History Electives Focus on Humanity in Human History

As Millbrook VIth form students ready themselves for college and beyond, two history electives, in particular, are designed to contextualize and prepare students for a thoughtful life in the larger world. Anthropology, taught by Trip Powers, and Immigration & Migration, taught by Lindsay Peterson, are concerned with humanity as well as human history.
Appropriately, Mr. Powers’ Anthropology class meets in a laboratory in the Math and Science Center. Assigned readings encourage students to examine other cultures while considering their own frames of reference and experience. The laboratory setting encourages the exploration of all ideas and fosters a judgment-free environment. Group work and discussion flow freely from the material as Mr. Powers listens in and lends thoughtful structure to the discourse.
Working from a scholarly article, a recent Anthropology class considered the practice of Tibetan polyandrythe marrying of several brothers to the same wife. Group discussions led to a class-wide dialogue on familial constructs and the economic and societal results of the practice viewed through an anthropological lens. Refocusing, the class then discussed civil unions and the changing familial patterns over time in the United States.
Lindsay Peterson’s course on Immigration and Migration seeks to place students in time through the use of primary sources like The New York Times archives, along with contemporary media and reporting and first-person accounts, like those of DACA candidates. In the current tensions and wide-ranging concern over immigration in the United States, students are encouraged to explore what past mass migrations have meant to the economy, society, and policy in this country and worldwide.
Students research the effects of immigration after studying the reasons for migration. They carefully examine religious and political persecution, natural disasters, and economic hardship as root causes of the historical mass movements of people. By studying history from this angle, students gather insight into current immigration policy and its attendant controversies. Legal and illegal immigration are considered along with the plight of refugees.
Ms. Peterson’s curriculum has developed in step with ongoing changes in contemporary immigration policy. As they work towards the final class project, essentially a thorough immigration policy proposal, students work independently and in smaller groups to develop their own personal understanding of the material. Ms. Peterson praises her class for “diving deeply into the historical elements and bringing them forward into their own proposals.”
These History Department electives encourage students to develop their own ideas about history through solid research and creative inquiry. In a changing world, the study of history is most useful when tethered to current events. Millbrook’s history electives produce flexible thinkers ready to engage with the world as it is.
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