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Full Course List

Creative Arts

Creative Arts 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 and are all tailored to meet the interests of each individual student. All courses emphasize the creative process and performance-based classes put on at least one performance per 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 at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA. 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.

Modern Languages

The conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of languages. Roger Bacon

The limits of my language are the limits of my world. Ludwig Wittgenstein

Beginning French 

Our aim is to gain mastery of the elements of French: the alphabet, pronunciation, vocabulary, orthography, parts of speech, regular verb forms, and other basics of grammar, morphology, and syntax. The emphasis at the start is on the mathematical components of language study. French audio and visual materials are used to initiate the students in the practice of listening and speaking. Students put into practice their growing vocabulary and understanding of grammar by writing essays in French and by joining with other students in conversation. Beginning students are encouraged take advantage of the small Dewey community and practice active language learning outside of class with the more advanced students. To supplement our study of basic grammar, we read out loud and translate a variety of materials drawn from contemporary French culture.

Intermediate French

Our aim is to build on the foundation of the elements learned in Beginning French: expanding vocabulary; progressing in our study of the parts of speech through a mastery of irregular verbs and the various classes of pronouns; analyzing complex grammatical and syntactical structures; writing in French; and reading aloud and translating literary works, including sections from Madame de Lafayette’s La Princess de Clèves, La Rochefoucauld’s Maximes, Pascal’s Pensées, La Fontaine’s Contes, and Rousseau’s Les Confessions. 

Advanced French 

French is the language of instruction, with English used only as needed. Advanced French is a class for students who are prepared to: 

  • dedicate themselves to fluency in French conversation and writing;
  • read, translate, and discuss the French intellectual tradition of literature, politics, science and philosophy;
  • watch French films and political programs like C’est dans l’air streamed online, mainly from Paris;
  • discuss openly the French point of view on current events in the United States and around the world.

Literary works in Advanced French include Descartes’ Discours de la méthode, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, and Camus’ La Chute, among others.

French Conversation

Once a week the beginning, intermediate, and advanced students join together for screenings of French videos and films and for French conversation.

Honors French

Students at all levels of French who demonstrate a desire and ability to go over and beyond the ordinary requirements of a French class by working on a special independent project can earn Honors for the class. 

French students are evaluated on the basis of their vocabulary, reading, translation, and analytical abilities as well as on their listening, speaking and writing skills

Beginning Italian

Our aim is to gain mastery of the elements of Italian: the alphabet, pronunciation, vocabulary, orthography, parts of speech, regular verb forms, and other basics of grammar, morphology, and syntax. The emphasis at the start is on the mathematical components of language study. Italian audio and visual materials are also used to initiate the students in the practice of listening and speaking. Students put into practice their growing vocabulary and understanding of grammar by writing essays in Italian and by joining with other students in conversation. Beginning students are encouraged take advantage of the small Dewey community and practice active language learning outside of class with the more advanced students. To supplement our study of basic grammar, we read out loud and translate a variety of materials drawn from contemporary Italian culture.

Intermediate Italian

Our aim is to build on the foundation of the elements learned in Beginning Italian: expanding vocabulary; progressing in our study of the parts of speech through a mastery of irregular verbs and the various classes of pronouns; analyzing complex grammatical and syntactical structures; writing in Italian; and reading aloud and translating literary works such as Dante’s and Petrarch’s lyrical poetry, Manzoni’s I promessi sposi, and Calvino’s stories, among other literary works.

Advanced Italian 

Italian is the language of instruction, with English used only as needed. Advanced Italian is a class for students who are prepared: 

  • to dedicate themselves to fluency in Italian conversation and writing;
  • to read, translate, and discuss the Italian intellectual tradition of literature and philosophy;
  • to listen to Rai Italia and watch Italian films and political programs streamed online, mainly from Milan and Rome;
  • to discuss openly the Italian point of view on current events in the United States and around the world.

The main literary work for study is Dante’s Commedia.

PHILOSOPHY

Philosophy classes at Dewey consist largely of close readings of major texts from the European tradition. In recent years, we have dedicated full semesters to: 

  • Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus
  • Aristotle’s Ethics and Poetics
  • Marx’s Capital (vol. I) 
  • Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil 
  • Freud’s Interpretation of DreamsBeyond the Pleasure Principle, and Case Studies 
  • Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem and The Human Condition 
  • Yuval Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. 

Alternatively, students have the choice of doing thematic classes: 

  • Political Philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, De Tocqueville, Arendt) 
  • Emotions and the Imagination (drawing on classical as well as contemporary thinkers like Catherine Malabou and Lisa Feldman Barrett).

