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The History Department

Building “responsible citizens, insightful thinkers, and compassionate individuals” is at the center of the History Department’s curriculum at the Miller School of Albemarle. The classical questions and problems of human society are presented to our students as theirs to solve. And these issues are presented not only to the mind, but to the heart as well.

At Miller, the history faculty teach students to search for lessons, virtues, and warnings from our past. This search leads to knowledge of the world’s problems and possibilities, and, more significantly, to greater self-knowledge. The focus of the history classroom becomes instruction in the critical tools of self-discovery: research, analysis, and synthesis. This education equips MSA students to be fully engaged and articulate citizens with a deep sense of cultures, traditions, and ideas from around the globe. The questions that arise afterwards from these endeavors are not strictly historical but eternal: “What is the good society?”, “What do human beings owe each other?”, “Where did we come from and where are we going?”

Four core history courses are taken in sequence as a student progresses through MSA. Ancient and Medieval History introduces 9th grade students to the timeless questions bequeathed by the Chinese and Islamic civilizations, the Ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and Medieval Europeans. Modern European History asks 10th grade students what it means to be “modern” in the wake of cultural changes since the Renaissance. United States History presents 11th grade students with rival narratives of the American past and the struggles of the American people to honor the ideals of their revolution. American Government questions 12th grade students about the philosophies that humans use to organize their societies, and interrogates the mechanisms of the American political system. These courses are coordinated with the English Department curricula at each grade level to give students a rich interdisciplinary experience. Advanced Placement (AP) options are also available for each course beyond the 9th grade.

History classes reinforce the school’s cross-curricular model of writing instruction – based on the Little Red Schoolhouse system – that teaches a standard process of essay-writing. Analytical writing is a crucial skill for building insightful thinkers. Research papers are standard parts of each history class, and there is a strong emphasis on using primary sources to craft a historical argument. By teaching students to “go to the source,” MSA history courses teach students to apply their writing and critical thinking skills to pieces of historical evidence so that they might formulate their own interpretation of the past. It has been said history is an argument without end. At MSA, students learn to add their voice to that enduring debate.