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American History (Myers)

HIST 203/204

American History (Myers)

  • Course ID:HIST 203/204
  • Semesters:2
  • Department:History
  • Course Rank:Required
  • Teachers:Justin Myers

Description and Objectives

This course is part of the Sophomore Core class, which includes ENG 201/202.

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:

  1. Acquire comprehensive knowledge of major historical figures and events
  2. Learn to read more carefully and thoughtfully by examining major literary texts
  3. Become more proficient in the art of writing and speaking
  4. Develop a deeper understanding of formal logic and of law, two pillars of the liberal arts
  5. Acquire the ability to enter into lucid and mature dialectic with classmates and the teacher
  6. Come to better understand civic and social virtues through prudential analysis of primary and literary sources
  7. Improve in gratitude and understanding of what free society requires from its citizens and leaders


  • America: The Last Best Hope (Volumes 1 and 2) 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

Course Requirements

We will not use a traditional U.S. history textbook for this course.  Rather, we will use, as our guide through American history, William J Bennett’s interesting, fluid, narrative text America: The Last Best Hope.  This text will be supplemented by numerous primary sources.  Furthermore, class lectures will offer a broader understanding of the topics discussed in the texts.

Quizzes: Frequent short quizzes will be given on the readings in Bennett, primary sources, and class lectures.  Almost all quizzes will be announced.

Class Discussions: We will occasionally have class discussions on historical topics, similar to, though not as frequent as, the discussions in the Literature portion of this course.  Each student will be graded on these discussions with a consideration of general understanding, effective insights, and sustained improvement through the year.  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.

Writing Assignments: In accordance with the Literature portion of this course, history writing assignments will occasionally be given.  As with the literature papers, students will be compelled to rewrite their history papers until they are satisfactory.    In addition, short answer questions will often be given along with the reading assignments of Bennett and the primary sources, to be completed in lieu of a quiz on the reading.

Recitations: Each quarter every student will memorize and recite, in class, at least one historical speech or selection from an historical document.  Students will be graded on memorization and delivery.

Tests: Each quarter two major tests will be given in U.S. history.  The tests will contain mostly short answer and essay questions.

Successful Students

  • 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.