The study of the humanities is, appropriately, the study of humanity. It is one way in which we take part in the conversation that mankind has been having with itself for centuries in an attempt to understand itself and the world in which it lives. This is achieved through studying its accomplishments (history) and through studying its own ideas about itself, the world and God (philosophy, literature, theology). Finally, we take part in the conversation in an active way through written and oral expressions of these ideas, as we attempt not only to understand and explain them, but also to grapple with them ourselves and come to terms with them.
Seventh grade history - This course is an introduction to the ancient roots of Western civilization spanning a range between 5000 B.C., when the first settlements in the Tigris- Euphrates River Valley emerged, to about 410 A.D., when the Visigoths sacked Rome. Along the way, the history teacher introduces the students to the major elements of civilization as they developed in the West: science and technology, commerce, fine and practical arts, government, religion, education, warfare and daily life (family order, fashion, food and leisure activities).
In order for students to master these elements, the teacher trains them to construct maps, timelines and artistic replicas; to memorize dates, figures, events and places; and to discuss original and secondary readings in order to deepen their knowledge of the history. These tasks further require the teacher to train the students in note-taking, outlining, map and timeline construction, and preparation and presentation of oral reports.
In order to enrich the students’ historical imaginations, the history teacher assigns a number of projects designed to bring certain historical elements to life: interpreting foreign scripts, feasts consisting of foods prepared from ancient recipes, models of historically important constructs like a pyramid or an aqueduct, and dramatic performances of ancient plays or plays based on antiquity.
Finally, the teacher regularly presents lectures that: a) outline the narrative as presented in the textbook, and b) center on topics germane to the course, bringing an expertise and a set of insights not found in the textbook.
Thus, since this course relies on lecture and discussion, it requires the teacher to be creative and energetic in bringing history to life and in guiding the students in developing a range of skills through a wide range of tasks. At this age, the students lack the intellectual maturity and stamina necessary to deal exclusively with the lecture format. This limitation requires the introduction of alternative activities (such as projects, readings, visual images and films) to permit the students to rest from listening and note- taking.
Eighth-grade history - In this course, the goal is for students to master the essential narrative account of the Middle Ages and gain insight into the culture of the time through the study of art, literature and architecture. We want to foster in them the vision of greatness through the study of men and women of character whose achievements reestablished civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire. Through the reading of original sources and documents we develop their reading and analytical skills while bringing them in touch with the important thinkers and leaders of the Middle Ages.
The historical narrative begins in 410 A.D. with the sack of Rome by the Visigoths and ends in 1450 A.D. with the Renaissance. In the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire and the ensuing chaos wrought by yet more invasions, Christianity was largely responsible for rebuilding and sustaining civilization and for preserving the inheritance of Greek and Roman culture. With the Christianizing of the Germanic tribes and through the accomplishments of great individuals, political order and economic stability were reestablished. At crucial moments in this era, individuals of extraordinary character and insight led the church to needed reforms.
At the fall of the Roman Empire the stirrings of rich cultures and politically powerful states emerged in the east in the Byzantine and Muslim empires. The artistic and intellectual activity of these empires in preserving remnants of the classical world were instrumental in the growth of the Western medieval tradition. As these empires came into contact with the Western world through invasions and the crusades, their inheritance became the West's.
In grades nine through twelve Trinity School presents an integrated approach to the humanities, with the understanding that the various fields of the humanities—literature, history, philosophy—while distinct disciplines, ultimately are not separate. They form a cohesive whole in understanding humanity. The heart of the program is the seminar. ( see The Humane Letters Seminar )