The history curriculum at Falmouth Academy is both broad and deep. The six-year program begins and ends with the study of world cultures in Grades 7 and 12, examines the history of the United States in Grades 8 and 11, and focuses on a two-year study of Western civilization in Grades 9 and 10. Within this core curriculum, students share a series of experiences—lively discussions, debates, presentations to each other, guest speakers and trips—while also exploring their own particular interests through research projects. In their senior year, students may add an extra humanities course, rhetoric, which extends the students’ work with language, presentation skills and issues of government, public policy and media.
History teachers at Falmouth Academy aim to produce students who are curious about investigating the past, cautious about the information they receive that gives them their picture of the past, and skilled in shaping that information clearly and effectively. Students become increasingly proficient at thoughtful inquiry, clear and precise writing, and poised presenting. In addition, the department encourages linking history with other disciplines through both planned units, such as the Arts-in-Humanities program, and continual cooperation with teachers in other departments.
In the upper school, students study history each year. The freshman course, Western civilization I, like all FA history courses, is intensely engaging, with frequent research, small-group work, and presentations. The traditional Athens-Sparta debates help hone research and analysis skills as Spartans and Athenians (encouraged and coached by Spartans and Athenians in the upper grades) persuade a panel of judges of the merits of their own society over their opponents’. The team debates help students learn to listen carefully, to analyze quickly in the heat of their arguments, and to recognize that a sophisticated command of their material really matters. Later in the year, they apply their research and presentation skills individually as they present a lesson in medieval history.
In the “Western Civilization II” course, students explore modern European history, examining the decline of church authority, the rise of centralized monarchies, the growth of constitutionalism, the rise of classic liberalism and its consequences, and the power and impact of nationalism. The course places a special emphasis on exposing students to the works of the great thinkers who have most influenced the development of Western thought and provided the philosophical underpinnings of our modern world. Lively discussions and written assignments engage the students and develop their speaking and expository writing skills. At the end of the year, each student writes a major research paper and, in an oral examination, demonstrates the depth and range of his or her research.
In United States history, juniors examine political, economic, social and intellectual developments from the American Revolution to the present. Students regularly use primary sources, both literary and visual, to add depth to their understanding of each period. They examine art from four periods of U.S. history in order to explore the intellectual and aesthetic frameworks of those particular periods. Students sharpen their reading, writing, speaking and thinking skills, especially through the strong emphasis on analyzing arguments, in general, and historical interpretations, in particular, with a careful eye to assessing the reliability of sources. Students continue to use and hone their research skills in their work on a major paper in the spring.
Falmouth Academy’s core curriculum in history concludes with the “World Cultures” course for seniors. An intensive study of China, Japan, India, Russia and the Islamic world, the course focuses on periods of notable achievement and on turning points, periods when each society defined itself in significant ways. In addition to studying the geography of each region, students explore religious belief systems as shapers and expressions of cultural identity and look for further insights into each culture from its art, music, and literature. In weekly discussions of current issues, students share information from various news sources and connect this information to the historical patterns they are studying. In their spring projects, students may explore cultures of the world other than those that they have studied in class.
Throughout the history curriculum, students gain skills in analysis, close reading, persuasive writing, and an appreciation of their own and other cultures. In their senior year, students may take an additional humanities course, “Rhetoric.” The course focuses on classical principles of rhetoric, analysis and presentation of speeches, and the study of language in politics and public policy. Students teach historic speeches to each other, research policy issues, and write and present policy speeches, running discussions after their presentations. At the end of the year, the students focus on the role of the media and examine the techniques and effects of both political and commercial advertising.