New History Curriculum Implemented; Students Fight for Advanced French Studies


Eric Hadley, Staff Writer

As the 2018-2019 school year draws to a close, students are looking ahead to the upcoming school year and planning their next steps. Many students find the process of selecting classes to fill their 8 credit requirement to be a daunting task since there are so many available options and different paths to follow.
A major change currently taking place in the high school is the removal of Western Civilization from the Social Studies curriculum. The class of 2022 is the first grade to not take Western Civ as the 9th-grade history course.
According to history teacher Mr. Jeffrey Kahn, Strath Haven “would like the Social Studies curriculum to be more global and less European-focused. The Western Civ curriculum was interesting but gave everybody the sense, I think, that only important things happened in Europe or happened because of Europe. … So when people go through our regular curriculum and graduate without learning anything about any part of the world except when it’s being colonized by Europe, I think that’s a mistake—a flaw.”
Kahn then went on to explain how the new history curriculum would be grandfathered in. The class of 2021 will continue on with the old classes, while the following class will pretty much take the same classes at the same time—U.S. History in 9th grade, World History in 10th grade, and 20th Century History (which will start after World War I, giving teachers a chance to talk about more present issues) in 11th grade.
One of the new courses being introduced into the curriculum is the Pan-African Studies class. Students in this class will learn about the African-American experience and examine the African Diaspora through the studies of literature and film, field trips, group discussions, and projects. Throughout the class, students learn about the impacts that people of African descent have, focusing on major historical events and important changemakers. Pan-African Studies provides Strath Haven students with a wonderful opportunity to understand and observe race and identity from many perspectives. This elective is open to all 10th through 12th graders.
In addition to multicultural classes, Strath Haven High School offers many language courses that one can take throughout high school in order to complete the school’s foreign language requirements.
Unfortunately, following this school year, students will no longer be able to take Latin. Spanish, Chinese, German, and French all offer various paths to embark upon if one is compelled enough in the subject. Each language has levels 1 through 4 available to take and an AP class that focuses further on the language and culture. Spanish, German, and French all offer Seminar classes in addition to or in place of the other options.
AP Spanish Literature and Advanced German Studies are also offered. However, due to a reduced faculty in the French department, the Advanced French Studies class is likely not to continue for the next school year. Since each teacher has a maximum amount of class blocks they can teach, this class was not lucky enough to make the cut.
On March 25th, Rebecca Friedman, with classmates Lauren Park, Grace Dupont, and Geraldine Leech, attended a school board meeting to speak for the students who felt cheated by this decision. With a speech prepared by Hope Graham and Lilian Liu, Rebecca spoke in front of the school board, explaining why the class should be left in place.
“We found out a week before that Advanced French Studies was probably not going to run in favor of French 1,” said Friedman. “We were all upset because they told us after we made our course selections and also because we all had doubled up this past year in order to take this class next year.”
Many of the current AP French students, Friedman added, planned on taking a French course in their senior year, regardless of whether or not Advanced French Studies stays in the curriculum. Currently, they’re trying to organize either taking a class at Swarthmore College or taking an independent study that mimics the advanced course.
With many changes in the curriculum—courses being added and removed—the 2019-2020 school year will be full of new opportunities for classes to take. Many people choose to double up in math and/or science for many of their high school years, but it’s important to remember that there is a diverse selection of engaging classes that can grant knowledge not be found elsewhere.