Western Civilization – Fall 2013

Course Website: http://rrchnm.org/courses/western-civ/

Course Description:

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

OeilHow we understand the world around us today is influenced by the “filters” or “lenses” with which we view events and experiences. This is also true of how we understand the past. History, believe it or not, is interpreted differently by each person. During this course we will look at the history of “Western Civilization” through different filters to interpret our understanding of what happened and why. We will try to determine what “Western” and “Civilization” mean. We will also learn how to look at primary and secondary sources critically, and practice creating a defined argument based on our interpretation of sources.



  1. Demonstrate a knowledge of the basic chronology of themes, people, and events in “Western Civilization”.
  2. Determine the bias or “filter” with which an historical work was written by critically analyzing primary sources.
  3. Describe themes, patterns, or processes in history with a compelling argument using primary sources.


Discussion Groups and Lenses:

Each student will be assigned a “filter” with which to read class materials and with which to influence class discussions. Each group will have a number of “filters”. Students will change “filters” throughout the semester. Each student will be assigned a discussion group. Discussion groups will meet during class on Friday to discuss the people, events, themes, and readings of the week. Each group will produce a one page document summarizing their collective findings.


Objects from the past:

What objects from today have come from the past? What from today is influenced by the past in each section of history that we look at? Find an object (physical item, song, book, movie, belief, tradition, sayings, building, etc.) that is in use today that has its origin in the past. Write a one page paper answering some or all of these questions:

  • What are the current uses of the object?
  • How is the object influenced by the past?
  • Write a brief history of the object.
  • Finally, project yourself into the past. How would someone from that time period view our current use of the object.

You will pick four objects throughout the semester, and write a one page paper for each object. See the Syllabus for due dates.


Timeline of Events, Themes, and People

Create a timeline of “Western Civilization” throughout the semester with most influential and important events, themes, inventions and people based on a “filter” you choose. The timeline must have at least 20 items. Write at least two sentences for each item, describing why it should be on the timeline. Feel free to be creative with the timelines by using any form of medium you desire, including painting, crayons, digital, music video, etc.