Social Sciences at Middlesex

The Social Science Division provides a forum for students to investigate a wide range of ideas in history, religion, psychology, art, government, and economics. Throughout the Division, faculty members share the goal of developing the skills of critical thinking, efficient research, and effective analysis. During classes, students engage in discussions, exchange knowledge, make observations, and ask questions, so that over time, they develop and articulate their own views and philosophies. Students routinely encounter the unfamiliar, in the form of new content and in the form of ideas that may challenge previous ways of thinking. In such situations, students are encouraged to engage with rigorous curiosity and a desire to deepen their understanding, so that they may become engaged citizens of the twenty-first-century world.

All students must take four semesters of history (any course designated as History). Students in Class IV are encouraged to enroll in history both semesters. In the fall semester, students should enroll in Foundations of the East (History 10). In the spring semester, students should enroll in Foundations of the West (History 11). These courses are designed to solidify the skills students will need for future study within the Division.

Students in Class III are encouraged to enroll in history both semesters. In the fall semester, students should enroll in Early Modern World History (History 20). In the spring semester, students should enroll in Modern World History (History 21). Students who wish to take the Advanced Placement World History Examination in May should enroll in both Early Modern World History (History 20) and Modern World History (History 21). An optional Advanced Placement preparation workshop will be offered in concert with Modern World History in the spring.

Students in Class II are required to take United States History (History 30). Alternatively, they may enroll in AP United States History (History 41) if they have completed History 20 and achieved a grade of 88 or higher in History 21. Students may not request AP United States History if they have not taken History 20 and History 21. Students in Class I may enroll in Advanced Placement or seminar courses of their choice.

Upper-level courses, which may be elected by any member of Classes I and II, focus on specific areas within the larger framework of the Social Sciences. These advanced courses encourage students to use the skills and techniques acquired in earlier courses to delve more deeply into fields of personal interest. In cases of over-enrollment, preference will be given to members of Class I.

All upper-level courses taken by a member of Class I or Class II in any area within the Social Science Division, including United States History, confer credit towards the distributional requirement in the Social Sciences. Only courses designated as History will count toward the departmental requirement.


History Courses: 2020-2021

HISTORY 10. Foundations of the East. Fall. The Department. 4 meetings weekly. History 10 is a semester-long course that explores the development of premodern, ancient, and medieval societies of the Near East and the Far East. Its goal is to introduce students to cultural and religious traditions within their specific historical contexts, so that ninth-grade students can begin the long process of understanding and appreciating the different ways that people around the world and throughout time have tackled the hard every-day work of “being human.” The course takes a loosely chronological approach, beginning with creation myths and the earliest Mesopotamian civilizations, before moving on to investigate the traditions of the ancient and medieval peoples of India and China. In addition to teaching appropriate classroom engagement and strategic study skills, this course teaches methods for the development of fundamental research and bibliographic skills.

HISTORY 11. Foundations of the West. Spring. The Department. 4 meetings weekly. History 11 is a semester-long course that investigates the history of the early and medieval peoples who developed the monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This course also undertakes a full-length research process, resulting in a complete paper with footnotes and bibliography. The course concludes with the reading of Things Fall Apart, a novel that examines the collision of a decentralized agricultural-village society with the British Empire of the late 19th century, and with a cumulative exam. Continued skill development remains a focal point of History 11, in preparation for the heightened expectations of World History in the sophomore year.

HISTORY 20. Early Modern World History. Fall. The Department. 5 meetings weekly. History 20 is a one-semester survey course that focuses on world history from 1450 – mid 1800s CE. While the course incorporates a wide range of topics pertaining to the processes of globalization, there is an emphasis on the political, intellectual, and cultural issues that shaped the early modern world. Specific attention is paid to learning how to interpret primary source materials and to developing geographic literacy. Students will also work on writing effective paragraphs, according to the tenets of the sophomore writing workshop. Students who wish to take the Advanced Placement examination in World History should enroll in this course and attend the exam preparation workshop offered by the Department during the spring semester.

HISTORY 21. Modern World History. Spring. The Department. 5 meetings weekly.  History 21 is a one-semester survey course that focuses on world history from the mid-1800s to the present. Its focus is to continue to develop the skills of analysis and synthesis, through examination of primary sources, the writing of research papers, and the presentation of ideas in class discussions. This course also features a formal research assignment and continued emphasis on geographic literacy. Students intending to take the Advanced Placement examination in World History should complete Early Modern World History and participate in the workshop offered by the Department during the spring semester.

