Taft Portrait of a History Graduate
"History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul."
Taft’s History department nurtures the development of student’s habits of mind, skills and understanding of the world they live in and will one day lead.
“History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
The habits of mind we seek to cultivate include an enthusiasm for a deeper understanding of history, beyond superficiality. Rather we hope to create students who are engaged and curious not just about the events of the world around them, but the deeper historical trends that have created the world today. They will understand that over time, both continuity and change shape and mold human events, and why “the past” is not synonymous with “history.” Taft graduates should be able to identify the themes that resonate from the past through today. They will also learn to be both critical and open-minded—able to differentiate between opinion and fact, while acknowledging the wisdom of some opinions and the subjectivity of some facts.
“The past is really almost as much a work of imagination as the future.”
Taft graduates will learn to read critically, write persuasively, and argue passionately. They will discover the art and science of research, from primary sources to digital archives. They will learn to contribute with their peers, not in competition with them. They will be able to glean the perspective and context of historical documents, while applying them to their own arguments. Most of all, they will learn to craft those arguments with evidence designed to persuade.
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
Finally, the Taft curriculum offers students a broad range of subject matter to immerse themselves in. The lower mid course, Approaches to History, examines the role of the individual in society through the lens of the pre-modern world. In their mid year, students may choose from rigorous AP courses like European History or Human Geography or delve deeper into collaborative work and skill building in the 20th century course: the Revolutionary Century. The upper mid year offers both US and AP US History. In the senior year, electives include AP World History, AP US Government, AP Comparative Government and Conflict in the Modern World. There are additional cross-curricular offerings including AP Economics.
“Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years.”
- Will Durant
The Taft History department believes in the ability of every student to improve, for every student to find her voice, his perspective. We believe that every student can learn to express themselves through the written and spoken word, standing alone before a class or working together in a group. We believe that truly sound thinking comes from critical examination of the evidence, and that both skepticism and open-mindedness are crucial to scholarship. And we believe that every class should be both a place of dynamic intellectual risk taking and a supportive environment where every voice is valued.
We believe in every student.“If you will read again what is written, you will see how it was.”—Black Elk