Jason Konik: “…the most important skills students can learn in my history class are to think critically and to be able to form their own ideas and opinions based on the evidence presented to them.”
One of the biggest misconceptions incoming students have about history class is that they will have to memorize dates, battles, and the names of long-dead kings. They think of history as a far-away, long-ago thing that has nothing to do with their lives. It is important for students to see history for what it is: the collective experience of people who, at one time, were as alive as we are now and had their own motivations, struggles, goals, hopes, and dreams.
Throughout history, people wrote to make a point and to further their ideas. Students at the Academy read primary sources almost exclusively; we draw upon the writing of people in the time period and place we are studying as opposed to relying on a textbook. The goal of history class is to get students to question what they read, and to separate bias and mere opinion from historical fact. I want them to understand the forces that determine what people do, write, and believe. To that end, the most important skills students can learn in my history class are to think critically and to be able to form their own ideas and opinions based on the evidence presented to them.
History class at The Academy incorporates passionate student discussions of the works we read. It continually amazes and delights me how deeply students engage with the texts and are able to articulate their responses in speech and in writing. Providing students with an opportunity to express their own thoughts about historical people and situations keeps them engaged with the actual historical material and helps them to develop a solid foundation for critical thought that will serve them well here and in the wider world.
The program at the Academy is a World History course that students take over their three years in the Upper School. It is important to teach students about all regions of the world in order to show the universality of human experience and the interconnectedness of historical phenomena across geographic divisions. It is my hope that each student begins to see his or her place in the world as a whole, rather than in a narrow, provincial way.
Sixth graders study ancient civilizations. Major topics include the Agricultural Revolution, the foundations of royal power in Mesopotamia and Egypt, ethics and monotheism among the ancient Israelites, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, early Chinese history, Greek history and philosophy, and the transformation of Rome from a republic to an empire.
Seventh graders study the medieval and early modern eras. Major topics include: Roman collapse and the emergence of Byzantium, the growth of Islam and Islamic civilization, medieval Mali and West Africa, Confucian and Taoist influence on several dynasties in China, the Mongols, the emergence of medieval civilization in Europe, the conflict of Church and State in Christendom, Crusades and Conquistadors, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, Absolutism, and the Enlightenment.
Eighth graders study the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Major topics include the American and French Revolutions, industrialization, Romanticism, nationalism and the emergence of nation-states, liberalism, socialism, expansionism, colonialism and the Westernization of the world, World War I, the interwar economy, Expressionism, the rise of Communism and Fascism, World War II, decolonization, and the Cold War.
ABOUT JASON KONIK
A Chicago native, Jason Konik holds a Bachelor of Arts in History, International Studies, and German from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a Master of Arts in History from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. This is his first year at the Academy. He previously taught at Piedmont Virginia Community College, and worked for Cengage Learning in San Francisco from 2009 to 2015. At Cengage, Jason designed and worked on the Aplia product, an online homework tool used at colleges and universities throughout the Anglophone world. Jason is fluent in German and can get by in Polish. In his spare time, he likes to play music, ride his bicycle, surf, play and watch soccer (he’s a big VfB Stuttgart and Wisła Kraków fan), travel to distant lands, and spend time with his family and friends.