HISTORY 30. United States History. Year. The Department. 5 meetings weekly. This yearlong course covers the study of the United States from the earliest European settlements (early 1600s) through the present day. It utilizes both primary and secondary documents to illuminate those trends and events which have contributed most significantly to the formation of the institutions, values, and norms that characterize the nation today. Strong emphasis is placed upon the development of the skills of research and writing necessary for the pursuit of the discipline of history. Students will complete a major research paper in the second semester.

HISTORY 40. Advanced Placement Art History. Year. Ms. Munro. 5 meetings weekly. Prerequisite: Permission of the Department. Admission to AP Art History is based on performance in Art 11, United States History, and English 30 and 31. Distributional credit in the Arts, the Humanities, or the Social Sciences. This course may be designated as an Art course. Spanning from the Paleolithic art of cave painting to new-media installations of the twenty-first century, this course offers a comprehensive investigation of the history of art. Students will also study art from diverse, global traditions, with units dedicated to the arts of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. As a college-level course, this class will rely on primary sources, academic articles and a course textbook. Throughout the year, students will also refine the skills associated with art-historical writing and criticism, and the class will make periodic trips to area museums. This course prepares students to take the Advanced Placement Examination in Art History.

HISTORY 41. Advanced Placement United States History. Year. Ms. Hession Hoar. 5 meetings weekly. Prerequisite: History 20 and History 21 (with a minimum grade of 88 in History 21). Students will be ranked and admitted based on their performance in History 21. This course covers the same topics as History 30 but with a more varied and in-depth approach to inquiry based critical reading through historiography and the interpretation of primary and secondary sources. This reading intensive course is intended for highly motivated students of history and emphasizes a blend of content mastery with the development of extemporaneous expository writing skills. The course relies on seminar discussion and student-centered activities and will prepare students to take the Advanced Placement Examination in United States History.

HISTORY 42. Advanced Placement European History. Year. Mr. Hitzrot. 5 meetings weekly. Open to Class I and II. Prerequisite: History 30 (with a minimum grade of 87) or History 41 (with a minimum grade of 85).  This content intensive course investigates the political, social, economic, diplomatic, intellectual and cultural history of Europe, from the Renaissance (c.1350 CE) to the present day. This course is intended for highly motivated students of history and relies on seminar discussion and student engagement. This course will prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination in European History.

The following seminar courses are open to all members of Classes I and II. In the case of over enrollment, preference will be given to members of Class I.

HISTORY 50. Afro-American History. Fall. Mr. Whitlock. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. This course will explore the African-American experience from the seventeenth to the late twentieth centuries. Using primary and secondary sources, students will hear the stories, explore the cultures and delve into the causes and effects of slavery in Colonial America, and explore the black presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Students will learn about the complex interplay of freedom and restriction in the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods. Modern African-American History focuses on the struggle to dismantle segregation against the forces of resistance through the World War periods, culminating in the advances of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Students will deepen their understanding of the complexities of color, class, and race in United States History.

HISTORY 52. War and Reconciliation. Spring. Mr. Hitzrot. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. In his provocative 2002 book, the war correspondent Chris Hedges asserted that “war is a force that gives us meaning.” This course will investigate that assertion, based on case studies of human conflict throughout history, from the sacred texts of the ancient Hebrews to more contemporary conflicts in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The course will also examine ways that societies have recovered from war through various methods of reconciliation. Course materials will be drawn from primary source texts, book-length secondary sources, and video clips. In conjunction with nightly readings, students will also post to a shared class blog. Students will write essays in response to the course readings and in response to issues that arise from class discussion.

HISTORY 53. History of Colonial America. Spring. Mr. Whitlock. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. This course will investigate the founding and expansion of the English settlements along the Eastern Seaboard of North America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Using primary and secondary sources, we will explore the social, political, and economic features of colonial society and study such topics as the development of slavery, the rise of colonial assemblies, and relations between colonists and Native Americans in colonial Virginia, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony, and other settlements. During the final weeks of the term, we will examine the Anglo-American conflict of the 1760s and 1770s which culminated in the War of the American Revolution and Independence for the United States of America.

HISTORY 54. Modern China. Fall. Mr. Kulas. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. In 1800 China produced one-third of the entire world’s manufactured goods. At the same time, its system of government had flourished for two thousand years. Within decades, China’s economic and political systems collapsed, and the next century was characterized by famine, foreign dominance, and political chaos. And while its struggles continued throughout the second half of the twentieth-centuryat times at scales that stagger comprehensionChina re-emerged in the early twenty-first-century as one of the world’s great powers. Capitalizing on skills developed over the course of students’ study of history at Middlesex, this course will explore the precipitous fall, mortal turmoil, and explosive rise of China, from the Opium Wars to the present. Using diverse primary and secondary sources, as well as multiple media, students will obtain an introduction and overview to one of the most fascinating periods of Chinese history. Through this course, students will acquire an understanding of China’s role in the world today, and how that role very much reflects and responds to its recent past.

