Courses and Curriculum
The faculty of The John Dewey Academy teaches all courses required for graduation and for admission to an excellent college. (For a list of requirements, click here.) Beyond those regularly-taught courses, teachers offer many electives, including special-interest classes for students with well-defined academic passions, as well as college-level classes for advanced students. By the time students graduate, we expect them to do more than cope successfully with the demands of life at an excellent college. We expect them to thrive there.
Students take English classes for their entire stay, even if they have completed their high-school requirements. Students choose new classes each semester.
Medieval And Renaissance Literature
This course focuses on major literary works of the Middle Ages (Beowulf, Dante’s Inferno) and Renaissance (Boccaccio’s Decameron, a play or two by Shakespeare).
Nineteenth-Century British Novel
This course centers on the classic novels of Victorian England, composed by writers such as the Bronte sisters, Dickens, Hardy, and Wilde.
Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature (In Translation)
This upper-level course focuses on works by Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov) and Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Illych, Anna Karenina, or War and Peace).
The reading for this course includes award-winning magazine articles of the past few years. After reading first-person pieces, profiles, and researched articles, and recent nonfiction books, students craft their own articles, which culminate in a major article suitable for publication.
The Twentieth-Century Novel In English
This course begins with Post-Victorian novels, such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, moves through the modernists of the early twentieth century (Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), and ends with postmodern experiments such as Ondaatje’s English Patient or Roy’s God of Small Things.
World Literature Of The Twentieth Century (In Translation)
This upper-level course begins with modernist classics, such as Kafka’s Metamorphisis, and moves on to postmodern, post-colonial fictions such as Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
Composition & Grammar
This short summer course teaches students the basic rules of grammar and punctuation that are essential to the mastery of correct formal prose.
This summer course focuses on a selection of the best novels of the past ten years, such fictions as Eggers’ Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, McCarthy’s The Road, and Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
Introduction To Literary Theory
This fast-paced, demanding summer course gives students a quick overview of new approaches to analyzing literature (psychoanalytic, deconstructive, reader-response, political, New Historical).
Students who have been at Dewey for at least a year may design and undertake an independent study (under supervision) during the summer.
Electives in English have included courses like The Literature of War, Politics and Literature, Postmodernism, The Short Story, American Literature (for those few students who missed it at their previous high schools), Classical Literature, and the Bible.
This year-long course covers both the mathematical logic and practical application of geometry. Topics include proofs, triangles, polygons, circles, area, and volume.
This year-long course in second-year algebra covers problem-solving, graphing, and competence in algebraic manipulation.
This year-long course in precalculus covers functions, trigonometry, and advanced mathematical concepts (e.g., polar coordinates, complex numbers, sequences and series) in preparation for calculus and physics courses.
This year-long course introduces students to the basic concepts of calculus, with an emphasis on problem solving and exploring the applications of calculus.
This year-long course covers advanced topics in calculus: differential equations, higher-order linear equations, and various kinds of mathematical modeling and problem solving for natural processes in the sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Statistics, etc.)
This is a review course for students who have been away from math for some time. The topics covered depend upon the needs of individual students, but typical topics include fractions, exponents, basic algebra, and radicals.
This standard year-long high school chemistry course includes laboratory work. Emphasis is placed on atomic structure, phases of matter, molecular structure, and reaction chemistry.
Organic Chemistry / Biochemistry
This year-long introductory lecture course is equivalent to a one-semester introductory college class. The first semester covers basic organic chemistry and is occasionally offered as a stand-alone course. The second semester is an introduction to biochemistry. The course emphasizes the structure and function of organic and biological molecules.
This year-long lecture course in basic high-school biology is a survey of the natural world with emphasis on the unifying theories of biology, such as cell structure and function, genetics, and evolution.
This one-semester course is an introduction to a variety of ocean ecosystems. Some topics include the biological systems of coral reefs, estuaries, polar seas, the deep ocean, and environmental challenges.
This year-long course covers both problem solving and laboratory exploration of the basic laws of physics.
This year-long, advanced course in physics covers such topics as the Theory of Special Relativity, photons and matter waves, nuclear physics, and elementary particles such as quarks and leptons.
This one-semester class takes a light-hearted but scientifically correct look at courtship and mating behavior throughout the animal kingdom. Special emphasis is placed on how the process of sexual selection drives evolution. The textbook is Doctor Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, by evolutionary biologist Dr. Olivia Judson.
