In the hall outside of the new capstone course called “History of Western Thought,” two Seniors are debating whether lying is always wrong, enjoying the poetic moments of The Republic, and arguing over things Cato did years and years ago. To help us understand why, Senior Michael Loria had this to share:
The Heights first introduced core classes for Freshmen two years ago. Every student in the grade takes the core, with the benefit bring that it gives the class a type of “cultural literacy.” The material for the core class is seen as vital to a Heights education; ergo the core. Seniors felt relieved that they had escaped the core though. Seemingly “wretched” classes because you’re forced into it, and because you’d have to see the same teacher for two periods straight. According to one student, this set up “was like double potions with Snape.”
So Seniors initially balked when they heard about History of Western Thought (HoTW). They raised valid objections. Senior year, most decide where they intend to spend the next four years of their lives. That’s a big deal. Extra work on top of schedules already crammed with schoolwork, extracurriculars, jobs, and college applications feels like a lot. Some seniors had to drop courses that look good on a a transcript (read: APs). A few had to choose between Latin and Greek, ironically, the original languages for much of HoWT’s material.
But some faculty and administrators had played the devil’s advocate and raised these objections already. They deemed HoWT more important. The course covers from Socrates to early 20th century philosophers. As Upper School Head Mike Moynihan points out, “By giving students a roadmap of ideas and how civilization got where it is today, this course let’s them ponder the profound questions that different times in history have had to wrestle with – something no AP course attempts to do.”
Since the class began, Senior’s feelings have changed. While some wish they hadn’t had to drop classes, they have come to love HoWT regardless. In the halls you now find students arguing vehemently about whether Cato acted well in such and such instance, whether lying is always wrong, or taking apart the more poetic passages of Plato’s Republic. The course turned out to be a fair workload too. But I won’t say light. I’d have to knock on wood, and I won’t in words. Murphy would exploit some loophole and make us pay.