The Beaver English Department teaches active reading, writing, reflection, and analysis. In our explorations of language and literature, we encourage students to access both their imaginations and their intellects. As they learn, students develop the means of confidently and skillfully expressing their knowledge, observations, and feelings. We believe that engagement with literature leads students to explore human nature, understand multiple perspectives, question the world around them, and appreciate the power and complexity of language.
Ninth grade classes are all offered at the Standard level only, giving students a year to accustom themselves to the demands of the upper school curriculum. In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, students may elect to take their English courses at the Honors level during the course selection process. Specific expectations for honors students are outlined below. While the English department is committed to providing every student with a challenging curriculum, the Honors option is open to any student who wishes to engage with the subject at an even more sophisticated, complex, and demanding level. In making their decisions, students should consult their current English teachers and/or the head of the department. Decisions should take into account level of interest as well as ability in English.
In grade 10 through 12, students may elect to take their English course at the honors level by signing a contract. Honors students are expected to be leaders in class discussions, to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity, and to demonstrate a superior level of critical analysis in all written work and on honors-specific prompts on assessments. Earning Honors credit requires that after electing Honors and signing the contract, that the student continues to live up to these expectations.
What does it mean to be American? From the revolution that defined our independence to the very cases contended today in the Supreme Court, in this required course we address all elements of Americanism, the beautiful and the sordid. In doing this, we turn to great American writers whose professed goal it was to define generations of American citizens. We turn to F. Scott Fitzgerald for his perspective on the Roarin’ Twenties in New York City, James Baldwin’s ex-patriot experience abroad in Paris, and other short story selections that will help us begin to answer the question: What does it really mean to be American?
For the second term of American Literature students choose one of the following courses:
There are myriad tangible and intangible ways that we define ourselves–from large scale identifiers like nation and religion, to the little things, like choosing what shoes to wear in the morning. The Identity Term looks at identity through varied American lenses–a 15-year-old Native American boy attending a primarily white school in upstate Washington, a family of Dominican immigrants living in New Jersey in the 80’s, and an African-American Floridian woman searching for love in the 1930’s. All of these perspectives help inform our own perspectives of who we are and why we believe the things we do.
From westward expansion to road trips on spring break, movement and travel have always been quintessential parts of the American experience. In this class, we will read William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and meet the Bundrens as they travel in 1920s Mississippi to bury their mother, Addie. We will also examine journeys of immigration through reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection Interpreter of Maladies. Through these journeys, we hope to get a better sense of the role of movement and travel within the American experience and experiment.
This term of 11th grade English (Rhetoric) is required for every junior. Focusing on the power of voice, we will explore and cultivate our voice through creative non-fiction, non-linear storytelling, and poetry. Possible texts include Pulphead, The Empathy Exams, and The White Album.
For the second term of English Rhetoric students choose one of the following courses:
Prose and Politics
This term of 11th grade English (Rhetoric) will explore how storytelling informs politics—the politics of government, race, joy, and all other aspects of the human condition. Possible texts include The Buddha In the Attic, Between the World and Me, 1984, and The Wind Up Bird Chronicles.
This term of 11th grade English (Rhetoric) dives into the idea that change can come through acts of defiance and transformation. We will explore the notion of ‘protest’ in our writing about and analysis of the literature. Possible texts include We the Animals, Othello, and Citizen.
What is Power? (required)
In this trimester course, we question the nature of power. What is the intersection of power and our characters’ gender, age, race, political beliefs, socio-economic reality, or experience? What is the relationship between power and fate? Why do some characters let power compromise their beliefs while others use their power for good?
For the second term of English 9 students choose one of the following courses:
What is Love?
In this trimester course, love — its joys, mysteries, and complications — is at the heart of the stories. As characters wrestle with complicated friendships, technology, first crushes, and deceptive families, they learn about themselves and the world. Ultimately, these characters deepen our understanding of compassion, strength, and the wide-ranging definition of love.
What is Truth?
In this trimester course, we dig into the relationship between knowledge and truth. As our characters face challenges to their beliefs, they examine how their beliefs developed into truth in the first place. Through these characters, we explore what happens when different or alternate truths come into conflict and what is needed to build understanding.
Texts: An assortment of full-length collections from contemporary poets.
Possible texts: 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ender’s Game, Brave New World, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Previous winners: 1984, Lolita, Brave New World, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, Scarlet Letter, On the Road, The Kite Runner.
Possible texts: Caucasia, Danzy Senna; The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V. Higgins; The Given Day, Dennis Lehane; All Souls, Michael Patrick MacDonald; Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas
Possible texts: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare; Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.
Possible authors: Fitzgerald, West, Wharton, Wodehouse, Tolstoy, Austen, Williams
Possible texts: Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut; Dune by Frank Herber; a litany of science fiction short stories by Asimov, Dick, Vonnegut and others (these are free online texts that will be provided for students).
Possible texts: Flash Fiction, Nine Stories, selections from The New Yorker.
Possible texts: stories and essays by Angelou, Boyle, Burnham, Cheever, Cunningham, Fondation, Forché, Miller, Minot, Oppenheimer, Painter, Salinger, Shae, Tolstoy, Updike, and Wolff.
Possible Texts: The Unsettling of America, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, The Tao Te Ching, Wilderness and the American Mind, and other short selections.