American Studies combines subjects for conducive learning environment

Evan Porco, Staff Writer

Often times, classes are independently focused in their subject area, and connections are rarely formed with other subjects. Although certain departments may make strides towards improving this, change is scarcely implemented. American Studies, a newly-introduced combined English and history class, looks to bridge these disciplines by helping students understand vital connections between literature and history.

History teacher Mark Wheeler and English teacher Dave Mitchell co-teach American Studies, which was created this year. The class is going to be offered to all juniors in the 2018-2019 school year.

Mitchell said that they created American Studies to give more course options to juniors.

“We wanted juniors to have another option that connected their history and English curriculum,” Mitchell said. “I think that it does naturally because you study American History and American Literature junior year.”

Junior Brendan Yue, who currently takes American Studies, said that the two sections of American Studies are both separate and combined, as they share some work between the classes.

“American Studies is basically a combination of two [classes],” Yue said. “You go to an English class with an English teacher, and a history class with a history teacher, but there are some things we do that are connected with each other.”

According to Mitchell, the class seeks to answer major questions related to the study of America’s past.

“[The class is] interested in how we got to the point that we’re at right now. The stories that we tell ourselves about our country, our own selves and our identities, and how those stories are told, and how they carry meaning,” Mitchell said.

Sofia Reynoso
The American Studies class explores the connections between books taught in the American Literature class and history from the US History class.

Junior Marissa Cheng, who also takes American Studies, said that some of the class focuses on present-day events.

“The teachers like to get students involved with current events. Right now, we’re learning about immigration, and we learned about money and how it affects America,” Cheng said.

Yue believes that the blend of two classes aids him with understanding the material.

“I feel like it helps me understand English and history in this class and makes the learning a bit easier, in my opinion,” Yue said.

Cheng agreed with Yue’s thoughts on the class.

“It makes learning easier. The process of taking quizzes and tests, since it’s combined, overlaps and helps me learn better,” Cheng said.

Mitchell also said that the connected study of literature and history has helped him and his students with understanding the content as a whole.

“I’ve experienced a lot of benefits from studying literature and history through the lens of American Studies,” Mitchell said. “I think you can get a lot more out of big topics by combining those two subjects, and by asking the questions that American Studies is interested in answering.”

Yue has enjoyed taking American Studies, as it is a unique opportunity to integrate two classes.

“There aren’t really any classes similar to this. We don’t see any math and science classes where we combine both the two,” Yue said. “I feel like that’s really cool, and it’s a really good class, in my opinion.”