As with all classes at John Dewey, the material and manner of study in Philosophy classes are adjusted to the particular interests and talents of the diverse students who are participating in our community of learning. Philosophy classes have a seminar style. Students open classes with questions on the readings and conversation drives our work together. Students learn through experience that the constituent elements of the art of conversation are multiple: (1) courage to put ourselves out there into the public realm, always at the risk of making a mistake and taking heat for it; (2) humor in giving and receiving criticism; (3) honesty about what we don’t understand and what we truly think; (4) humility in asking simple questions in order to establish a solid beginning or foundation for learning; (5) perseverance in the face of attempts to shut down questions with facile answers and in the face of all forms of resistance to the hard work of thinking; (6) lucidity in asking probing questions and in exploring these questions for our own purposes; (7) receptivity to the expression of a diversity of viewpoints; (8) trust in our power to come up with ideas that we could not originate alone, but that nobody else could ever conceive for us; (9) expansion of our imaginations in seeing with new eyes; and (10) mutuality that enables us to help one another take more and more possibilities into ourselves. Philosophy classes, through the art of conversation, develop the students’ skills in listening, critical thinking, public speaking, asking good questions, and formulating logical arguments. These skills in turn prepare students to be flexible, adaptable, lifelong learners.

POLITICAL ECONOMY

Economics: Markets, Institutions, Trading

An introduction to the lexicon, history, and technology of economics, as well as to the markets and institutions of global capitalism today. Students also learn trading strategies and enter competitions hosted by various institutions of higher learning. Texts read vary from Ha-Joon Chang’s Economics: A User’s Guide and 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism to Charles Wheelan’s Naked Economics and Naked Money to Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money.

The Evolution and Future of Finance 

Through a reading of Goetzmann’s Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible, we study the history of finance from the ancient Near East, Athens and Rome, to China and modern Europe. We also look at case studies, or cautionary tales, in contemporary finance. For example: Brookesley Born’s warning to Greenspan, Rubin, Summers, and Levitt in the late 1990s concerning the fragility of the derivatives market; the promising trading strategy, but disappointing failure, of Long Term Capital Management; Enron’s leadership and management team at the turn of the century; the uncovering of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme in late 2008; and so forth. Another important resource for this class is the series of panel discussions on finance and financial technology (fintech) by leading investment bankers, regulators, insurers, central bankers, and entrepreneurs at the annual World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland.

Crisis Economics: 1929 and 2008

After a review of the 1929 market crash, the depression and institutional restructuring that followed with FDR’s New Deal, we focus on the rise of the FIRE sector –– Finance, Insurance, Real Estate –– since Nixon’s decision to take us off the gold standard in 1971 and the Powell Memorandum in 1972. In addition to our reading of Tamim Bayoumi’s Unfinished Business: The Unexplored Causes of the Financial Crisis and the Lessons Yet to be Learned and former Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King’s The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy, we view documentaries –– Hank (the biopic on Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury in 2008) and Inside Job –– as well as films –– Margin Call and The Big Short.

The Architecture of Europe’s Political Economy Today

The European Union as an economic block constitutes the largest economy in the world. We study the history of the formation of the European Union as well as the regional and economic identities of its member states. The common currency and the relationship between Greece and Germany after the 2008 financial crisis receive special attention. Readings include: Yanis Varoufakis’ And the Weak Suffer What They Must, J.E. Stiglitz’s The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe, and Brunnermeier-James-Landau’s The Euro and the Battle of Ideas. We also study President Macron’s 2017 speech at the Sorbonne, in which he sets out his vision for the future of the European Union. Another important resource for this class is the series of panel discussions on the European Banking System, the Euro, and the role of Europe in the global economy by leading researchers, bankers, economists, and entrepreneurs at the annual World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland.

New Technologies: Accelerating Change and Our Future

This class is project-based. While we read together works on the history, future, and accelerating rates of technological change –– for example: Mark Taylor’s Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left; Jeremy Rifkin’s The Third Industrial Revolution and The Zero Marginal Cost Society; and Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. –– the focus of the class is on presentations by students on projects which they choose and which they design in collaboration with one another. Recent examples of student projects include: Elon Musk and Space-X; Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies; Quantum Computing; Technological Change in the Music Industry; The Cloud and Computer Networking; New Financial Technologies; Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality; Artificial Intelligence at IBM; and so forth. The New Technologies class is a good example of active team learning at John Dewey. The students take charge of their own process and acquire the skills of (1) organizing a long-range project, (2) public speaking (through presentations) and (3) collaboration.