HISTORY 55. Era of the American Civil War: 1850-1877. Spring. Mr. Whitlock. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. Students will explore the complex variables which made the Civil War arguably the most transformative event in US History. Through a variety of primary, secondary and multi-media sources, students will delve into the political, economic, and social factors which contributed to the coming of the war. We will also examine the formation of the Confederacy, the military campaigns, and the key developments which led to Union victory. The course will close with an examination of the Reconstruction Era which further challenged the restored Union. A principal focus throughout the course will be the “peculiar institution” of American slavery, its abolition, and the ongoing racial tensions which continued to divide the fragile peace of the post-Civil War.

HISTORY 56. Global Studies. Fall. The Department. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. Global Studies is a one-semester course which will introduce students to the study of globalization. Global Studies aims to help students develop tools and language to help better equip them to understand and navigate the complexities of our ever-connected and quickly-changing world. Through the study of history, geography, politics, philosophy, economics, and religion students will be introduced to an interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary issues such as migration, justice, and culture, to name a few. Students will have the opportunity to supplement their readings and class discussions with current events. By the end of the course, students will have a more focused idea on how to think through the experiences of others, both on campus and around the world.

HISTORY 57. Ancient Mediterranean History. Spring. Ms. Hession Hoar. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. This course will examine the distinctive cultural, political and social achievements and institutions of the Greek city-states and the Roman Republic and Empire during the classical period. Central themes include the rise of democracy in Athens, the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, the establishment of the republic at Rome, the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, and the expansion of Roman rule across Europe and the Mediterranean. Students will read a mixture of primary and secondary sources, including selections from Greek and Roman poets and historians. No prior knowledge of Greek or Latin is assumed. The course will develop essential historical skills, and students will make and explore connections between ancient and early modern European history, as well as the decisive influence of the classical historians on America’s founding fathers.

HISTORY 59. Art and Life in Nineteenth-Century France. Spring. Ms. Munro. 4 meetings weekly. This course may be designated as an Art course. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences, the Arts, or the Humanities. From Courbet’s Burial at Ornans to Monet’s Waterlilies and from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, many of France’s most recognizable cultural contributions were executed during the nineteenth century. In this course, we will consider the historical backdrop against which these monuments were created, gaining insight into the unique conditions that led to a flourishing of culture and, ultimately, to a radical reconsideration of France’s established institutions. Making use of scholarly secondary sources and a wide range of primary sources—including art, essays and works of fiction—we will pursue an in-depth investigation of this period and its persistent impacts on the conditions of modern life.

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Political Science Courses: 2020-2021

POLITICAL SCIENCE 40. American Government. Fall. The Department. 4 meetings weekly. Prerequisite: a grade of at least 84 in United States History or the previous year’s history course and Permission of the Department. This semester long course introduces students to political science through the study of the U.S. Constitution. The course will begin with an in-depth look at the debates surrounding ratification, and then trace the document’s evolution through amendments and judicial interpretation. Students will use the constitution to study American political institutions and culture as well as the rights and liberties the document created. This course is a prerequisite for students interested in taking Advanced Placement American Government and Politics in the spring.

POLITICAL SCIENCE 41. Advanced Placement American Government and Politics. Spring. The Department. 5 meetings weekly. Prerequisite: A grade of 84 or above in Political Science 40 and Permission of the Department. A continuation of Political Science 40, Advanced Placement American Government and Politics turns increasingly to contemporary politics, focusing on the major institutions of government as well as the outside groups that influence government, including media, interest groups, parties, and voters. The course concludes by pulling together all the factors studied in Political Science 40 and 41 to examine the policymaking process. This course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Examination in American Government and Politics.


Religious Studies Courses: 2020-2021

RELIGIOUS STUDIES 48. World Religions. Fall. Ms. Smedley. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. Why is the Zen Master laughing? What is the significance of the Muslim Hajj? What am I to make of the fantastic, multiple-armed images of Gods in the Hindu tradition? This semester-long course will introduce you to five major world religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – as well as the study of religion as an academic discipline. We will examine the central symbols, doctrines, and practices of each religion by reading both primary and secondary sources as we travel through vastly different cultures, countries, and centuries. Daily discussions will be an integral part of the class experience and academic assessment, and students will write a series of analytical and reflective essays.

