveys the history of the United States from early European/Native American encounters up through the 1970s. Extensive use of primary documents familiarizes students with voices of the past, while secondary readings offer students varying scholarly opinions on such issues as ethnohistory, slavery, social reform, labor, Vietnam, and globalization. Students study the influence of geographic features on agricultural and industrial development, foreign policy, and the character of American people. The interaction between the private life of citizens and the public world of government is examined in each unit as students consider how people seek to safeguard their way of life or to press for change and, in doing so, alter the role of government.

Advanced Topics in U.S. History

Open to Grades 11-12
Open to juniors and seniors who have not yet taken U.S. History; students may not take this course after having taken U.S. History or Honors U.S. History
Recommendation of the department required
Credit: 1

Advanced Topics in U.S. History requires the ability to read a wide variety of texts closely, write incisively, and argue persuasively. Political and economic forces are viewed through the lens of social movements. Students explore extensive primary and secondary sources, consider the conflict and unity underlying these movements, and draw conclusions. Instead of interpreting issues and evaluating people solely through their 21st-century lens, students are encouraged to consider two questions: what did the people they are studying know and what could they have known. Students compare themes across time, identifying forces of change and of continuity at work. A close examination of the changing ways historians interpret the past illuminates how philosophical leanings affect historiography. Students write four research papers during the year on topics of their choosing. The final paper is presented to an external audience and submitted for publication.

Advanced Economics

Open to Grades 11-12
Credit: 1

This course will cover an introduction to basic economic principles including, but not limited to, scarcity and choice, supply and demand, competition, incentives, markets, and price. In addition, the course will explore macroeconomic principles such as national debt, unemployment, inflation and money through different schools of thought. Microeconomic principles such as consumers, firms, and income distribution will also be addressed. Students will read and engage with the history of economic thought through books and journal articles. Finally, the course will relate the above concepts to current world and national economic news events.

Advanced Human Geography

Open to Grades 10-12
Recommendation of the department required
Credit: 1

This course is a fast-paced upper level social studies course that introduces students to the patterns and processes that have shaped the understanding, use, and alterations of Earth. Students will be expected to not only understand but also analyze maps and spatial data, to recognize the different regions of the world and to understand how events and processes influence one another. Topics covered will include population, cultural patterns, cities and urban land use, and economic development.

Art History: Ancient Egypt to the Renaissance

Open to Grades 9-12
Course is cross-listed in both the Visual Arts and History departments
Credit: .5

This course will provide a multidisciplinary approach to the study of art and architectural history. Students will gain an understanding of the differences between a formal and contextual analysis of a work of art, learn to formulate a thesis and will then engage in both forms of analysis. Students will view the art through a lens of the historical events, literature, music and social context of the time periods studied. This course begins by looking at Ancient Egyptian art and architecture through Europe, the Middle East and Asia into the Renaissance. By studying great works from within these artistic periods, students will gain a better understanding, not simply of the visual art of each era, but of how they fit within the context of their time.

Contemporary World Issues

Open to Grades 11-12
Credit: .5

This semester elective uses a case study approach to investigating current global problems and their potential solutions. Issues include poverty and hunger, human rights, environmental challenges, conflict, and migration. Students will delve into the root causes of the problems and become familiar with individuals and non-governmental organizations who are attempting to address them. Topics and areas of study are based on student interest.

Don’t Sweat the Technique - An Examination of Hip-Hop’s Social, Political, and Cultural Relevance

Open to Grades: 11-12
Credit: .5

Students in this class will examine the social, political, and economic circumstances that led to the creation of what has become the most powerful force in popular culture, hip-hop. We will study the ways in which hip-hop emerged as a response to a black, urban America that was being forever changed by the forces of deindustrialization and globalization - forces that are perhaps more relevant now than ever. Some of the questions that will inform our study are: How, where, and why did hip-hop emerge?; How and why did hip-hop become the voice of urban youth in post-civil rights America? We will also examine hip-hop’s place in the history of American social and political commentary, particularly of the black experience. As America and the world has changed, how has hip-hop reflected and adapted to these changes?; How and why has hip-hop been able to move out of the South Bronx and into places like Simsbury while remaining relevant and authentic to the wildly different audiences from both of those locales, and what does this move say about America, itself?