Other classes in Political Economy include:

A Close Reading of the Argument of Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

A Close Reading of the Argument of Karl Marx’s Capital: Critique of Political Economy (vol. I).

English

Most students enter Dewey as fluent readers but less experienced writers. Because they need to be prepared to succeed at demanding colleges, every English course expects students to read challenging books, discuss them in class, and then write at least three substantial papers a semester. We coach every stage of the writing process, from evolving a topic and thesis to organizing and drafting the paper to polishing the final draft.

All English classes last one semester. Some advanced classes are so demanding as to be designated Honors classes; in other courses, students may usually pursue Honors by reading another book and writing another paper.

COURSES FOR NEWER STUDENTS

Philosophical Literature

How can (or should) we cope with life’s suffering and struggles? To confront that question, we read short, philosophically intense works from Voltaire’s Candide to Huxley’s Brave New World. Along the way, we often read Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Ilych,” Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” Hesse’s Siddhartha, & Sartre’s No Exit.

The Human and the Monstrous

Does true monstrosity emerge from outside or inside the human heart? We investigate that question historically, starting with Beowulf before moving on to Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Shelley’s Frankenstein. We usually end with Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Gardner’s Grendel (a contemporary rewriting of Beowulf). We think about how monstrosity defines the borders and meanings of the human.

Magazine Writing and Creative Non-fiction

As we read some of the best contemporary nonfiction published in magazines and books, we think about how to write such pieces effectively. Working as peer editors of each other’s prose, students write four pieces: a first-person essay, a review, a profile, and a substantial researched article.

Composition & Grammar

This summer course teaches (or reviews) the basic rules of grammar and punctuation essential to the mastery of good, readable prose.

Crimes and Punishments

In our less-than-ideal world, in which crimes produce suffering for victims and criminals alike, we consider what profound writers suggest about justice and the human soul. We usually center the course on Dante’s Inferno and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, supplemented by a short works by Kafka, Poe, Sartre, and others.

Quest narratives

We all want things that the world makes it difficult for us to achieve. By encountering obstacles and tragedies, the protagonists of quests grow into themselves, developing strength, competence, and confidence. In this course, we read quest narratives from Homer’s Odyssey (or Virgil’s Aeneid) to Dante’s Inferno or Melville’s Moby Dick.

19th Century British Literature

We read major novels by the great nineteenth-century novelists such as the Bronte sisters, Dickens, Eliot, and Austen. We often choose one big novel such as Dickens’ last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, but sometimes we put several shorter novels together. Sometimes we focus on a theme such the plight of the poor or the role of money in Victorian England.

Twentieth-century American Literature

Which of the great classics of American literature we read depends on what books students have already read, but they usually include some of the following: Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, Kerouac’s On the Road, Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

Twentieth-century World Theater

We read some of the classic plays of American (O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire), British (Bennet’s History Boys, Stoppard’s Arcadia), and French (Beckett’s Waiting for Godot) theater. We also watch good films of some other plays and attend any National Theatre Live performances showing locally.

Summer classes have recently included courses on Shakespeare on the stage, science fiction and fantasy, the literature of war, the contemporary novel, and feminist literature.

COURSES FOR ADVANCED STUDENTS

The 19th Century Russian novel (in translation).

We focus on the two giants of the nineteenth century, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Depending of what students have already read, we might read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (the whole semester), Death of Ivan Ilych, or Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, or The Brothers Karamazov.

Introduction to Literary Theory

By becoming conscious about what questions we ask of literature and what systems of interpretation we bring to bear on it, students master the art of writing complex, sophisticated papers that draw on prior criticism. We usually read two challenging novels in editions that include background essays and at least five major critical essays, illustrating different critical approaches.

Postmodernism and the Arts

We consider trends in contemporary thought, culture, art, and daily life through the lens of postmodernism. After we read an overview, we often read Ondaatje’s The English Patient and/or Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. At the end of the semester, students usually write a researched piece on a topic of their own choice (television, advertising, religion, adolescence).

James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Students who have already read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man watch Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom navigate the complexities of Dublin. It takes us a semester to follow them for a day (and a night).

The primary goal of our department is to prepare students to be successful at college.  This involves the development of critical thinking skills and the ability to work independently.  

