My Bucknell education has been both diverse and deep. Having taken classes in Philosophy of Mind, Buddhism, Physics, Engineering, Psychology, Sociology, lots of Management courses, and now more in-depth investment classes, I think I can claim a pretty “liberal arts” education. While I’ve learned a lot from these courses and have enjoyed taking them, I believe the most useful courses I’ve taken (to my academic development) were in High School. Taking AP physics, AP chemistry and Calculus was useful for getting into college, and understanding the world, but they were far less impactful than my “civilizations” courses, taken 9th through 11th grade.

At the beginning of high school, freshmen take “Ancient Civ” – a two-credit course with a three-credit course-load. Taking the place of traditional “english” and “history” classes, Key School’s “civilizations” program explores a period or region’s literature, history/culture and philosophies through the use of both primary and secondary sources. With a large emphasis on class-discussions (about the readings) and open-ended papers, the class has a “300-level” collegiate feel, starting in the 9th grade. In addition to the usual Projects, Readings and Papers, Ancient Civ has a number of tests. After Ancient Civ, however, these are no more exams (in the civilization program). Only class discussions, hefty projects and papers on topics ranging from the “sublime,” to how morality changed in the 20th century, to “chaos and order” in medieval Europe. In 9th grade, you begin with Ancient Civ, covering from Mesopotamia to Greece to Rome. In 10th, your education of Western Civilization continues with “European Civ” covering from the fall of the Roman Empire to current day events and the structure of the EU. Finally, in 11th grade you study “American Civilizations” complete with DBQs (Document Based Questions, to prep for the AP) in addition to the “normal” civ. papers that always seemed to start with “To what extent…”

The three teachers (yes, three teachers for a double-credit/two-block class, each bringing a unique focus) worked to present various aspects of the civilization being studies while pushing us, as students, to find our own common ground between the often purposefully opposing views presented by the different teachers. On that note, I must say, I find it interesting to call them “teachers” as for the most part they all had PhDs and had taught at Universities before (and one of them is again “professoring” at a college). That being said, I am truly grateful for the experience I had taking Key School’s civilizations program and can’t even begin to describe the influence it had on my writing.

Looking back, college writing has been far more simple.

3 responses »

  1. eric says:

    “college writing as been far more simple” -the instructions were to leave this class out of the ‘picture’ (just to be clear)

  2. Jordi says:

    🙂 You can criticize this class.

  3. Jordi says:

    What I take away from this post is that your high school education did more for you than your college one?

    Are there lessons there for us as educators?

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