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I'm wondering how different Rheotoric-level teachers handle history within the larger context of the humanities. I have a couple specific questions (below), but also many that are not quite ask-able question. So I'm just hoping to hear about different models, let some ideas perculate, and then think over my inarticulate questions.
Of course, I've scanned dozens of other classical school curriculum charts, etc., for years now, so I understand some schools have history within a full humanities course (sometimes Omnibus), which would include everyting from theology, history proper, literature, and sometimes even rhetoric. I know other schools separate history and English. Still others have Great Books and then rhetoric class.
Would any of you be willing to share about your school's model, how it gets fleshed out in practice??
I'll begin. In the model at Covenant Classical School, in Naperville, IL, we have three distinct classes that might be considered humanities: (1) English (literature and rhetoric); (2) Bible/theology (with a focus that generally corresponds to the literature/history; also includes one year of church history) for each year; and (3) history -- which is not just history "proper" but also includes history of philosophy, government/politics objectives, and bits of church history). I mainly teach the history track but also sometimes teach the English track.
So how does it get fleshed out in practice? Of course I must be in close contact with the Bible teacher, or, if I'm only teaching history, the English teacher, too. Of course we all are really teaching rhetoric/writing, though not as formally as in English class. Sometimes I wonder if other teachers spend as much time in the areas of history of philosophy and government/politics (rather than history "proper") as I do, especially, for example, in 9th grade (still considered logic stage by some schools). Sometimes I feel as if the actual historical events (history "proper") are just the background material for the hefty Rhetoric School books. And I wonder if this should be, particularly in 9th grade.
Another specific, related question: At the Rhetoric level, we obviously want students to make their own judgment calls. I constantly am asking myself how many questions should be judgment questions about historical causation (ie, You assess: What attributed to the downfall of Athens?); about politics/philosophy (ie, You assess: Did the Athenian or the Spartan constitution lead to more human flourishing?); or somewhere in-between (ie, In the wake of the Persian Wars, were the Athenians overconfident??). These are some of the core questions that drive my near-semester on ancient Greece. Are any of them too heady?? I do feel the students are given enough material to serve as evidence off of which to base their claims. But I still wonder.
These questions come from a double major in history and philosophy! I have this double-edged sword: I constantly am aware of the need for maintaining objectivity ("that noble dream") in the historical record as much as possible, so that it is not abused for a particular purpose. But I cannot escape that I use history to do philosophy, or political science. So to reiterate: In the early Rheotric School questions, how much do you stick to historical causation judgment questions, and how much do you require of them in thinking about the great ideas?
We share a similar disease. (Although I was less ambitious: a history major and philosophy minor.) Will share my thoughts at some point and hoping to enjoy some others in the interim.
At my school, I have the blessing of teaching History and Literature in a double period humanities class. I think this works much better than separating the two. Thus, our literature includes bits of Herodotus and Thucydides, Plutarch, Livy, etc. as well as great books such as the Iliad, Antigone, the Aeneid,etc. I find that the history and literature reinforce each other, and that they lend themselves to the "great questions." I try to vary the format, though. On a test I might ask them to explain why Athens degenerated (I also like a question about how the 5th Century of Greece might resemble a tragedy), drawing upon the Melian Dialogue as well as history we covered on the 5th Century and the Peloponnesian War. I also give them takehome essays where I set them questions to reflect upon. Indeed, in response to our discussion of Julius Caesar and who is the tragic hero of that play, one of my students offered the thesis that the Roman Republic is actually the tragic hero in that play, and so we spent half an hour discussing that in light both of the play and what they had learned about the decline of the Republic. Ancient historians tend to be very moral in their interpretations of history (a topic which I ask them to evaluate on their final exam), so it is good to raise evaluative questions. I keep telling mine that in doing so they will be going against the type of history they'll encounter in most colleges!