American History (Mehan)
- Course ID:HIST 203/204
- Course Rank:Required
- Teachers:Matt Mehan
Description and Objectives
This course is, in part, a philosophical study of the history of the American people and the United States of America by way of some of its most foundational literary and historical texts—from the discovery of the New World to the present moment. This course seeks to cultivate (a) sober knowledge of causes in our historical past, with an emphasis on law and custom as well as on the powerful impact of individual human choice to effect greatly the future, (b) moral insight into the character of our nation through a balanced and loving admiration of our ancestors, particularly our founding fathers, and (c) a humane and responsive heart, one that learns of beauty from the great poets of America and the West, who teach and shape us, just as they taught and shaped those Americans who have gone before us.
The primary goals of this course
- Acquire comprehensive knowledge of major historical figures and events
- Learn to read more carefully and thoughtfully by examining major literary texts
- Become more proficient in the art of writing and speaking
- Develop a deeper understanding of formal logic and of law, two pillars of the liberal arts
- Acquire the ability to enter into lucid and mature dialectic with classmates and the teacher
- Come to better understand civic and social virtues through prudential analysis of primary and literary sources
- Improve in gratitude and understanding of what free society requires from its citizens and leaders
- America: The Last Best Hope by William J. Bennet ISBN 1-5955-5055-0
- Course Packet of Numerous Primary Sources
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
- Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis ISBN 0375705244
- Traditional Logic: Introduction to Formal Logic by Martin Cothran ISBN 9781615387472
- The Tempest or Sir Thomas More by Shakespeare et al.
- The Scarlet Letter or Stories and Sketches by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Various Short Stories by Melville, James, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, et al.
- Various Verse by Dickinson, Bryant, Whittier, Longfellow, Whitman, Frost, Williams, Eliot, et al.
- My Antonia by Willa Cather
- Homer’s Odyssey
Students should expect daily reading assignments, weekly writing assignments and exams, and periodic evaluations of their reading notes and journal entries. In addition, students will be required to memorize and to recite key passages from the texts in both English and History. Finally, each semester students will need to compose formal papers on a fitting topic.
The final grade each quarter will be based on excellence in the following endeavors:
- Exams will test students’ knowledge of objective facts, memory, and his ability to think and write critically. There will be comprehensive mid-semester and final examinations.
- Quizzes may be announced or unannounced. Some vocabulary quizzes will require rote memorization.
- Writing assignments will be completed in class or at home and will typically take place each week. Take-home writing assignments will often be typed and cite the text(s) according to the MLA format.
- Regarding late papers: score deductions will proceed on a letter grade basis unless otherwise stated. For each day late, a letter grade will be deducted.
- Periodically, students will be required to memorize passages from the texts. Memory, diction, and poise will be emphasized.
- Students need to make reading notes in the margins of their texts and, when requested, in a notebook. A regular check of reading notes may be graded for thoughtfulness and thoroughness. Class notes will also be checked for a grade: all notes must be in cursive (unless you can produce a note from your parents stating that, alas, you have never been taught to write cursive in your life).
- Class participation is required whether it takes the form of effective insights or the asking of probing questions. Comportment, attention to detail, and sustained improvement over time in the student’s work will also factor into class participation. The teacher will keep an account of how well students are participating, and students can approach the teacher at any time to ask about how well they are performing in this respect. At the end of each grading period, class participation will play a substantial role in improving, maintaining, or decreasing the student’s score for the quarter. For this reason, grades will not be wholly accurate on a rolling basis throughout a given grading period. They will, however, give an accurate snapshot of the student’s current performance by the numbers alone, which will serve as the basis for considerations of class participation and corresponding weighting of grades.
- A rough estimate of percentages of course grades: 50% for longer out of class essays, in class timed essays, and tests; 20% for class participation and engagement with the text; and 30% for related assignments in grammar and recitation (for English) as well as vocabulary, homework, and quizzes (for both English and history).
- The successful student must maintain daily reading and writing schedules and avoid waiting for deadlines to complete work. Reading and writing, which is spaced out over a proper amount of time, allows for adequate reflection, sharper memory, and more advanced writing instruction that is relieved of the burden of discussing simple, preventable errors.
- The successful student proofreads his work before submitting to his teacher.
- Successful students will consult with the instructor frequently to discuss the texts, as well as rough drafts of their own work. I am available outside of class and will make myself available for extra help whenever an appointment is needed. I encourage parents to contact me with any questions or concerns either by email or phone.
- At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will have a solid grasp of the literary and historical antecedents for our own modern era. He will also be able to form, speak, and write his thoughts more clearly.