The History Department will be offering three new electives next year, replacing Honors History Seminar: Terrorism and Honors Humanities Seminar: Moral Philosophy. Two new electives, Contemporary Asian Society and Culture and Presidential Elective Class, will be offered beginning next school year.
There will also be a year-long senior seminar class, called Theories of Politics and Race, taught by history and social sciences instructor Dr. Mabel Wong.
“We are primarily doing that because we are hearing from the students and want to honor the students’ requests to bring material to the table,” Department Head Jonathon Allen said.
The Theories of Politics and Race class will parallel the Honors English Seminar class with its above-AP distinction and seminar-style discussions.
“This will be the most challenging course that our history department has to offer for seniors,” Allen said. “We created it because of student interest and, given all of our affinity groups we have on campus and the importance and power of these groups, I think this is such a significant course offering.”
Wong has prior experience teaching a race and politics class at the university level when she taught in Singapore.
“I am excited for the opportunity to teach this at a high school level,” Wong said. “It is not a requirement here [to fulfill a theory class], and in a sense, it is very freeing. I can spend time doing activities and work that I wouldn’t do in a college space.”
The class will explore traditional debates about race, but will also look at how race systemically impacts people’s political, social and economic life. Wong also hopes to hold in-depth discussions about racial differentiations.
“I want to include all racial perspectives,” Wong said. “In the American context, when we talk about race, it tends to be reduced to black versus white. While this will obviously be in the class, I want to bring in other racial perspectives, and I want to be attentive to include readings such as ones that look at the Asian experience and the Middle East and Latinx experiences, as well.”
In the fall, Debate Program Head Adam Torson will be offering a Presidential Election class to educate students throughout the 2020 election process. The course was previously offered in 2016, and will allow students to be informed about the election process as well as the elections that will happen throughout the duration of the course.
“We want this class to be a place where students can express their different opinions,” Torson said. “In 2016, we certainly had students [who] identified as conservative and supporters of then-candidate Trump. My debate background makes me think it is good for us to have disagreements, and that people shouldn’t be embarrassed by disagreements. I think an open discussion is good as long as we are all respectful.”
The department will also be adding an honors-level history course called Contemporary Asian Society and Culture in the spring semester, whose teacher has yet to be announced.
Allen met with affinity group Exploring Asian Societies Together (EAST) so that they could plan the class according to what the students are interested in and what they are hoping for in the class. Leaders of EAST said that they wanted more representation in the History Department, so Allen has been adding more Asian history in every history class, in addition to this new course offering.
Depending on the success of Contemporary Asian Society and Culture, the department will look into the possibility of adding history courses in different regions of the world, such as the Middle East and Latin America.
“We meet with affinity groups, we’ve met with Ms. Wright and Mr. Espinoza and we are excited to have the opportunity to offer courses like [Contemporary Asian Society and Culture],” Allen said. “We’re trying to build a template where we can satisfy and honor different representations.”