RELIGIOUS STUDIES 51. BIG Questions. Spring. Ms. Smedley. 4 meetings weekly. Distributional credit in the Social Sciences or the Humanities. In this course we will examine several philosophical and theological “BIG questions” of human existence, such as the nature of reality, free will, perception, love, god, truth, equality, good, and evil. We will study these elusive and enigmatic questions by reading selections from ancient Greeks to modern day Americans (such as Plato, Arnold, Eliot, Hesse, King, Sartre, Singer, Skinner, Thoreau, Voltaire, and Vonnegut), as well as from the three Abrahamic religions; we will also watch some relevant films (such as Groundhog Day, Pleasantville, Sliding Doors, and The Truman Show). Daily discussions will be an integral part of the class experience and academic assessment. Students will write a series of papers, short and long, personal and analytical. This class is for the open-minded student, secure enough to consider new ideas, confident enough to defend their own ideas, respectful enough to hear other ideas, and prepared enough to participate avidly every day.

The following offerings do not receive academic credit, but they are required curricula for all students of Class IV and for new students in Class III.

MINDFULNESS 10. Introduction to Mindfulness. Fall. Mr. Worthen. 1 meeting weekly. All students in Class IV and new students in Class III are enrolled in this course. This twelve-week nonacademic credit course introduces students to the history, science, and practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is often defined as “paying attention to our present moment experience with curiosity and acceptance” and is a skill that supports students in training their attention, as well as relating to thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a healthier way. While this course is required, the practice of mindfulness at Middlesex is always optional.

GLOBAL 10. Dialogues. Spring. The Department. 1 meeting weekly. All members of Class IV and new students in Class III are enrolled in this course. This six-week nonacademic credit course aims to teach students how to have difficult conversations about world topics using language that is compassionate, analytical, and free of judgment. Students will be introduced to contemporary content from around the world that addresses issues of conflict including, but not limited to, race, gender, religion, cultural appropriation, sexuality, and class. The purpose of the course is to begin the process of preparing students for unfamiliar situations they will find themselves in. This unfamiliarity includes traveling to other parts of the country and world, and speaking with people of different languages, cultures, identities, or values, and working or interning which require interaction with people from different backgrounds. By the end of the course, students will have begun to develop the cross-cultural competency skills needed to enter and function in an increasingly global community and workforce.

The following offering does not receive academic credit, and is optional for Class II students.

GLOBAL 30. Citizenship and Civil Societies. Fall. The Department. 1 meeting weekly. Citizenship is an advanced seminar for juniors whose aim is to give students the history, tools, and comfort to become more proactive citizens in the global communities to which they belong. This nonacademic credit course will run concurrently with juniors’ US history (non-AP and AP) course for eight weeks. Ultimately, we hope that students become more empathetic and active citizens who, when paired with their Mindfulness, Dialogues, and other community-life work, are able to recognize the many layers of citizenship: Awareness of ourselves as citizens; interaction and dialogue with other citizens with whom we do and do not identify; proactive, civic engagement within our communities. Each week will cover a different element of citizenship and will roughly coincide with students’ discussions of citizenship in US history, beginning with the arrival of European settlers and moving through the Jackson Era. Students will also develop their citizenship skills across their national, global, and digital communities. 


Economics Courses: 2020-2021

ECONOMICS 41. Advanced Placement Economics. Year. Mr. Holbrook. 5 meetings weekly. Prerequisite: Permission of the Department. Admission to AP Economics is based on performance in United States History (85 in AP US History or 87 in US History) and in mathematics (85 in Math 49 or 87 in Math 39). This course is an introduction to microeconomics and macroeconomics. The microeconomics section of the course will analyze the behavior of individual consumers and producers and the laws of supply and demand in competitive and uncompetitive markets. The macroeconomics portion of the course will discuss the indicators used to judge the economic health of a nation and how policy makers use fiscal and monetary policy to target economic growth, low unemployment, and price stability. Sources include research publications, newspapers, and web sites for economic statistics and popular and scientific viewpoints. Class activities include market simulations, debates, and student-centered activities. Student groups will present an advanced topic or application as a final project. This course prepares students to take the Advanced Placement Examinations in Microeconomics and Macroeconomics.


Psychology Courses: 2020-2021

PSYCHOLOGY 50. Psychology. Spring. The Department. 4 meetings weekly. What does it mean to be human? Who are you and why are you the way you are? How do people suffer and how are these problems addressed in psychotherapy? These are just a few of the big questions we will explore in this introductory course to psychology. To this end, we will examine psychological theories and research in the realms of personality, developmental, social, cognitive, abnormal, and clinical psychology. We will read case studies, explore current research, and observe our own experiences in order to better understand ourselves and how we relate to the world around us. This is an activities, discussion and research-based class requiring a curious and open mind and a willingness to participate in self-reflection.