History and Social Sciences


istory and social science courses at Buxton aim to fulfill several interconnected goals: to ensure that students acquire a solid working knowledge of political, social and cultural history; to train students in the skills of critical reading and analysis; to educate students to understand and evaluate competing arguments and to present their opinions in a clear and reasoned way, and to create engaged, informed citizens.

Students acquire a critical understanding of the society around them, learn to appreciate its complexity, grasp the ethical stakes involved in its design, and comprehend that design as historically constructed. With that understanding, they can begin to see themselves as historical actors and agents. The annual All-School Trip, in which the entire faculty and student body travel together to a North American city to study that city intensively for a week, is one of the most pivotal components of a Buxton student’s historical education.

American History (Section II)

This course will cover the history of the United States with a particular focus on technology, culture, ideology, and how those forces intersect. We will also study how the law functions to both maintain government power and to defend individual rights. We will approach history chronologically, speeding through some periods to spend more time with particularly rich and difficult periods and issues: the Constitution, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and American society and politics since World War II. We will have a very brief textbook as a spine of the course, but mostly we will depend on original sources and scholarly articles.

American History (Section I)

This class will take a thematic, hands-on approach to studying US History. The overarching goal is to introduce history as a concept that changes each time it is told, and for students to learn how to apply critical thinking to various sources. The first themes we will focus on (predominantly through conversations, projects, essays, and debates) will be Democracy [what was democracy for the founders of the constitution and what is it now], the Quest for Equity [reviewing movements varying from the Anti-Tax movement of 1765 to the Temperance Movement to the Chicano Civil Rights of the 60s], and Immigration and Americanization [starting with who were the people that we took this land from]. This class is not going to follow a linear approach to US history in order to help students make connections to issues that are relevant in today’s world.

Research Skills

A small class for students new to the research process, Research Skills shows how to gather data, determine main ideas and supporting details, take notes, cite, translate information and create presentations. The course culminates with students’ individual presentations to the class.

The Junior Thesis

An important part of each student’s junior year is the Junior Thesis and Project. The thesis is an opportunity for independent research, creative expression, and learning how to plan and execute a long-term project. Students pick a topic that interests them and spend much of the year researching and writing an ambitious paper about it. Additionally, students are asked to produce a creative piece to complement their academic work. Thesis topics have included the history and practice of ballet, the work of the controversial director Elia Kazan, the tradition and significance of Japanese tea ceremonies, and the history of the Middle East. Creative projects have ranged from staging original one-act plays to doing dance demonstrations to preparing a special meal for the entire school.

The Western Tradition

To understand where we are, we have to know where we came from, and much of American culture has European roots. This course will survey the intellectual and cultural heritage of Europe, starting with the Early Middle Ages and continuing through the present. It will draw from Art, Literature, Philosophy, Music and Religion to give students a fuller sense of the development of European ideology and culture. Although it will be a full-year survey, it will be divided into semesters, and students can take either semester by itself. The first will focus on the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, including the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. The Spring will begin with the French Revolution and will continue up to the present, addressing industrialization, romanticism, imperialism, and the principal social, intellectual, artistic and political movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. (open to seniors)

Economics (Spring 2019)

In the wake of the financial crisis, and with battles heating up over deficits, the debt limit, regulation, tax rates, and the role of government in the economy, the discipline of Economics is at the heart of political debate. But too few people actually understand the theories underlying the arguments or even what the words people are using mean. This course will attempt to remedy that. We will start with a consideration of the great economists—Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes, etc.—looking at their works both as ways of understanding how economies do work and how they should work. In other words, how should labor be organized and how should its fruits be distributed? Then we will look at the major theories and issues of contemporary economics, helping students understand such things as inflation, interest rates, regulation and deregulation, budget deficits, trade deficits, taxation, the stock market, currency trading, banking, savings rates, etc. The goal of the course is essentially twofold: 1) To consider the philosophical and ethical questions of political economics, and 2) To give students the intellectual tools they need to be economically informed citizens.



Human Rights

The UN has defined human rights as including the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. This course will be largely student-driven, after the first unit on the historical development of human rights, students will choose which current events we study. As is the case in many of my classes, this will be project-based and so students should be excited about participating in discussions and completing assignments that seek to create your own solutions to current various global crises. My goal is to push students to identify questions they have about the world and why it works the way it does, and then for you to answer your own questions by completing research. This is not a class where I am going to stand at the board and tell you what you need to know, rather, I will help create a framework for you to explore the current geopolitical climate.


