Introduction to Senior English

Welcome to Senior English, a class designed to explore life through literature, experience a diversified learning environment, and empower you to become a first-rate thinker and communicator.  Yet, for all the reading, writing, and discussing you will be doing in the class, only three questions need to be answered by the end of the year: 

  • Who Are You?
  • Where Did You Come From?
  • Where Are You Going?

Who Are You? (Writing)

    Senior English is, first and foremost, a writing course designed to teach you how to compose articulate thoughts, whether they be for academic, narrative, or reflective purposes. 

    Why do this?  To paraphrase the legendary Donkey from Shrek: “We’re so wrapped up in layers, onion boy, we’re afraid of our own feelings.” Every person is a product of family, place, and culture.  In today’s world, life happens at such a rate that, rather than spend time reflecting, we adjust to life on-the-fly, never giving ourselves time to think deeply about the world around us.  This lack of reflection leads to reactionary thinking that leads to simplistic responses to deep issues such as faith, politics, ethics, race, and family.  Wrestling with deep ideas prepares our hearts and minds to recognize, relate, and retaliate against 

     Starting with the Biblical Epics of the Christian Faith and plodding through the Postmodern Era, Senior English looks at the world that has made us and asks you to write about it.  By studying and responding to the Archetypes (traditional symbols, images, and ideas in literature) of Western Literature, you will come to an understanding of Life as a Journey.  By the end of the year, you will write your own Modern Journey, reflecting on the people and places you have encountered along the way.     

    In that span, we will not just study English through stories and literature, we will simplify, articulate, and wrestle with Big Ideas (words like anthropology, epistemology, and ontology), and, out of these Big Ideas, we will work to define who we are at this moment in time, and, in doing so, we will become the eyes and ears of our generation.


Where Did You Come From? (Reading)

     This is English, after all, so we read, but this is both good and bad.

     For those of you who love reading, we will not read enough (see me for other options).  For those of you who don’t like reading, you’ll be happy to know we read more excerpts (small pieces) from big works than we read anything else.  We read lots of short stories, brief essays, biographies, and reflections.

     Senior English’s Reading List aims to unpack the traditions that shape our hearts and minds.  Using philosophy (Plato through Derrida) as a backdrop, you will leave Senior English with a pared-down version of Western Civilization in your head.  Knowing philosophy serves two purposes: 

  • College Preparation (most of the material will resurface, in one  shape or another, during your first two years of college) 
  • Self-Awareness (the material will reveal some of the assumptions that shape our view of the world)

    Transformation begins with understanding, and, in Senior English, we will press you to, as F. Scott Fitzgerald rightly said, “hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

    For all that can be said about them (and plenty can be -- both good and bad) philosophers are the eyes and ears of a generation.  They take the time to see the world, and they write to make sense of it all.  Reading through the eyes of philosopher is a sophisticated skill requiring you to enter into another’s shoes (empathy), but  you will leave Senior English with the ability to do so.  As a result, you will possess the ability to see outside yourself, which will give you the ability to operate as a first-rate student, employee, and citizen


Where Are You Going? (Thinking)

  If you learn nothing else from Senior English, learn this lesson: accountability is everything!  If you do it, take the reward.  If you don’t, take the punishment!  Our goal, then, is to engage life through good decisions, not simply react (as a child) when things don’t add up.  

     Unlike many classes, Senior English will be taught as a seminar where you will be reading, researching, and responding for the sake of personal discovery. Whereas many classes focus on lecture, note taking, and response, Senior English will start with response, your response!  Your ideas will fuel the discussion.  

      You will learn the Art of Argumentation: 

  •   Induction (Fact-Finding) 
  •   Deduction (Deeper Question) 
  •   Interpretation (Draw Conclusions)  
  •   Synthesize (Extracting the Essentials).

        This is not merely an academic venture: this is problem solving.  It works the same in English (“if X symbolizes Y, then how does Y affect Z?”) as it does in auto shop (“if I take out all the oil in the car, what will happen to the engine?”), or in money management (“if I spend $200 on this i-pod, then how much - if any - food can I buy with the remainder?”).

        Next year, God willing, you are gone.  Outta here!  No more hall passes, no more bells, no more teacher’s keeping you from stepping outside the school building during school hours (what a dumb rule, by the way!).  Next year, everything counts, and, as Seniors, you need the freedom to move at your own pace, think at your ability, and take risks when it comes to your education.

        In Senior English, we train the mind for just such an exercise, and, in doing so, we give you the tools to examine life, solve problems, and face the future

© Jeff Thomas 2016 - mrthomas2@me.com, 360-354-3221, Ext 1400