Inequality in the United States

Open to Grades 11-12
Credit: .5
This course satisfies the Ethics requirement for graduation.

This course will introduce students to systems of social inequality in the United States. We will investigate the structural, interpersonal and social dimensions of oppression. Course materials will explore the ways that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, trans oppression and religious oppression have developed over time as well as the ways they impact each of us every day. Students will develop the language, tools and skills to create positive social change.

International Relations and Model UN

Open to Grades: 11-12
Credit: .5

The International Relations and Model United Nations course is designed to prepare students to participate in the Model UN program sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Hartford. It features a day-long trip to the United Nations in New York, a visit to the UN mission of a selected country and role-playing in a two-day conference at the University of Hartford. The content of the course will focus on the historical background of the founding of the UN, its structure and goals, and an assessment of various UN missions and programs since 1945. In addition, the course will deal with a wide range of topics dealing with international relations and how the UN has and might become involved in the future.

The New Yorker: Contemporary Culture, Art, and Politics

Open to Grades: 11-12
Credit: .5

Students in this class will read and analyze the current issue of The New Yorker, a “weekly magazine offering a signature mix of reporting and commentary on politics, international affairs, popular culture and the arts, science and technology, and business, along with fiction, poetry, humor, and cartoons.”

Students will look at everything each week’s magazine offers, from reviews of current cinema to cartoon caption contests, comedy and satire to in-depth essays on current events. Students will work over the course of the term to create their own version of the magazine: illustrating a front cover, reviewing current art, music, and cinema, writing profiles, short fiction and non-fiction (with a particular emphasis on analytical writing) – even drawing their own cartoons and writing letters to the editors.

Students also pay particular attention to the way in which bias may be at work in the magazine and what role that plays in writing. When applicable, students may examine articles from other publications (ie: The National Review, The Economist, etc.) in an effort to look at issues from both sides of the political “aisle.”

The only text is a semester-long subscription to The New Yorker magazine. If students want to check out the kinds of things they will be reading and writing, they can go to www.newyorker.com/magazine.

Living at the Margin: Making Optimal Decisions Using Economics

Open to Grades: 11-12
Credit: .5

This semester-long course aims to apply the concepts of economics to the everyday life of the student. This will be accomplished by studying economic theory to understand how it can be applied to current events, public policy, and daily transactions. Possible topics include free trade vs. protectionism, taxes and spending, and behavioral economics, but topics can be driven by current events and contemporary political debates. The history of economic thought will also be examined through the lens of classic works from Aristotle to Adam Smith and into the 20th century with John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. Specific periods of economic crises will be used as case studies, including: the collapse of the U.S.S.R., German hyperinflation in the 1920’s, and the Asian and Celtic Tigers of the late 20th century. Case studies are vital to the study of economics because they are the “laboratory” in which economists test their theories.

Supreme Court Landmarks

Prerequisite: At least one semester of U.S. History
Open to Grades: 11-12

Credit: .5

This semester-long course offers an analysis of the history and uses of the U.S. Constitution, and the way it’s been interpreted by the Supreme Court. We will consider the ideology behind the construction of the document and the varying historical contexts in which constitutional principles have been applied. By looking at certain landmark cases such as Plessy vs. Ferguson, Roe vs. Wade, Brown vs. Board of Education, Schenck vs. United States, Miranda vs. Arizona, and Citizens United vs. FEC, students will be asked to think about the various ways the Constitution has been “translated” by the Court into the everyday lives of Americans, particularly working people, women, and people of color who may or may not see their interests reflected in the language of the original document. The class will also discuss the tension between individual and collective rights and the ways in which the Constitution has been modified over the past 200 years.

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