Radnor High School's integrated Interdisciplinary courses, The American Experiment; Global Issues; Viewpoints on Modern America/AP Language and Composition; and Senior Seminar, use a rigorously paced approach that combines Social Studies and English with above-grade and college-level materials.
Students are to be proactive, both in assignment completion and in the continued development of skills and intellectual inquiry. In-depth analysis of topics outside those presented in the classroom is an expectation, as per the Interdisciplinary model. Discussion and analysis will be drawn from a larger variety of topics and sources than in other levels. The goal is continued intellectual independence and mastery of a wide variety of topics and points of view to prepare students for the most challenging colleges.
This team-taught course, first in a sequence of four interdisciplinary courses, provides students with an opportunity to study the key concepts of government and economics accompanied by a fusion of legal thrillers, dystopian novels, and classical political treatises. Government topics include: the components of citizenship, the constitutional basis of American democracy, federalism, political beliefs and behaviors, political parties, elections, campaigns, the role of interest groups, the media, individual rights, and the structure of U.S. government (Congress, presidency, the courts, and bureaucracy). Economics topics include: economic theories; the global economy; macroeconomic concepts such as monetary policy, fiscal policy, the Federal Reserve, money, and banking; and micro-economic concepts such as supply and demand, competition/monopolies, business organizations, entrepreneurship, and the stock market. Students are engaged in a number of activities designed to foster acquisition and understanding of social studies concepts: reading primary and secondary sources, Socratic discussion, frequent written expression, analysis of propaganda and other visual media, creative projects, and simulations. This two-period course requires students to be active and independent learners capable of making connections across themes and time. The Parallel Curriculum and Understanding by Design models allow for analysis of works of varying genres and media, including a challenging level of analytical writing. Higher-level thinking and writing skills are emphasized through the use of synthesis, analysis, and evaluation.
This team-taught seminar, second in a sequence of four interdisciplinary courses, uses a Parallel Curriculum Model to combine advanced work in international studies with intense analysis of literary works from non-Western cultures with some key additions from the English-speaking world. The focus is on the non-Western world, concentrating on area studies of the Middle East, Africa, Russia, South and Central Asia, and East Asia. Students analyze current issues by interpreting key historical events and exploring the cultural heritage of each region. Important global issues such as human rights compliance, arms proliferation, conflict resolution, and trade are also studied in depth. By combining a comprehensive social studies approach (geopolitical, environmental, economic, demographic, anthropological, and sociological) with integrated language arts (novels, short stories, poetry, art, film, and music), this course develops critical thinking about contemporary international issues and universal themes. Exercises in creative and analytical writing, public speaking, debate, and research are combined with extensive group and independent work, hands-on projects, and simulations to create an active learning experience. A research project requires that students develop an original thesis, evaluate and select resources, take notes, produce an outline, write an essay, and provide thorough documentation. At the conclusion of this project, students present their findings to the class. In the spring, students will take the Keystone Literature Exam.
The Viewpoints Philosophy demands that we consider two axes: along one axis lies content knowledge, critical thinking skills, and academic skills, and along the other engagement and authenticity. We hope to develop something rigorous and enjoyable that taxes your mind and engages your curiosity.
One way we try to plot on the plane defined by these two axes is by breaking down the classroom walls, often by inviting the outside world in.
We always try to arrange visits from guest practitioners -- people in the world at large who can help us ground our studies in actual practice. Past guests have included National Book Award-winning poet Philip Levine (later U.S. Poet Laureate) and best-selling authors Glen David Gold and Lee Child on the literary side, writers and jurists and professors and commentators/journalists/pundits like Michael Lewis, Annie Duke, the Hon. Mary Schroeder, Dan Ariely, Bethany McLean, Helen Gym, Dick Polman, and Michael Smerconish on the social studies side, plus a variety of other excellent local and regional scholars and businesspeople.
An almost-complete list of recent Viewpoints classroom guest speakers/interlocutors -- via visit or conference call:
- 2021: John Avlon, of CNN -- Avlon is the author of several books, including Washington's Farewell, an excerpt of which we use in the VP class
- 2020: Greg Sands, founder and managing partner of tech-focused venture capital firm Costanoa Ventures
- 2019: Don Winslow, author of Power of the Dog and The Border and many other best-selling novels
- 2019: Investor (and VP parent) Jim Clarke joined us to help debrief our evening viewing of the 2015 film The Big Short
- 2019: Annie Duke, decision-science expert, author of best-seller Thinking in Bets, poker champion visited the VP class
- 2018: H.W. Brands, professor and author of the VP classic article "Founders' Chic" (The Atlantic)
- 2017: Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, and many more best-selling novels, and a writer for TV and film, held a conference call with Viewpoints and Mr. Rosin's AP Lang class.
