Scholars Online History Curriculum

World History Program

History is almost by definition the all-encompassing subject. It has no real boundaries; every human sphere of investigation or endeavor has, just by virtue of continuing through time, acquired a dimension that is historical.

History is also probably the subject about which there is the most potential disagreement. Two people can look at the same actions and events, and come away with radically different conclusions — first, about what happened, but then also about what it meant, and what its continuing significance is or should be.

All in all, that makes for a fantastically rich broth that can be so complex that students and teachers do one of two things with it: either they boggle at its extent and ambiguity, and so throw up their hands, or they reduce it to some one-dimensional representation of reality that becomes, as it goes along, a vanishingly useful look at a trivial slice of human experience. Either way, it winds up being perceived as irrelevant, crotchety, and not useful for the problems of tomorrow.

Mr. Christiansen and I disagree about a lot of things, but we respect each other very highly, and we enthusiastically agree that history is and should be seen as the immediate and real expression of the totality of human experience. History is first and foremost about telling our story: no matter how rarefied it may become, it always centers on looking at events and making sense out of them. Analysis and narrative converge to create understanding. For more on that point, see this page at the World History I website. It addresses every problem humanity has encountered over the centuries, and it confronts us with the successes, failures, and split decisions (mostly those) about how we as a species dealt with the problems we faced in the past and which we confront today, and can expect to confront tomorrow. Disagreement and dialogue about those things is not merely useful; it’s organic to understanding how the discipline works. For a bit more about that point, see this page at the World History I site.

We have over the last several years taught the course as a kind of ongoing dialogue between the two of us, representing our often (though not always) divergent opinions, trying to model (for an age that really doesn’t see much of it) respectful disagreement and resolution of contradictions. That’s been fun for all of us, and you can read about it in this blog article.> Among other things, it has (we hope) broken down some of the monolithic and oracular status of the teacher. Sure, we both have history degrees and our students don’t, but the degree doesn’t confer perfect understanding, and those without the degree still can have a lot of things to say.

At the same time, to avoid having the whole matter degenerate into mere chaos, we’ve also tried something new this year. The structure of the book we’ve chosen (much better, we think, than the one it’s replacing) has allowed us to give every unit four separate sessions. Meeting twice a week, we get through one unit in two weeks. During the first unit, we’ve laid out the main underpinnings of three large areas of discourse that surface in every age and in every society: power — its types, exercise, and its relation to consent, resources of all kinds, and the ongoing and necessarily dynamic relationship between the individual and the community. (The links take you to our starting discussions of those issues.) For every subsequent unit, we’ve cycled through those topics, leaving for the fourth section a selection of questions having to do with the things unique to the particular society in question.

We believe this is a unique approach to the old subject; at least neither of us nor anyone we’ve talked to about it has encountered the like. We think it is producing a uniquely focused grasp of the big questions that we all continue to face today — bringing a lively grasp of the past into our lives right now.

Dr . Bruce McMenomy

American History and Government

I believe in God the Creator and Redeemer of the world — as a great Storyteller who sets the scene and brings us His characters into the tale; yet He also encourages us to improvise and to bring our own efforts to His work. To explore history, therefore, is to explore one of God’s great creations — and to explore our own creations as well, both good and evil. In understanding the past, we come to understand God better, but we also come to understand ourselves. Understanding the past is crucial to understanding the present, and a vital requirement for fulfilling all our duties, sacred or civic. Yet history is not something to learn in a semester or over a few years, but something to explore continually.

Many people have tried to retell the story of the world to suit their own purposes — and this can be baffling. The past is complex and incompletely knowable, and hence the pursuit of history is a process of continual challenge. Historians constantly make and revise theories, assess and reassess evidence, and put each other’s theories to the test. Scholarship in history is not just a study of facts, dates, and events, but learning the tools of the historian and putting them to use. Chief among them are:

As an instructor, I consider it my chief duty to be a model and advisor to the student in mastering those tools, and to be a constant challenger, inspiring students to make their work as excellent as possible on all levels. To do so, I teach controversies — not to put forward an agenda, but as the most direct route to critical thought. I teach difficult issues to give students practice in coming to their own rational, informed opinions and in building a strong moral code. I particularly endeavor to keep my personal opinions out of my teaching; in fact, I often take up positions and then switch sides in order to ensure continual challenge for the class. I teach the most dramatic and the most delightful, in hopes that my students will come to love the subject as much as I do. I teach the essential turning points, and I try to model and exercise the skills of the discipline: careful research, understanding context, reasoned and well-supported argument, and formal writing.

Students will bring their own perspectives to class as well. All points of view are welcome, so long as they are presented courteously, well-reasoned, well-supported, and bear up under the examination of the evidence. I invite students to test and question my perspectives in turn, for just as all reasoned opinions are welcome, all opinions, including my own, must be subject to scrutiny. All students of history must come to their own conclusions and follow their own paths of study, but I hope to serve as a guide for the first few steps along the path.

Paul Christiansen

Individual courses

Students are encouraged to take World History first, and it is recommended but not required that American History be taken prior to enrolling in American Government.

If you would like to see a course not yet listed, please use the EMAIL US link below to contact Scholars Online Administration with your course request.

Students who were enrolled in courses from previous years will find the teacher, text, and course description information available from the student's unofficial transcript, which can be reached from the parent's Account Management Center, or from an alumni's own Account Management Center.


To see details about an individual course, click on the black triangle to the left of the course name


To see details about an individual course, click on the black triangle to the left of the course name

> World History I • 2016 listing - for reference only • Grade 9 or above • History Sequence

> World History I • Offering for 2017 • Grade 9 or above • History Sequence

Related courses

Students who desire writing instruction coupled with their history courses should review the Writing Program course listed below, any of which can be coordinated to use topics drawn from our history and government courses.

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