What is culture? How does it evolve? How does our own cultural perspective influence the ways in which we understand other cultures? Is it possible to analyze culture without passing judgement? How can anthropology interact with cultural issues like racism and sexism? In this class we will work on answering these questions as we explore different theories of anthropology, read ethnographies (a description of a culture and its practices) as well as writing our own ethnographies of Buxton school culture, and examining social practices and media representations in our own cultures.


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    Hollis Lane
    Hollis Lane San Francisco, CA
  • “At Buxton you get to focus on what you want to be learning; whether it is social skills or in-depth studying- you learn to take responsibility of your education.”
    Francis Magai
    Francis Magai Troy, NY
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    Naima Nigh
    Naima Nigh Mexico
  • “To me, living your education means to be independent, to take charge, to not be afraid of asking for help, to learn from your peers, to love to learn, to take what you have learned from a loving environment and take it into the world.”
    Kat Hallowell
    Kat Hallowell New Hampshire
  • “Your education is more than just your time in class, it’s your life as a whole. Learning is not limited to a teacher teaching you something in a classroom.”
    Cynder Johnson
    Cynder Johnson Missouri
  • “To me, at Buxton, it’s not boundaries that you make, but the ones you break through.”
    Roy Malone
    Roy Malone New York, NY
  • “At Buxton, I can choose what I want to do with my education. I can design my own path and invest my time studying topics that I’m really interested in.”
    Nora Mittleman
    Nora Mittleman New York, NY
  • “At Buxton you can experience your intellectual development in a community that accepts your perspective of the world.”
    Ben Nigh
    Ben Nigh Mexico
  • “I felt instantly at home when I stepped on the campus. At Buxton, we are in school 24/7. We learn things in the classroom, but we really learn valuable things outside of the classroom. We learn how to work with others and respect each other’s spaces. Our education surrounds us and we learn new things everyday.”
    Emily Woodside
    Emily Woodside Albany, NY
  • “I chose Buxton over public school because I think I function better in a smaller environment. You’re able to get to know students and faculty on a deeper level, which is rare.”
    Charlie Starenko
    Charlie Starenko Williamstown, MA
  • “Students should be happy when they are learning. They should not feel like studying is a burden to them. You learn things from your living space and environment - you are learning every second you are living.”
    Jiayi Cao
    Jiayi Cao China
  • “Living your education means you become an active learner. You are not just learning in the classroom or while you are doing your homework. You live your life learning and taking in the world’s various educations.”
    Lena Meginsky
    Lena Meginsky Northhampton, MA
  • “Buxton has shown me that it is possible to forge close bonds with teachers as well as students. It also gives you the ability to try new things in an environment where there is no judgment.”
    Kristhal Ayala
    Kristhal Ayala Puerto Rico
  • “I chose Buxton for a small community-based education with focus on the individual as part of the world at large, along with the learning settings.”
    Katie McAvoy
    Katie McAvoy Boston, MA
  • “I love the atmosphere and how tightly knit the community is. At Buxton you take what you learn in the classroom and use it in everyday life - you learn from the world around you and see how you can make it better.”
    Cheyanne Williams
    Cheyanne Williams Boston, MA
  • “At Buxton you bring your education into everything you do, and learn important, relevant things that you can utilize all the time.”
    Rebecca van der Meulen
    Rebecca van der Meulen New Lebanon, NY
  • “At Buxton, wherever I go, whatever I do, I’m learning. Formal classes are just an extension of the learning that happens everywhere else in my life.”
    Kullan Warner
    Kullan Warner Wilton, CT
  • “Being academic feels important. It really helps forge relationships between students and faculty, which is such an important thing here. It is so important that the faculty live in the dorms and everyone has a faculty advisor. You get to know your teachers outside of school life and having those relationships really strengthens the joy I have in learning.”
    Rose Shuker
    Rose Shuker Williamstown, MA
  • “To me, “live your education” means to aim for learning in everything you do - not just in the classes and schoolwork. Every experience in life has educational value, so the more experiences I have the more educated I can be.”
    Will Harris
    Will Harris East Chatham, NY
  • “There are no boundaries between our times for learning and our times for living; this is because of the fact that we have classes at all different times of day, and because all our activities are intermingled with our classes. We live at the place we go to school, so people learn everyday all day even outside of the classroom.”
    Iona Green
    Iona Green Chatham, NY
  • “A sense that everybody matters, that you are in a community where everyone can make a difference and reach their full potential, where you are interdependent and you work together, and most importantly where you understand that you can do whatever you want to do and whatever it is that you do, you have got to make a difference. I think that, more than anything, defines my experience at Buxton.”
    Peter Shumlin
    Peter Shumlin Governor of Vermont, Buxton Alumni

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