Page 30 - Menlo Magazine Summer 2019
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 Also during those first two years of history, teachers dedicate a lot of time to discussing how to assess the bias of sources. “We do that by giving students documents and asking the questions: Is this biased? Why? Who wrote it? What motive might this person have in saying this?” says Carmen. “We tell our students, ‘in history, there’s no absolute’s based on experience and recollection and the perspective of the person writing it. And so when you’re looking at events in the past, that’s something to always keep in mind.’”
Carmen adds, “We really want students to understand
that there may be many different factors at play for any given event, and we teach them to think critically and form their own interpretation of what happened. This prepares students for the more intensive history research projects they will encounter during their final two years at Menlo.”
Juniors and seniors may choose from a varied menu of history electives such as Contemporary American Issues, Ethnic Studies, Global Issues for Global Citizens, Global Scholars Research, Modern Political Rhetoric, Philosophy, The World Economy Since 1700, and U.S. Foreign Policy, among others. Expanding the elective course offerings and making them a core part of every junior’s experience at Menlo were the most significant changes to Menlo’s history
curriculum. Through these electives, students can pursue an area they are really interested in and go deep into that area through research and class projects.
Former Department Chair Ryan Dean says there were
really two objectives in transforming the Upper School’s history program. “First, history is often criticized for its lack
of relevance by students who may not be interested in the subject. But now, if you look at the new array of junior and senior electives, the majority of the courses allow the kids
to study the last 40, 50, or 60 years of American and world history. It’s all the things that students used to say they didn’t get to reach, and we now have this menu of classes that allows us to go deep in all those areas.”
Ryan continues, “The second thing that we’ve done is given ourselves a chance to teach historiography, or argument, from legitimate scholars who might come down on different sides of an issue in a wide range of classes. Through choosing electives that they are interested in, our students can now pursue the disagreements among scholars that matter the most to them, and through that course work, we’re teaching them to read and write as savvy consumers of the literature that they might encounter and then to be able to deal with that in a sophisticated way, which is important given the information era they were born into.”

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