The following course descriptions detail the likely offerings during any school year, though specifics will vary from term to term and course lineups are always changing. Click on the course titles below for full descriptions.
Sophomores take a series of trimester-long non-western history courses
This course closely examines the region comprising modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. You will study the role the British Empire had in shaping the state of Afghanistan and tipping the balance toward the creation of the modern state of Pakistan. You will also learn how the two countries have functioned as autonomous entities and players on the world stage. Additionally, themes such as governance, education, religion, economics, geography, gender equality, and U.S. foreign policy with both countries will receive significant attention. Importantly, the course puts a strong focus on contemporary happenings through daily current events and research presentations and papers highlighting the challenges facing the region of South Asia today.
This course will introduce students to both basic and advanced concepts in the study of economics, paying particular attention to the interdisciplinary aspects of the field of economics. During the first half of the year, we will focus on microeconomics, which analyzes the relationship between supply and demand and how these market forces both determine and are shaped by the behavior of consumers and firms. Since this portion of the course will require students to use advanced arithmetic and basic algebra to solve problems, students should have a strong background in mathematics. During the second half of the year, we will turn our focus to macroeconomics, which analyzes patterns and forces within the larger economy. For example, we will look at how unemployment, interest rates, government policies, and environmental catastrophes can affect the broader economy. This course will not be a “traditional” survey in economics. The course will also investigate issues that lie at the intersection of economics and history, sustainability, and international relations
This course will introduce students to Chicanx Studies and Afro-Latinx Studies as an intellectual, political, and cultural project steeped in transhistorical and transnational traditions of resistance and radicalism. It broadly surveys the ongoing process of Chicanx cultural production and identity formation as structured through race and its intersection with gender, sexualities, and class. Key to this survey will be an understanding of:
1) the importance of race and resistance in structuring notions of identity and its representations;
2) the presence of structural racism and white privilege;
3) the relationship between cultural production and power.
This course exists to create an opportunity for students to know what it means to act, and what the meaning of direct action is, in a time of peril for so many. This means that one of the many shared agreements we will establish is the importance of social justice work as part of the tradition of Ethnic Studies as a political project writ large. We engage with social issues by directing ourselves toward collaborations that uplift and produce results for people who need them. This is a class in which we value community knowledge, and as such students will be expected to engage with, respect, and learn from communities, their situated knowledge, and their visions of democracy and the future.
This course begins with a look at 'traditional' China in terms of culture, religion/philosophy and political structures. The bulk of the class is then spent looking at the degree to which China is able to deal with the challenges posed by its involuntary interactions with the West and the subsequent “Century of Humiliation.” This thread is followed from the Opium wars, through the fall of the Qing dynasty and into the foundation of the People's Republic. The latter portion of the class looks at the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, its successes and failures, and the challenges it faces as it seeks to achieve the “Chinese Dream” under the current leadership of Xi Jinping. Students will continue to develop their analytical writing skills as well as engage in a lengthy research paper and formal presentation.
Students will examine the history of the modern Middle East (late 19th century to the present day) with a focus on the political, cultural, and intellectual changes that have occurred over the past 150 years. The overarching goal of this course is to study the history of the region through the eyes of its people, rather than solely as the subject of Western imperialism or for its position within post 9/11 geopolitics. The following are the themes of the course:
Imperialism: How did European and Ottoman imperialism shape Middle Eastern institutions, outlooks, and intellectual currents from the nineteenth century until today?
Nationalism: How was the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries interpreted by individuals in the Middle East? How, specifically, did Middle Eastern forms of nationalism, such as Arabism, Ba’thism, Nasserism, and Zionism, arise and flourish?
Contested Modernities: What are the major intellectual, social, and political currents of the modern Middle East? How did identities change (or not) as states and borders, majorities and minorities, shifted over time?
Students will closely examine global, social, and political issues with the goal of enhancing their interest in, understanding of, and responsibility to the world we live in today. Given that students will receive a cursory exposure to the study of ethics, this course is associated with the Marvin Shagam Program in Ethics and Global Responsibility. The following represent the three fall-term units we will cover:
Ethics in America: An Endangered Species?
November 3rd: A Thorough Examination of Trump V. Biden and California’s Ballot Propositions
Surviving a Pandemic: The Ethical Ramifications of Covid-19
What is America? This course begins with the proposition that an answer to this question is best approached through a joint study of American literature and language and history. Therefore, we will seek to coordinate the disciplines of English and history so that students can gain a deeper understanding of not only American culture, history, politics, art, and literature, but also their relationship to the idea of America. In addition to using traditional textbooks, we’ll investigate a myriad of sources including fiction, non-fiction (speeches, essays, memoirs, and editorials), art, advertisements, film, music, and artifacts of popular culture in our quest to contemplate the American past and present in innovative and creative ways. While you will still have distinct history and English class periods, the courses’ syllabi will be coordinated, and assignments will sometimes overlap.
The decolonization of Africa from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s resulted in several proxy Cold War confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union over the dozens of newly independent, non-aligned nations. The human, social and economic wounds inflicted on Africa during the Cold War are still very raw. In this course, we will examine changes in Africa following World War II. We will discover what factors led to decolonization, and we will highlight the central themes surrounding anti-colonial resistance movements. We will look at anti-colonial revolutions in Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Algeria; we will study the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa, several proxy wars financed by the US and Soviet Union, and some major political issues facing contemporary African states today. To tackle this Herculean task, we will have to stand back and try to apply the discursive tools of history, literature, political science and economics to make sense of such a diverse, complex continent. We will draw on various sources including film and music (from the continent and the diaspora), writings from political scientists, novelists, and economists and, of course, historians.
