Morristown-Beard Upper School Curriculum

Course Search 2019-2020

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Upper School Advanced Seminar/Advanced Studies Curriculum

In an effort to provide a rigorous alternative to the standardized curriculum and testing of AP courses, the Upper School offers a suite of Advanced courses for seniors and selected juniors that equal or exceed AP courses in terms of conceptual challenge, complexity of material, development of critical skills and overall preparation for college academics. They are therefore the most academically rigorous courses we offer. These courses, which are either one semester (Advanced Seminar courses) or full year, (Advanced Studies courses) are proposed by faculty with a particular interest and expertise in a given field and are subject to a thorough peer-review process, overseen by a committee of experienced teachers with college teaching backgrounds. These advanced courses foreground critical thought and discussion, require students to work independently and are flexible enough to encompass a broad range of course themes. In all Advanced courses, the level of reading, writing and discussion equals that found in a first-year college course. Both Advanced Seminar and Advanced Studies courses are designated with the prefix “AS,” indicating a level of rigor comparable to or exceeding AP courses.


Advanced Seminars 2019-20

The Economics of Natural Resources

Instructor: Scott McCormick

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

This Advanced Seminar will study the field of natural resource and environmental economics, addressing the economic aspects of how humans use the Earth and how our impact on the planet may be managed. While a number of topics within the realm of environmental economics will be covered in the course, the overarching goal of the class will be an understanding of how quantitative tools, principally models that simulate real-world situations, can be used to answer questions and solve problems. Larger themes on the ethical implications of our decisions in the environmental realm will also feature prominently in the course. This course will be different from the existing Environmental Science course, as it will be focused on economic and policy aspects of environmental issues, rather than the science behind them.

Metaphysics: Philosophy of the Mind

Instructor: Kyle Augustyniak

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

This Advanced Seminar will be a reflection on the meaning of human existence and our place in reality. As a class, we will examine existence, identity, the nature of attributes, the nature of concrete particulars, persistence through time, indeterminacy, modality, causation, determinism. The course is designed for juniors and seniors who are motivated to engage with and explore the complex question of human existence and identity. Participants in this strongly student-centered seminar must be willing and able to work through challenging material and ideas, both independently and collaboratively, both inside and outside of class.

Political Philosophy

Instructor: Dr. Owen Boynton

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

Students in this Advanced Seminar will explore the basic concepts and arguments in political philosophy, while tackling the challenge of reading some of the great political philosophy texts, admiring them on grounds of style and verbal integrity as well as for their philosophical depth and breadth. The central text in the course is Adam Swift’s Political Philosophy; students will also read excerpts from foundational texts such as Plato's Republic, Hobbes' Leviathan and Rousseau's The Social Contract, as well as works of contemporary political philosophy. The Seminar is open to strong juniors and seniors, with seniors given preference; a writing sample may be required.

Technology, Society, Values

Instructor: Dr. Jack Bartholomew

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

Facebook, Snapchat, nanotechnology, computers, robots, recombinant DNA: our world is buffeted and defined by new technology as never before. Are these new ways of enhancing human potential and improving our lives, or are we becoming addicted, more insular, even “dumbed down”? In this course we critically explore the impact of technology on society: how it has affected the way we construct our relationships and interact with one another and ourselves. Although our focus is on modern technologies—especially information technology—we will contextualize the ways in which technologies evolve and have affected the human condition. We address technology as framed by perspectives in sociology, psychology, ethics, science, and engineering.

The Essentials of Entrepreneurship

Instructor: Kate Muttick and Caitlin Skobo-Trought

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor Roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

Some people don’t just think about things differently, they do things differently. Innovators and innovations are changing the world more rapidly than was once thought possible. In this advanced, hands-on course, students will study the science of imagination and explore how creative thinking takes shape and shifts norms. Students will transition from theory to practice as they confront a real world problem and design a product or business to address consumer needs. From posing solutions and drafting a business plan to launching a product and designing a marketing campaign, students will end the semester with a pitch to a panel of experts.

French Cultural Studies: Happiness, Feast Days and Celebrations

Instructor: Dr. Gorica Hadzic

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

Drawing on the exploration of French feasts and celebrations through time, as described in French literature and art, this advanced course will try to uncover beliefs about the nature of happiness in France. Since happiness takes culture-specific form, we will try to answer the following questions: why is happiness considered "une idee neuve” (a new idea) in France, and how has the idea of happiness varied across time? In order to answer these questions, this course will employ a varied body of documents and will analyze literary and artistic representations of celebrations, happiness, and of social norms.

Science, Culture and the Decade of the 1960s

Instructor: Darren Lovelock & Jeffrey Yuhas

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

What Were the Sixties like, Grandpa?
This fully interdisciplinary seminar requires students to synthesize a wide range of scientific and cultural material in order to evaluate the most tumultuous decade of the last century. Areas of focus include local and global politics, medical and scientific advances, the burgeoning environmental movement, popular literature, TV, and music, as well as fashion and advertising. Teachers lead the way in the early weeks of the course, modeling how to navigate certain geopolitical, scientific, and artistic intersections of the 1960s cultural landscape. The reins of the course then pass to the students: under guidance from instructors, each student runs a full week of classes on a particular topic of 1960s culture. Teaching responsibilities include research, designing detailed lesson plans, delivering short lectures, assigning relevant reading and writing, and leading class activities and discussion.

Stigma and Identity in Ancient Greece

Instructor: Dr. Amanda Gregory

Enrollment limited to: 10

Prerequisites: Honor roll status and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

The course explores the various ways that Greeks of the Classical period speculated about and defined human difference and the ways their understanding of identities departs from that of contemporary society. It will begin with foundational material, i.e. an introduction to and discussion of the important terms associated with the course (stigma, marginalization, disenfranchisement, exclusion) and a brief and general introduction to ancient Greek culture and history. Over the semester, through literature, art, and secondary materials we will seek to better understand how and why people were stigmatized, set apart, and marked as different. We will pay special attention to gender, concepts of human sexuality and kinship, disabilities, mental illness, ethnicity, and slaves. We will look for both continuities and ruptures between ancient ways of understanding human difference and our own.

Advanced Studies Courses for 2019-20

For a full description and sign up information for these year-long courses, please click on the department name below the course title.


Italian Language and Culture
World Language Department

The Literature of Modernism
English Department

A History of Western Ideas
History Department

Organic Chemistry
Science Department

Roman Literature of the Golden Age
World Language Department