English, history to blend in new ‘cross-registered’ classes


Shun Graves

Malik Ali looks over a sophomore history class in February 2023. Another Ali class, History of Hip-Hop, will become a cross-registered course.

By Shun Graves

Henri de Marcellus doesn’t see ancient Rome as just another empire in the dustbin of history.

“It was this synthesis that had evolved between individual rights and freedoms and their inverses, essentially an oligarchy,” the Latin teacher said.

Next school year, he’ll teach a course on ancient civilization that synthesizes history with the language arts. It will count as one of three “cross-registered” electives that juniors and seniors can use for either English or history credit. School officials say the new program will bolster the connections between the disciplines.

“It just encourages the kind of cross-departmental design and collaboration that’s at the heart of any really great school,” Director of Studies Jeff Symonds said. “I’m thrilled about it.”

The program — which the school will announce in its March curriculum guide — expands the choices that upperclassmen have in choosing their schedules. Aside from de Marcellus’ two-part course on Ancient Greece and Rome, Malik Ali’s existing History of Hip-Hop elective and an expanded journalism class by Julie Kuo will inaugurate the new initiative.

The courses offer new ways to expand students’ perspectives.

For one, Kuo’s journalism course will incorporate the day-to-day operations of The Blazer. The newspaper’s editors must sign up for the class, but any upperclassman can choose to register.

“Journalism, by its nature, is interdisciplinary, project-based and authentic,” said Kuo, who advises The Blazer. “It was a perfect time to introduce journalism as a humanities course.”

The flexibility of it just gives students more of an ability to take classes they really want to take.

— Charlie Farrell

The growth of humanities courses arrives amid a broader shift at Branson. Growing enrollment and competition from other private schools has pushed several changes. For de Marcellus, that means the school will discontinue his Latin classes, but the “cross-registered” program offered him a new path.

“It’s more relevant to my academic training than teaching Latin is, actually,” he said. “I’ve wanted to be more involved in the history side of things, but with four Latin courses, I’ve never been able to do that. As heartbroken as I am about there not being Latin, I am afforded the possibility of teaching novel courses like this.”

His fall semester course on Greece will examine the origins of democracy through comparative politics, while its spring counterpart will delve into the literature and philosophy that defined Rome. He had proposed the idea after the administration asked the faculty for potential humanities classes.

“We sent out an invitation to teachers to design these courses to fill this space where some students in the room could be taking it for English, some students could be taking it for history,” Symonds said.

Charlie Farrell, a senior, plans to major in classics in college. If he could take de Marcellus’ course, Farrell said it would’ve ensconced him in a broader bedrock for his studies. And the course’s “cross-registered” nature would add to its appeal, he said on Monday.

“If there was an English course I really liked, but this class was listed as an English, I’d be like, ‘Oh man, I can’t take that,’” Farrell said. “The flexibility of it just gives students more of an ability to take classes they really want to take.”