Religious difference, technological innovation, a belief in individual freedom, the growth of representative government, and industrialization have been, and continue to be, major forces throughout the world. In this course, we will explore the emergence and spread of these forces in the West over the last five hundred years. In addition, we will seek to understand how these forces are present in our twenty-first-century world by investigating a wide range of current topics, such as conflict in the Middle East and the emergence of Nationalism in Europe. While much of our focus will be on how the West has spread liberalism, capitalism, and industrialization, we will pay special attention to how other parts of the world have responded to these changes. Students will also learn to think like historians through critical reading of the textbook and primary documents, dynamic student-centered class discussions, and a diverse range of written assignments, debates, and presentations.
Colby College - BA University of Pennsylvania - MA Brandeis University - PhD
Sarah graduated from Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, then headed north to Colby College for her undergraduate work, then to University of Pennsylvania for her masters, then north again to Brandeis University for her doctoral work. She began her teaching career at Phillips Academy, Andover, before joining the Thacher faculty. Sarah is currently the chair of the History Department, advises junior girls, and coaches cross country and track and field. When not spending time with her husband and three children, Sarah enjoys running.
Afternoon Program Coordinator, History Teacher
Villanova University - BA University of Hawaii - MEd
Jason teaches two sections of history, advises junior boys, and chairs the School's Voices and Perspectives Committee. While at Thacher, Jason has served as History Department chair, dormitory head for three dorms, a senior admission officer, and dean of faculty. He has also developed curriculum for many history courses, including Honors U.S. History and Honors Contemporary Ethical Issues. Additionally, Jason has coached the varsity boys’ basketball team since 2002 and,along with receiving league honors, was a CIF Coach-of-the-Year recipient. He lives on campus with his wife, Megan, their three children, and their dog, Bruce.
Gina’s love of history, literature, art, and writing were all forged while growing up in Los Angeles, where she spent her spare time painting, reading, and plotting her escape. After graduating from Harvard, where she studied English and American literature, she returned to California to pursue postgraduate studies in painting and an MA in art and architectural history. Her MA thesis on late 19th century French luxury brothels allowed her to explore historical issues of gender, space, and architecture. In 2012, she received her PhD in architectural history from Princeton University and has been teaching courses in urban history, history of science, art and architectural history, and politics ever since. At Thacher, Gina is a member of the History Department faculty, serves as an advisor, and works with students in the BSU, the yearbook, and the Writing Center. She lives on campus with her husband, Jake, and their two young children, Luke and Greta.
Acting Head of School, Spanish and Economics Teacher
During his time at Thacher, Jeff has taught courses in Spanish, history, and economics and currently serves as assistant head of school. He is also the head coach of varsity football—having himself played four years of football at Trinity University and then worked as an assistant football coach at TMI—The Episcopal School of Texas in San Antonio, where he also taught Spanish. Jeff appreciates the tightly knit community at Thacher and enjoys the Outdoor Program, whose trips into the Sespe, the San Rafael Mountains, and the southern Sierra have taught him a lot about camping. Guided by his love of Spanish, Jeff has explored Mexico and studied in Latin America. He lives on campus with his wife, Kara, and their two sons, Hayden ’23 and Hiram
Rachel is a Flagstaff, AZ native and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. After graduating high school, she moved east to attend Dartmouth College where she studied history and Native American studies. She specialized in oral histories and 20th century Native American history, and wrote her honors thesis on the first generation of Native women to attend Dartmouth in the late 20th century. She got her start in teaching at Choate Rosemary Hall where she taught United States history, government, and the history of the American west. Additionally she coached a variety of sports including field hockey, volleyball, and track and field. She is excited to be back in the sunny American west and lives in Ojai with her two cats, Goose and Luna.
Chair of the History Department, History Teacher
Pennsylvania State University - PhD Middlebury College - MA Colgate University - BA
Russell is a professional historian and published author with over 25 years of teaching experience. He hails from New York City and spent most of his childhood growing up in rural north-central Pennsylvania. Russell graduated from Colgate University with a bachelor’s degree in history, German and Japanese studies - magna cum laude. He earned his master’s degree from Middlebury College in German studies and his PhD in modern German history from Pennsylvania State University with additional academic work at the Humboldt University in Berlin, fellowships at Erfurt University, Germany, the USC Shoah Foundation in LA, and the US Holocaust Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies in Washington, DC. Professionally, he continues to co-facilitate the Emotions Studies Network that he founded within the German Studies Association and publish his research on emotions and politics in modern German history, including a recently co-authored book, Feelings Materialized: Emotions, Bodies, and Things in Germany, 1500-1950.
Russell started teaching history and English at his high school alma mater, Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. He has also lectured at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, taught in the Berlin German public school system, worked with at-risk youth in the Baltimore public school and juvenile justice systems, taught US and world history at Santa Fe Prep in Santa Fe, NM, where he chaired their history department. At Thacher, Russell is the chair of the history department and director of the Marvin Shagam Program for Ethics and Global Citizenship, and teaches the ninth grade world history and junior Honors US history courses. He also serves as an academic advisor for sophomores, coaches soccer, oversees The Asian Student Society (TASS), mycology club, and Model UN club, co-advises the school’s journalism program, and offers xBlocks in journalism, German language, Japanese culture, and other areas of historical expertise. In his free time, Russell loves gardening, singing, playing guitar, biking, hiking, camping, almost any sport, and spending time with his wife Nicole, son Sequoia, and daughter Maya.
A college preparatory, coed boarding school for grades 9-12
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.