“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” G.W.F. Hegel
The History department addresses the Hegelian concern about the study of the past by offering a curriculum that not only teaches history but also encourages students to use the knowledge gleaned from their studies to become informed, active global citizens. In that manner, Geffen Academy students will be able to utilize their understanding of the past to tackle the problematic aspects of the world in which they live, and hopefully avoid the pitfalls that occur when the important lessons of history are ignored. The curriculum is designed to foster skills in reading, writing, class discussion, and critical thinking, as well as to introduce students to the stories of various civilizations in many parts of the world. At the same time, departmental courses contend with the idea of history, examining why we study the events that occurred and what those processes reveal about contemporary times. Avoiding the fallacy that the past repeats itself exactly in the future, the curriculum presumes that a well-informed citizenry can only participate meaningfully in today’s polity with a knowledge of history and the various ways it can be interpreted. Accordingly, students will learn to deconstruct prevailing narratives by grappling with the historiographical debates endemic to the discipline. They will discover that history is often written by “the winners,” a reality that reveals the dynamics and structures of power throughout the world.
The required courses aim to expose students to the history of political traditions, patterns of economic development, social and cultural trends, and numerous forms of artistic expression. Concentration courses offer students the opportunity to pursue individual interests by delving into the complexities of a particular area of study. All courses will help students cultivate important skills, such as the ability to probe primary and secondary sources, to contextualize information, to assess historical significance, to engage in research, to become comfortable and confident participating in group discussions, to keep informed about current events, and to examine their own epistemology, as they learn to construct critical essays that offer their own analytical arguments, which they can support with relevant historical evidence.