The Upper School’s English program is text-based, meaning our Socratic inquiries are always anchored by something we all share in common, something literally on the table before us. Surrounding these texts, Academy students become sound, deep, critical thinkers. The English program develops the fundamental skills of active, attentive reading; clear, fluid writing; eloquent, organized speaking; and responsible, responsive listening. The literature we study enables us to ask and seek to answer large questions about the human condition, the socio-political world, the actualities of the past and possibilities of the future. Skills that are developed through the Academy’s three-year English program include: close reading and other methods of textual analysis, evidence-based argumentation, and the composition of essays that depend upon complex theses and demonstrate a deep and meaningful engagement with the materials at hand.
While Academy students will certainly come away from their humanities education able to write a five paragraph essay, the English program aims to teach them essayistic thinking. In its earliest uses, to essay was a verb (from the French essai: “trial, attempt”); thus, students practice the art of the essay as a form for thoughts they are trying to think, simultaneously becoming equipped with the writing skills to follow those thoughts. As students of French and Latin, Academy students are especially well-positioned to think deeply about the English language by exploring etymology, developing their vocabularies, and attending weekly lessons on descriptive and prescriptive grammar.
Academy students read a range of classical and contemporary texts and discover throughlines between them. The size and ethos of the Academy also allows for meaningful (and delightful) collaboration across subjects, so the English curriculum includes units that correspond to work done in History, in Latin, Music, Makers, etc. Although often the literature we study asks serious questions, the English program also includes not a small amount of fun, including the performance of a Shakespeare play each year.