- 2017: Marissa Bluestine (Temple U. professor and legal director for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project) and Montgomery County prosecutor Ed McCann -- three days later, this happened (that's Marissa Bluestine in the photo)
- 2017: Julianne Opet (RHS '04), immigration attorney, and her former client, DACA student Julius Winibono
- 2011 and 2017: Jeff Shesol, author (Supreme Power: FDR vs. the Supreme Court, Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade), former presidential speechwriter, and New Yorker columnist
- 2016: Prof. Eleanor Barrett, of Penn Law School's Legal and Professional Studies Program (and her daughter), visited the combined class to talk about the Supreme Court, the judicial system, and the currrent SCOTUS nomination argument
- 2016: Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2012), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Click here to see photographs from that conference call.
- 2015: the Hon. Mary Schroeder, federal justice of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who wrote the opinion on the 1987 case that exonerated Gordon Hirabayashi
- 2012, 2013, and 2014: author and Bryn Mawr College writing instructor Elizabeth Mosier, for a creative writing seminar on using artifacts and primary sources
- 2014, 2011, 2009, and 2007: Glen David Gold, novelist (Carter Beats the Devil, Sunnyside)
- 2013: scholar Lynn Phillips of UMass-Amherst, on gender, cultural hegemony, and the role of women in society
- 2013: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jesse Eisinger (of ProPublica and The New York Times)
- 2012: newscaster and consumer reporter Tracy Davidson (NBC10 TV Philadelphia), who helped assess presentations about gender in society
- 2012: business author Dan Pink (Drive, A Whole New Mind, and the upcoming To Sell Is Human)
- 2012: Pete Howey, entrepreneur (New Hope beverages) and restauranteur (Melt Down Grilled Cheese)
- 2012: Bethany McLean, journalist and author (co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils Are Here
- 2011: crime novelist Lee Child (The Affair and dozens of other top-selling thrillers)
- 2011: Jonah Lehrer, author (How We Decide, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, The Frontal Cortex blog)
- Kristin Holmes of the Philadelphia Inquirer observed and reported on this conversation (but the link has been archived)
- 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015: Todd Simkin (with Lauren Laver, 2011), trainer at Susquehanna International Group investment corporation
- 2010: Michael Lewis, author (Liar's Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short)
- 2010: Dan Ariely, professor and author (Predictably Irrational)
- 2009: Col. Howard Gartland, military historian
- 2008: Michael Smerconish, radio and TV commentator and newspaper columnist
- 2008: Doris Brogan, acting dean of Villanova University School of Law
- 2008: Lisa Packer, public relations expert
- 2007: Jim Doughan, expert on complex financial instruments and the math behind them
- 2006: Philip Levine, poet (What Work Is, Ashes: Poems New and Old, Mercy) -- soon to be U.S. Poet Laureate
- 2006: Dick Polman, national political reporter for Philadelphia Inquirer
- 2006: Helen Gym, community activist (Asian Americans United, Parents United for Public Education, Philadelphia Notebook contributor, Philadelphia Inquirer 2007 "Citizen of the Year")
- Multiple times over the years: Sam Holt, longtime RHS teacher and coach and Vietnam War veteran
We are grateful to our guests for offering their time to share in these discussions, and for the intellectual inquiry they model for our students and readers everywhere.
An Essential Question requires an in-depth, informed response. Students are asked, what is your response to these questions when you first see them, and then, later in the year, upon re-evaluation?
- When do we work within the system to change it and when do we go outside the system?
- Is change better coming from the top, the bottom, or some combination?
- To what extent are the founding documents flexible?
- To what extent is non-conformity a good (realistic?, productive?) thing?
- Who is the backbone of the American economy?
- Does government shape or reflect society?
- Is the American Dream a world dream?
- What justifies reaching outside our borders?
- Is there such a thing as an American Literature -- or is there just literature produced by Americans -- and, if so, what are its characteristics?
- How does literature reflect its time?
- How do (and to what extent can) writers help change society and construct a new society?
- How do speakers and writers -- ranging from politicians to poets to propagandists -- develop influence upon their audiences?
- Is it fair to judge people of another time by what we know and understand now, or must we judge them only in context of their time?
- Where is the line between myth and reality?
- What can and should an outsider do to join society?
- To what extent is any given community -- America, a state ("Red"? "Blue"?), a city, a neighborhood, a school, a gender, a race or ethnicity, the people of a given era -- monolithic in their beliefs?
- Are we less innocent than previous generations were, and (if so or not) is that a good or bad thing?
- How is fiction-writing like magic and illusion?
- What is the relationship between the individual and the world-historical?
This team-taught seminar, fourth in a sequence of interdisciplinary courses, uses a Parallel Curriculum Model to combine history, literature, philosophy, and science in their broadest senses. This course examines humankind’s ideas about the universe, life, and consciousness, and the struggle between the individual and society. Students focus on the philosophical idea of leadership and how leaders have affected, and currently affect, society in various cultures, including: cultural self-conceptions, the nature of progress, and elements of power. The curriculum is organized both thematically and chronologically. The “student-as-worker” approach to high-level learning experiences includes simulations; focused writing assignments, both analytical and creative; close analysis of literary, historical, and visual sources; large and small group instruction; and problem-based learning.