Humanities is a four-year interdisciplinary experience that is rich in collaboration, student-centered learning, and interactive discussion. Students discover their voices as writers and critical thinkers, as they are challenged to become engaged citizens and responsible leaders in an increasingly complex and globalized world. Humanities is a space for exploration, both personally and academically, that fosters an understanding of self, community, the natural world and the divine.  

Humanities teachers will work with you to help you become a confident, assured writer in whatever field you pursue in college and beyond. Through mixed media, including texts, film, podcasts, visual arts, debates and speeches, you will have the opportunity to explore a variety of voices as you work to develop your own voice in the community and in the world. A number of notable guest speakers also visit classes throughout the academic year to offer different perspectives and insights on current events and topics related to your studies. 

Humanities class

Hum at St. Paul’s is discussion-based — we sit at a Harkness table, which I really like because you can see everyone — and we don’t work from a textbook. Right now, we’re reading “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” which is actually a novel, but Ms. Lamb ties it into American history and what’s happening in the world right now, which is pretty cool.

Meet Lauren Edouard '25

A core curriculum  is designed to introduce students to a wide range of “texts” and help them become adept at making significant connections between these sources. Students also engage with one another in exploring the complex relationships between individuals and their communities. A variety of electives also are open to Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Formers, spanning such topics as “Brahma to Buddha,” “The African Diaspora,” “Practical Politics,” and many more.

Sample Courses

History of American Journalism

From the first instance of censorship in 1690 to yesterday’s news, journalism has been the backbone of American politics and culture. This course explores the beginnings of journalism, the First Amendment and the role of freedom of the press in shaping American democracy. Additionally, the course examines the shifting forms of journalism in recent years and the role of technology and social media, including citizen journalism and fake news. Students will write both analyses of current news coverage and their own narrative journalism. Possible texts include Sacco’s “Journalism,” Daly’s “America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism,” Gladstone’s “The Influencing Machine” and more.

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

This course investigates the rights and liberties provided by the U.S. Constitution, both past and present. Through discussion, readings and media, students will explore historical and contemporary topics related to American rights and liberties. These topics may include free speech, the right to vote, equal protections of the laws, and legal and social issues around race, gender, sexuality and ability. Activities may include reading and writing civil rights poetry, debates, analysis of Supreme Court decisions, mock trials and presentations.

Political Philosophy

Political philosophy is the study of people in societies, focusing on the claims they have on each other in the form of rights and obligations and their demands for justice, equality and liberty. It is concerned with an analysis of the state and related institutions. This course studies questions about sovereignty (the power and authority assumed by the ruler) and political obligation (the duty and submission assumed by the ruled). Students will examine questions such as: Under which conditions can political obligation arise and what is its extent? Are freedom and equality compatible? What is justice — an idea, an ideal or simply a routine legal process? What connection is there between justice and law? What is a law? How are laws justified and are there aspects of human life that laws should not attempt to regulate? Should we always obey the law or are there conditions under which breaking the law is justifiable?

America's Pastime through Literature

This course will look closely at how the game of baseball has mirrored American social, political and economic currents. The course will follow a chronological timeline, from the rise of the major leagues in the 1870s through the modern era, paying particular attention to the game’s impact on individuals and families; racial discrimination and integration; labor relations; urbanization; roles of women; treatment of gay athletes; and implications of performance-enhancing drugs.

Dystopian Literature

Could a utopian society ever exist, and why does a search for the perfect world typically backfire? How do authors use dystopian literature as a form of social commentary on their own societies, and how effective is this form of criticism? How are decades-old social commentaries relevant to our society today? In this course, we will strive to answer these questions as we study the works of Orwell and Atwood, among others. In addition, we will look at the way this genre has evolved with the emergence of several contemporary YA dystopian literature series. Besides novels, short stories and films/TV series may also be used.

Jonathan Brunstedt speaks with student in classes

Schlesinger Writer-in-Residence

“It was fascinating to hear Dr. Brunstedt’s perspective on Russian history and people from his childhood memory of Cold War propaganda in juxtaposition to the cultural history of Russia. Perhaps most important, [he] reminded us to embrace our humanities education to overcome cultural barriers and biases, seeking the historical truth behind the media titles splashed across our phone screens.”
—Elizabeth Painter ‘22

Humanities classroom
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Deadline is Jan. 15. Apply today!