Electives in Mathematics and Science include such classes as Game Theory, Forensic Science, Astronomy, Special Topics in Chemistry or Biology, and Accelerated Algebra II.
This two-semester survey course provides students with an overview of American history from pre-European contact to the modern period. It explores the major cultural, intellectual, religious, social, political, and economic themes that have shaped the United States from its colonial past to the twenty-first century.
This two-semester survey provides students with a broad overview of Western Civilization from ancient times to the modern era. It explores the major cultural, intellectual, religious, political, social, and economic issues of the Western World over a span of more than five thousand years. It also considers other parts of the world in relation to the West.
Latin American History
This course surveys Latin America history from pre-Columbian civilizations, through the colonial era, to the age of independent Latin American republics. The course identifies patterns of similarity in the region’s historic development while also covering the distinctive features that characterize various countries and regions of Latin America.
The American Revolution And American Identity
This course examines the American Revolution by looking at the social, political, economic, and cultural events that culminated in a civil war between factions of British-Americans. It also considers the difficulties of forming a single American identity during and after the revolutionary war.
The American Civil War
This course examines the political, economic, social, constitutional, and military events of the American Civil War. It considers the historical events that shaped the conflict from the American Revolution to the sectional crisis during the first half of the nineteenth century and the constitutional effects of the war on the reconstruction process.
The U.S. Civil Rights Movement
This course examines the key events, figures, and philosophies of the civil rights movement from the Reconstruction period to the end of the twentieth century. Although the course covers more than a century of the civil rights movement, special attention is given to the momentous events from 1955 to 1968.
Cultural Perspectives In Latin America
This course examines the countries of Latin America from various social, political, economic, and political perspectives. Though the course emphasizes contemporary issues (including foreign interventions, development issues, and the role of the United States in the area), it also investigates the lingering effects of the colonial period.
Introduction To Psychology
This general psychology course provides students with a basic overview of psychology, and challenges them to think actively and work like psychologists. Students are introduced to various approaches to psychology (biological, cognitive, behavioral, and psychodynamic). They learn about branches of psychology (developmental, clinical, evolutionary, and social), personality theory, research methods, and other special interest topics.
Flourishing: An Introduction To Positive Psychology
People are like plants: under the right conditions, they will usually flourish. This elective seminar introduces students to positive psychology, the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Students examine the latest research in social and positive psychology on happiness, virtue, and personal growth. They also consider some of the “great truths,” the insights into the human mind and heart bequeathed to us by poets and philosophers.
Psychology Seminar: Evolutionary, Cultural, And Social Perspectives
This elective course provides students with a basic introduction to evolutionary, cultural, and social psychology. Through these lenses, students examine such topics as gender roles, gender socialization, sex and mating, crime and violence, religion, conflict, morality, and the psychology of emotions. Students are encouraged to debate and analyze these various perspectives in this discussion-based class.
Students who have been at Dewey for at least a year may, under faculty supervision, design and undertake independent work during the summer.
Electives in History include courses that concentrate on such topics as Benjamin Franklin and the Birth of the United States, The Framing of the U.S. Constitution, European and American Historiography, The Vietnam War, The Media, Introduction to the Theory and Methods of Archaeology, Classical Cultures and Civilizations (including specialized histories of Greece and Rome). In Psychology, specialized courses may be offered in such major figures as Freud, Jung, and Lacan.
Beginning students acquire a reading knowledge of the language, build vocabulary, and begin to engage in conversation in French. They are encouraged to practice their active learning outside of class with more advanced students.
Students expand vocabulary, analyze complex grammatical and syntactical structures, read aloud, and translate literary works like La Rochefoucauld’s Maximes, La Fontaine’s Fables, and Maupassant’s Contes. French is the primary language of instruction, with English used only as needed.
Students progress toward fluency in reading, translating, speaking, and writing French. The emphasis is on discussion and writing in French as students study 17th- and 18th-century writers of literature (Molière, Racine, Voltaire, Diderot) and philosophy (Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Rousseau).
Advanced students dedicate themselves in this course to gaining fluency in French conversation and writing. Students read, translate, and discuss 19th- and 20th-century literature (Balzac, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Proust, Camus) and philosophy (Bergson, Sartre, Foucault, Lyotard, Levinas, Derrida, Deleuze) as well as engaging in special projects.
Once a week, the intermediate and advanced students join together in French conversation. These conversations are often based on lectures in French history, politics, and art which the students have viewed online before class.
