The release of the 2018-2019 high school curriculum ushered in a host of new course offerings in fields ranging from history to the performing arts to innovation and technology.
Perhaps the most striking change is the introduction of a new history class for sophomore students entitled African Studies Survey. The addition follows the establishment of a World History course in the 2016-2017 school year, which enacted the history department’s departure from an exclusively European History tenth grade curriculum.
“The only European history in tenth grade was actually imposed on the department in 1997 by the then head of school,” said History Department Chair Lisa Rauschart. “Previously there had been some choice for students, European history being one of those choices, economics another, but the then head felt pretty strongly that everyone needed to take European history.”
Rauschart noted that at the time the history department opposed limiting the tenth grade curriculum to only European history, a view point shared by the current departement.
“We want to empower students by giving them choice. They’ve already had the common experience of ninth grade,” Rauschart said. “By the time you’re in tenth grade, you can decide on your own what you want to pursue.”
Furthermore, the new courses aim to address the representation of cultures in the history curriculum.
“We are trying to move away from the ethnocentric, Eurocentric curriculum to one that’s more inclusive,” Rauschart said. “I think if you just study one thing, you don’t see how it relates to everything else.”
Incoming teacher Clifton Coates, who is teaching a section of the African Studies Survey, noted that the new classes follow a recent trend in higher education history instruction.
“A long time ago, starting in the early 20th century, there was a Western Civilization course, which was basically an intellectual history of the western tradition,” Coates said. “In my view, as the United States became a global power, that was no longer tenable. You had these fine minds going into the world and participating in these global affairs, but they might not have the background to do that sufficiently, so then you hit this big push for World history, which is more of a global treatment of history, trying to include people who may not have been including in the Western Civilization course.”
As for African history, Coates said it “was born out of the 50s and 60s in tandem with the african revolution movement, when European colonizers and imperialists were being removed from those places, and there was a new push for African people to tell their own history.”
The history department is running two sections of the African Studies Survey, one taught by Rauschart and the other by Coates. Rauschart said the department hopes to continue adding additional courses to the tenth grade curriculum, including one in Asian history or Latin American history, and is in discussion about opening those courses up to seniors.
Another prominent addition to the GDS curriculum is a slew of innovation and technology classes coinciding with the hiring of Matthew Bachiochi, a new computer science teacher, defined by his job description as a “maker-in-residence.” Bachiochi teaches a course entitled Making Computers Work for You. “The goal of the course is to be able to write code and control the computer using it,” Bachiochi said. “Largely, it’s an introduction to programming with with kind of a focus on being able to use it with smaller devices to get the computer to do things.” Bachiochi said the class will start off with coding using Python before moving into using Raspberry Pi. Bachiochi is also teaching a course entitled Robotics, Electronics and Programming.
In the performing arts department, both dance teacher Maria Watson and instrumental music teacher Brad Linde are offering new classes in their respective fields. Watson is offering a new course called Dance 2: Dance in the 21st Century. According to Watson, the new course mirrors a trend initiated by universities to prepare dancers for the more practical side of a career in dance.
“Dance is saturated with excellent dancers,” Watson said. “It is one in a thousand who will make it as a performer.”
Whereas dancers used to “be able to make it if they were proficient in ballet, jazz and tap, now colleges and the professional world ask for so much more from dancers,” Watson added.
The course focuses on making dancers more “marketable” because “the more marketable you are, the more likely you are to work in the field,” Watson said.
Linde added Honors Band to the gamut of jazz bands.
“The course was created to service the advanced students that have committed to the program for several years and want to reach a high level in all aspects of music and the lifestyle of musicians,” Linde said. “The class will focus on a lot of independent work by each member of the ensemble, and the group will aim to work in a professional capacity outside of GDS.”
By Xander Davies