Humanities is the interdisciplinary study of human history, cultures and creativity. The courses in this department meld multiple traditional departments: English, History and the Fine Arts, helping students cultivate a culture of thinking that crosses the lines of traditional kinds of texts – historical, literary, musical, artistic, commercial, comical and more.
While still learning skills specific to traditional disciplines, students also investigate how these disciplines overlap and affect each other. The goal of the core ninth- and 10th-grade Humanities experience is to develop skilled readers, writers and thinkers while advancing 21st century competencies such as collaboration – both digital and in-person – and graphic and film literacy. These courses serve as a launching pad for more rigorous and focused study in 11th– and 12th-grade electives.
Core and Elective Program
Course of Study
In ninth and 10th grades, Webb students pursue a core program in foundational courses in humanities. Students in 11th and 12th grades may enroll in a host of elective options.
Foundations of Civilization: Students explore of history, English and the fine arts. Rather than isolating novels, paintings and architecture from the historical times in which they were produced, we study culture and societies holistically. The politics, economies, religions, social norms and artistic-intellectual life of peoples around the world are the focus of study. The course balances breadth and depth of content coverage and Western and non-Western cultures. As a key quality of mind, this course educates students in reading culture through its artifacts at pivotal moments in time, including essential primary documents, iconic building designs, forms of literature, illustration and social criticism.
Fundamentals of Composition: Students are immersed in a study of the tools they will use throughout their four years at Webb. Students build their skills in collaboration, critical reading and analysis, and communication, including writing, speaking, presentation and debate. Additionally, students cultivate essential habits of mind: multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking, creativity, curiosity and global engagement. This course asks students to apply their thinking to intellectual tasks that engage them with the contemporary world. Projects may take a variety of forms, from giving a formal speech to authoring new forms of multimedia storytelling. While teachers engage students around shared texts and projects, assignments encourage students to follow their own lines of inquiry and to focus on topics they care to research and understand.
The American Idea: This course is half of the interdisciplinary 10th-grade American Studies program, The American Idea focuses on the relationship between literary and artistic expression and American culture and history. While engaging in critical analysis of a variety of texts and primary sources, students consider questions such as: What makes an American text or work of art so “American”? How can we read a social or historical moment through an artist or writer’s reaction to it? What are Americans afraid of, and what are they reacting against? How do artists and writers make social and historical change with their work? Students practice many skills vital to the humanities, especially literary analysis and writing.
American Society, Past & Present: The second half of our interdisciplinary 10th-grade American Studies program, American Society, Past & Present focuses on American attempts to create an ideal society and to balance the conflicting interests of this diverse nation, considering how American culture has evolved as part of these social struggles. Through close examinations of historical as well as literary sources, students consider questions such as: How does someone get to be considered a “real American?” How do Americans balance their individualism and ambition with the needs of their communities? What gives a person power in America? How do Americans want their government to behave? Students practice many skills vital to the humanities, especially research, primary source analysis, and historical interpretation.
11th and 12 Grade Electives
The more than 30 electives in Webb’s Humanities program satisfy UC entry requirements for English and history, allowing students to craft a program of study that matches their interests and passions. In 2022-23, students will have the opportunity to pursue such topics as Literature & Leadership in the Wilderness, Honors Creative Writing, Honors Global Literature, Advanced Studies Fascism, Advanced Studies Literature of Revolution & the Atlantic World, Honors Black Authors, Directors & Laureates, Honors Ethics & Modern Global Affairs, Honors Stories & Strategies of Entrepreneurs, Advanced Studies Creative Nonfiction and Advanced Studies Faith Narratives of Holy Cities.
The program also includes foundational and advanced courses in journalism as well as a thesis seminar.