Beginning students acquire a reading knowledge of the language, build vocabulary, and begin to engage in simple conversation in Italian. They are encouraged to practice their active learning outside of class with more advanced students.
Students expand vocabulary, analyze complex grammatical and syntactical structures, read aloud, and translate various Italian works. Students are encouraged to converse in Italian both inside and outside of class with fellow students.
Advanced students progress in their aural comprehension and in their active speaking of Italian. Italian is the primary language of instruction, with English used only as needed. The course gives serious attention to the writings of Dante and Petrarch.
Students may engage in special projects such as studying a particular period of Italian culture (the Renaissance, the modern period), focusing on particular writers (such as Calvino), or writing essays in Italian.
This course gives students an intensive introduction to basic Spanish with a task-oriented approach to language learning. Students develop fluency in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing Spanish. They also acquire a deeper understanding of the civilization of the Spanish-speaking world. The class is conducted in Spanish.
Spanish Review For Communication
This course improves students’ understanding of written and spoken Spanish, increases their awareness of Spanish cultural institutions, and encourages lively and accurate participation in class work. A review of basic Spanish grammar is supplemented by the readings and discussion of topics in contemporary Spanish culture.
This course offers an intensive grammar review followed by oral and written practice. By the end of the year, students can understand clearly what they read and hear as well as express themselves orally and in writing.
This practical course requires intermediate students to practice conversation and use correct pronunciation in everyday situations.
The Literature Of Latin America
This literature course helps students learn to analyze critically recent narrative works by representative Latin American writers. Students read the selected works, discuss them, and write about them in Spanish. The course emphasizes the comprehension of texts in their social and political context.
The Modern Latin American Novel
Students read the widely known and acclaimed novelists of Latin America, including Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortazar, Juan Rulfo, Alejo Carpentier and Ernesto Sabato. Special attention is given to the theme of cultural identity in terms of the historical and political realities of Latin America.
This course introduces students to the basic elements of Latin vocabulary and grammar.
This course improves students’ knowledge of vocabulary and grammar and introduces them to readings in authors such as Catullus, Cicero, and Caesar.
Literary Readings In Latin
This course allows advanced students of Latin to read demanding poetic texts such as Virgil’s Aeneid and the Odes of Horace.
Electives in Foreign Languages include classes in Greek language and literature at all levels, as well as various foreign literatures in translation. Advanced students are encouraged to follow their academic passions: we might, for example, offer courses in such topics as Italian Opera or Contemporary French Literary Theorists.
Introduction To Philosophy
This survey course covers the basic understanding of what philosophy is and of what the major thinkers of the Western tradition have written. After an overview of the questions and concerns of various divisions of philosophy (e.g., metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy), students read selections from philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Kant, Nietzsche, and Sartre.
This introduction to Political Philosophy examines the roots and purpose of political systems. As students read primary sources in the Western tradition of political thought, they learn to evaluate political theories and systems. Readings include selections from Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Marx.
This course introduces students to Continental Philosophy, or Existentialism. As students explore the writings of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, they try to clarify the vague (and often misunderstood) concepts of Existentialism and the Existentialist Movement.
Although not strictly a philosophy course, this class is required for every student every semester. It raises ethical as well as existential issues and requires students to clarify their values. Students reflect on decision-making processes and sort out the roles of emotions, thoughts, and will in the responsible use of freedom and choice.
Electives in Philosophy may explore in depth a specific type of philosophy (e.g., Aesthetics, Ethics), the philosophy of a specific subject (Philosophy of Science or Film), or a specific thinker (e.g., Plato, Descartes, Derrida). Courses are also occasionally offered in Religious Studies, such as World Religions, Liberation Theology and Latin America, and the Bible.
Art courses encourage students to think and problem-solve creatively through exploration of various art forms. Although some technical skills are taught, the department encourages a free-flowing expression of students' creativity. The courses regularly offered include Studio Art, Creative Writing, Drama, Music, Film, and Art History. All courses emphasize the creative process, and performance-based classes put on at least one student-organized performance for the entire school each semester. In the visual arts program, students exhibit their works at the school as well as at community art exhibits such as the yearly Berkshire County High School Art Show. Students also engage in activities outside the classroom such as attending plays, museums, movies, poetry readings, and concerts. Art students work in a creative atmosphere that encourages them to open up and explore their talents in a supportive and nurturing environment.