Since students often arrive at the John Dewey Academy with academic deficiencies, our goals vary with individual students.  Often students will need tutoring by student tutors and help sessions with teachers in order to overcome past difficulties. (When needed, a math review class is offered, which is a review of basic mathematics and Algebra 1.)  Most students will have successfully completed chemistry, physics, and mathematics through precalculus by graduation. For better-prepared students, an organic/biochemistry lecture, advanced physics, calculus and advanced calculus are also offered.  

Science and Math

The primary goal of our department is to prepare students to be successful at college.  This involves the development of critical thinking skills and the ability to work independently.  

Since students often arrive at the John Dewey Academy with academic deficiencies, our goals vary with individual students. Often students need tutoring by student tutors and help sessions with teachers in order to overcome past difficulties. (When needed, a math review class is offered, which is a review of basic mathematics and Algebra 1.)  By graduation, most students will have successfully completed chemistry, physics, and mathematics at least through precalculus. For better prepared students, organic/biochemistry lecture, advanced physics, calculus and advanced calculus are also offered.  

Science and math classes are typically a mix of lecture/discussion and in-class problem solving.  Chemistry and physics are offered every semester, with biology lecture offered only occasionally. In the small classes typical of the John Dewey Academy, the in-class problem solving allows both the student and teacher to identify problem areas quickly.  

Laboratory sessions, included in chemistry and physics, typically promote cooperative learning among students.  

Math Courses

Math Review

Students who come to John Dewey often have gaps in their mathematics education.  Math Review is a one-semester course, typically offered over the summer, designed to get students back on track.  The topics covered depend upon the needs of individual students, but usually include long-hand multiplication and division, fractions, radicals, rules of exponents, and basic algebra.  

Geometry

This is a year-long course in traditional high-school geometry. Topics include introduction to proof, congruence of triangles, quadrilaterals and similar polygons, right triangles and circles, and area and volume.

Algebra 2

This is a year-long course in traditional second-year algebra. Topics include linear functions and inequalities, graphing, systems of sentences, matrices, polynomial and quadratic functions, exponential and logarithmic functions, rational and radical expressions, conic sections, probability, statistics, and trigonometry.

Precalculus

This is a traditional year-long course in precalculus. Topics include linear, quadratic and polynomial functions, inequalities, exponents and logarithms, analytic geometry, extensive trigonometry, polar coordinates, complex numbers, vectors and determinants, and sequences and series.

Calculus

This year-long course covers the fundamentals of calculus (limits, differentiation, and integration) by emphasizing the solving of problem from a college textbook.

Advanced Calculus

This year-long course covers Laplace transforms and differential equations in great detail. We focus on the applications of calculus to all fields of science as well as business, economics, and probability. Prerequisite: Calculus.

Science Courses

Chemistry

This is a one-year general chemistry course with laboratory. Students learn the basics of atomic and molecular structure, chemical nomenclature, reactions, states of matter, and acid-base and solution chemistry.

Topics in Chemistry

This course is usually, although not limited to, an extension of our basic Chemistry class. Topics include reaction energy, kinetics, oxidation-reduction reactions, electrochemistry and nuclear chemistry.   

Organic Chemistry Lecture

This is a one-semester organic chemistry lecture, taught at the level of a first-year college course. Students study the structure, nomenclature, properties and reactions of the major classes of organic molecules.  

Biochemistry Lecture

This is a one-semester biochemistry lecture, taught at the level of a first-year college course.  Organic Chemistry Lecture is a prerequisite for the class. Students study the structure, nomenclature, properties and reactions of the major classes of biological molecules.

Biology

Most of our biology courses are special-topic classes, as we rarely have students who require general biology.  Exceptions can be made.

Marine Biology  

This is a survey course of the different ecosystems that make up our oceans and estuaries.  

Sexual Evolution

This is a fun survey class of courtship and mating in the natural world.  From fish to flowers, and spiders to manatees, sexual selection is presented as a major force in the evolutionary process.

Physics

Physics

This year-long course, with laboratory, emphasizes the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It focuses on solving challenging problems from a college textbook. Typical topics covered include kinematics, mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, and an introduction to special relativity.

Advanced Physics

This year-long course covers Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics, and problem-solving using calculus. Prerequisites: Physics and one semester of calculus.

Topics in Physics

This year-long course allows the exploration of topics in physics that are of special interest to particular students. They do research, present it to the class in both written and oral form, and discuss the issues raised.

Summer courses in math and science rotate from year to year depending on student interest. They include critical thinking, astronomy, forensics, statistics, tensegrity, game theory, number theory, and the physics of sports.