New ‘Global Themes’ Course to Replace ‘Western Humanities’

THE WINNER: Global Themes will replace Western Humanities as the required freshman Social Studies Course. | Graphic by Connor McCann '14

Starting next year, incoming freshman will have an entirely new history experience. The new curriculum will differ not only in the material that freshman will learn, but also how they will be taught and tested.

This change occurred on Oct. 12 when the Board of Education approved a new class, Global Themes, to replace Western Humanities beginning next school year.

According to Social Studies 6-12 Department Coordinator James D’Amico, the new course will be based on three themes: global interconnectedness, revolutions, and imperialism. Students will study these themes by analyzing different case studies throughout history.

For example, students might study the relationship between African trade networks and the Silk Road in order to learn about the theme of global interconnectedness.

D’Amico feels that with modern technology and the Internet, the ability to memorize a fact is less important than it once was.

“The emphasis in this course is not knowing content, that’s a big shift from the way previous history courses were taught,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico hopes that this will enable teachers to have more choice in what they focus on in their classes.

“It’s not as important that everybody do all of the exact same things, but that everybody goes into depth on an idea,” he said.

A more flexible curriculum
Though all teachers will be teaching the same three themes, D’Amico said the curriculum will not be as strict as Western Humanities, where all teachers are required to teach the same units at the same time.

Western Humanities teacher Katherine Goulian is enthusiastic about the new course for this reason.

“I like that the course gives teacher’s choice for the different units,” she said.

One of the most unique aspects of the Global Themes course is the final exam. According to D’Amico, students will not have a formal sit-down test; rather, they will have to analyze a scenario.

“Students will have to take the knowledge and writing skills they used throughout the course to answer a question,” D’Amico said.

Less eurocentric
The concept behind this course is not a new one. According to D’Amico, plans to create the class started three years ago.

However, D’Amico said that the new school goal was an inspiration for certain parts of the class, including the final exam.

D’Amico also feels that the Western Humanities class focused too much on Europe. The new course supports the school goal by focusing globally and teaching students more applicable knowledge.

Principal John Dodig is very excited about the course and feels it aligns perfectly with the new school goal.

“The Global Themes class is a concrete example of where I believe Staples should be going,” Dodig said.

One of the major aspects of the new school goal is to find real life applications for what is taught in school.

Dodig believes that this less factual, more themed-based class will be more applicable in students’ lives.

“Today, with all the technology you don’t need to memorize facts, you can look that up with your iPod or Blackberry. What is important is applying what you learn to your everyday life, which is what the Global Themes class should allow students to do,” Dodig said.

Though the Staples administration is very pleased about the course, the student body had some doubts about its applicability.

“Almost the entirety of freshman year is used to get a foundation for the knowledge that will be learned later, and, in terms of what’s relevant to the United States and what would help for U.S. History the next year, Western Humanities is very useful,” Cole De monico ’13 said.

D’Amico was aware of the concern that Global Themes would not prepare students for U.S. History as thoroughly as Western Humanities, however he believes that this concern is unnecessary.

“You don’t need Western to prepare for U.S. History. The Enlightenment, for example, is a topic that has always been part of the Western Humanities course and is very important in understanding the principles behind the government of the United States. The Enlightenment is still required in Global Themes. We have not thrown everything out,” D’Amico said.

Other students expressed the concern that Global Themes would be too similar to the already existing AP World History course.

However, D’Amico explained how there are many differences between the two courses, both in the information that is covered and the teaching styles of the classes.

“The courses differ in that the Global Themes course is really designed as a way to introduce students to global studies at the high school level. AP World is more designed for history students who are thinking of pursuing that subject at the college level, it’s much more focused on knowing the information. They are both good courses, but certainly different,” D’Amico said.

Dodig does not think that the addition of Global Themes will be the only change at Staples to fulfill the new school goal; he hopes to see changes occur throughout all subjects that will promote global knowledge and teach applicable skills to students.