Responsible Innovation in the High School Humanities Curriculum

The Waldorf high school humanities curriculum is rich and storied, but with a preponderance of the Western canon. As we work on enlivening the next 100 years of Waldorf education, one of our tasks is to take up responsible innovation that reflects the diversity of our students and includes more voices from across the human family.  This year, the MCWS high school humanities department is offering mixed grade 11 and 12 “selectives” in the second and third quarters. The second quarter offerings are literary: Asian Literature (primarily reading an anthology put together by Josh Lytle), Russian Literature (primarily reading The Master and Margarita) and African-American Literature (primarily reading Song of Solomon, but hopefully also Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad).

Specifically, the African-American Literature course is looking at the question, “Why do we need a category of American literature called African-American literature? What does that say about the types of characters and experiences typically portrayed in so called American literature?” The class is taking up the concept of white advantage/privilege, the characteristics of African-American literature, and what W.E. Dubois calls, “Double Consciousness” – his term describing the internal conflict experienced by subordinated groups in an oppressive society.

We continue to strive to work with both the richness of the traditional Waldorf high school curriculum and to be responsible innovators. As David Barham said at a recent high school parent evening – we’re striving to “Keep the Shakespeare, add the Toni Morrison.”

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