History and Social Sciences

H

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.

History of the Modern Middle East

Clearly the Middle East is an extremely important part of the contemporary political world, but too many Americans have little understanding of the area.  This course will help give students a sense of contemporary issues in the Middle East, and how the area’s history informs those issues.  Beginning with a brief introduction to Islam, the course will cover the major developments in the area since the decline of the Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Israel/Palestine.  While the class will focus on political history, the readings will primarily be memoirs to help give the history a human face and to give students a more textured sense of life in this part of the 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)

Psychology

The course will essentially have two overlapping parts.  One will be an introduction to what psychology is, historical influences in the field, and the neuroscience behind the curtain of psychology.  We will learn about influential philosophies, psychologists, and studies in the field that have shaped the way we understand the mind.  In order to place these ideas in context, we will also study the structures and functions of the brain, nerves and nervous systems.  The second part will look at topics within the field of psychology.  These topics may include memory, sleep, development, learning, intelligence, sensation and perception, disorders, drugs, and psychological health.  The topics we explore may be subject to change depending on interest.  Throughout the course we will have a variety of experiments that we reenact or mimic, discussions on how these topics are relevant in our lives, and projects to create and perform our own experiments.

 

United States History (required of all Juniors who have not yet completed an American History course)

How did the United States end up like this? That is the basic question of this course. But also: how do we know what has happened in the past, in this place? And: did it have to happen that way? And finally: why does it matter? Historians Lisa McGirr and Eric Foner have called U.S. history an act of “collective self-discovery,” and that will be our mission. To work together to understand the place where—for better and for worse—we all currently live. Our studies will take us from the first peopling of the land over 10,000 years ago to the current day, with a focus on the United States since its founding in the 18th century. We will also regularly interrupt our chronology to study civic and political institutions in this country today, as well as the role of the historian in recording, studying, shaping, manipulating, publicizing, remembering, memorializing, celebrating, lamenting, telling, and retelling America’s past for America’s present.

Current Events (9th-10th Social Sci., Fall)

This course aims to provide students with the opportunity to explore, examine, analyze, discuss, and understand major domestic and international issues that affect our society today in a meaningful and respectful way. Subjects may include immigration, health care, gun control, abortion rights, trade, climate change, prison reform, refugees crises and so on. Throughout the course, we will keep up to date on current events and trends. Though the class is mainly discussion-based, we will read about contemporary topics through different media sources and outlets and learn about media biases. You will also independently research an issue of your choice and lead a presentation and a discussion for the class. The goals of this course are: to help us become aware of and literate in societal issues, to encourage us to be informed, global citizens, and to enhance our ability to think critically for ourselves.

 

Testimonials

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    Hollis Lane San Francisco, CA
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    Cynder Johnson Missouri
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    Roy Malone New York, NY
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    Nora Mittleman New York, NY
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    Ben Nigh
    Ben Nigh Mexico
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    Emily Woodside Albany, NY
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    Charlie Starenko Williamstown, MA
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    Jiayi Cao China
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    Lena Meginsky
    Lena Meginsky Northhampton, MA
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    Kristhal Ayala Puerto Rico
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    Katie McAvoy Boston, MA
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    Kullan Warner Wilton, CT
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    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
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    Iona Green Chatham, NY
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    Peter Shumlin
    Peter Shumlin Governor of Vermont, Buxton Alumni

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