Senior Tutorial Program
VI Form students with a demonstrated commitment to independent work have the option of taking a spring tutorial. Comprised of three students or fewer, tutorials are offered in all disciplines, and provide a culminating academic experience for seniors as they work closely with a faculty member on a topic of their particular interest. Tutorials meet slightly less frequently than regular classes, but are reading and writing-intensive. Students are required to write weekly essays which they read aloud, critique, and debate with their teachers and classmates, in the spirit of the Oxford tutorial system. The tutorial framework allows students a degree of academic independence that more closely approximates the collegiate experience, and an opportunity to further hone their analytical, problem-solving, and written and oral argumentation skills. More than 20 tutorials are offered each spring.
- 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The American Dreams of John Steinbeck
- The Awakened Mind
- The Cinema Legacy of Film Noir
- The Civil Rights and Social Justice Movements
- Conspiracy Theories, Hoaxes, and Fake News
- Girls, Girls, Girls
- History of Jazz
- Holding the Mirror Up to Nature: The Past Played Out on the Stage
- Interpreting Contemporary American Short Fiction
- The Myth of Talent: Creativity as a Skill
- The Past Is Never Dead: Historical Narratives and Why They Matter in the Present
- Poets of Our Time
- Practical Wisdom
- Race and Racism in the United States: An Economic Perspective
- The Signal and the Noise: Alternative Music as Commentary on Social Issues, Global Ethics, and Life Itself
- Social Class and Human Dignity in the Stories of Chekov
- U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America & Cuba — A Whole New Ballgame
- Writing Our Own Literature
Instructor: Sra. Ramirez
One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of Latin America’s novels of excellence and one of the most important novels of the 20th century. Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García Márquez wrote it in 1967, and in the novel he breaks with all “realism” and introduces myth in fiction, constructing a mythical past in which fantastic elements are part of daily existence. Macondo, the town founded by Buendía family at the center novel, is more than just a place in the world; it is a state of being. We will discuss the novel within the frame of Latin America’s history and the creation of memory.
Instructors: Mr. and Mrs. Daly
The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Award, and propelled Steinbeck to the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Touching on important issues like immigration, climate change, and the plight of the poor, this novel follows the Joad family as they join the wave of Okies (people from Oklahoma) fleeing the Dust Bowl in search of a better life in California.
The Winter of Our Discontent, published in 1961, is Steinbeck's last novel, and many Steinbeck aficionados rank it among his most important works. Set in Long Island, we follow Ethan Hawley, a grocery store clerk, on a quest to reclaim his family's former status and wealth—written by Steinbeck as an indictment of post-war America, this journey parallels the Joad family's saga.
Instructors: Mr. Kunen
What is the best way to live? Our great philosophical and spiritual traditions have offered many answers to this question. One of Socrates’ most famous sayings is: “the unexamined life is not worth living.” After Socrates and Plato, Aristotle wrote on the best sort of life for a human being in his Nicomachean Ethics, with an emphasis on the development of virtue and the centrality of friendship. When Siddhartha Gautama reached enlightenment, he became known as the Buddha, meaning “the awakened one,” and taught about how to be free of suffering through mindful living. The Hindu epic the Bhagavad Gita contains several chapters on the meditative life and the path to self-realization. Where Confucius emphasized self-cultivation, ritual, and social order in order to become “the exemplary person,” Daoism through the lens of Lao Tzu calls for harmonizing with the way of nature and effortlessness. Jesus preached that we must be “born anew” and that “the kingdom of God is within you.”
Are there commonalities among these different wisdom teachings? If “the unexamined life is not worth living,” then what exactly is the examined life? What does it mean to be “awakened” and mindful? Through a survey of some of the most pivotal works in philosophy, we will seek to develop a global perspective on the human condition. As we do this, we will direct our attention to fundamental concerns such as: human nature, knowledge and ignorance, friendship and love, freedom, justice, and the aims and effects of society. As we engage in this comparative exploration and quest for a global lens, we will also learn how each work is the product of its author’s own examined life, and we will inquire how each author and tradition understood awakening in their respective historical and philosophical contexts.
Instructor: Mr. Hoopes
Film noir is one of the most iconic and American of film genres, and its legacy thrives in cinema today. Contemporary films like The Dark Knight, Se7en, Blade Runner, and John Wick all drew their tone and technique from the original film noir style. In this tutorial we will watch and explore several classic films from the 1940s and 1950s, including The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and Touch of Evil, and we'll compare those to more recent films. We’ll examine character development, lighting and composition, plot elements, and music and sound, and we’ll find and uncover film noir's tangled connections to many present-day movies.
Instructors: Mr. Roach and Mr. Speers
We will look at several seminal documents from the Civil Rights and social justice movements, as well as poetry and short fiction that capture the essence of Black courage, triumph, and resilience.
- Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy
- James Baldwin, Notes from a Native Son
- Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
- Sherrilyn Ifill, On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching
- Frederick Douglass, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
- Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
- Selected essays, stories, and poetry by Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Jesmyn Ward, Richard Wright, and Toni Morrison
Instructor: Mr. Hutchinson
Do we live in a “post truth” era? This tutorial seeks to explore conspiracy theories and the important role they play in influencing our political values. From the JFK assassination to "New World Order" conspiracies, from Holocaust denial to QAnon, from global warming skepticism to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s dismissal from her Congressional committee work, conspiracy theories have been embraced by both sides of the aisle, and by as "elites" and "non-elites" alike. Using Hellinger’s seminal work Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in the Age of Trump, this course will explore Americans’ unique attraction to these theories about sinister schemes secretly at work in our world. We will discuss the following questions:
- Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?
- Are conspiracy theories undeserving of academic inquiry?
- Does the dismissal of these strongly held beliefs “provide the perfect petri dish for conspiracy movements: a durable, elastic climate of alienation and resentment"?
- Why do conspiracy theorists tend to surface when there is a rise in populism, and how do conspiracy theories provide fuel for the fire of culture wars?
- Do conspiracy theories pose a threat to our democracy ?
Instructor: Ms. Lazar
The development of this tutorial arose from controversial issues around gender that have been a part of our society for quite some time, but have come to the forefront of popular discussion as a result of the 2016 presidential election. This tutorial will examine the following issues through the lens of gender: healthcare, immigration, science and environment, labor and wages, and education. In order to stimulate our discussion and writing, we will read several articles as well as the following three books: Girl in Glass by Deanna Fei, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, and Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, I look forward to engaging in discourse with you about these topics.
Instructor: Dr. Geiersbach
What is this thing called jazz? Louis Armstrong famously replied, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” In this tutorial we will study Ken Burns’ important documentary on the topic and read selected articles by important jazz scholars, all in preparation for attending a live performance. Frequent short writing projects will be assigned for in-class presentation, plus a more substantial concert review. Some experience participating
in a musical ensemble is helpful but not required.
Instructors: Ms. Pressman and Mrs. Roach
Since ancient times, people have wrestled with some of the most challenging questions of human experience, and of their particular historical moment, by playing them out on stage, making theater a particularly fascinating lens for considering important social, cultural, and political issues across time. In this sense, plays are very much a product of the specific eras from which they emerge, and a lens through which contested pasts can be examined. At the same time, the very nature of a play is that it is interpreted and reinterpreted in each performance as a work of art—allowing future generations to reshape the original material to speak to their own moment. The study of dramatic literature, therefore, is an inherently interdisciplinary experience.
In this tutorial—functioning as literary critics, historians, theater artists, dramaturgs, and audience members—we will study some of the most important plays of the modern era to develop a deeper understanding of them as works of literature and art, and windows into the past. If possible, we will see a stage production of one of the works we study.
Possible texts include: Henrik Ibsen's groundbreaking A Doll's House (1879), and its challenge to traditional gender roles that scandalized the world; Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit (1944), a quintessential work of existentialism; Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949), often identified by scholars as the best American play ever written, which examines the "American Dream" and its limits; August Wilson's Fences (1985), the sixth in his ten play cycle about the African-American experience, set in the early years of the Civil Rights movement; David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly (1988), loosely based on the relationship between a French diplomat and a Chinese opera singer in China in the 1960s, wrestling with questions of colonialism, Orientalism, and gender; Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (1993), considered by many to be "the greatest play of the late 20th century," which moves back and forth between the early 1800s century and the late 1900s, dealing with Romantic poetry, landscape architecture, fractal mathematics, and how the past echoes forward through time; and Sweat (2015), Lynn Nottage's play about the working class in 21st century, post-industrial Pennsylvania—a play that many have argued is invaluable in understanding the appeal of Donald Trump to American voters. Students will help to select the plays we will consider, from these and numerous other options, based on their interests and previous experiences.
Instructor: Mr. Torrey
Short fiction is perhaps literature’s most complex, intriguing and impactful genre. By compressing the elements of novels into thirty pages or less, stories offer uniquely intimate glimpses into the emotions, thoughts and conflicts of their characters. Over the course of the tutorial, we’ll read, discuss and carefully dissect nine of the most significant stories published by American authors in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In addition to writing weekly analytical essays for group presentation and critique, students will also take turns serving as Story Experts, a role that will place them at the helm of a particular work’s class discussion. Overall, the tutorial aspires to expose students to a broad spectrum of contemporary writing while further honing their abilities to zero in on a story’s most meaningful moments and ask the critical questions—in writing and in discussion—necessary to understand them best.
Instructor: Mr. Meier
All too often, we think of talent, and its product, creativity, as something that we either have, or don’t have; like a gift that may or may not have been bestowed on us at birth. The reality is that creativity is more like a skill that is developed and nurtured like any other skill—through consistent hard work and practice. It is a muscle that we all have that requires exercise, training, and a bit of flexing. This tutorial is for anyone who wants to learn the daily habits necessary to build creativity, and begin to find creative inspiration in unexpected places. We will also explore the mental roadblocks that all of us have that prevent us from being as creative as we want to be. The course is a combination of reading, writing, and short, hands-on exercises that put us in the habit of flexing our creative muscle on a consistent basis. We will be working through the texts Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, and Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Supplementing our readings will be talks by Chase Jarvis of Creative Live and Cindy Foley of the Columbus Museum of Art, plus more. This is not a tutorial for strictly artists, but rather ANYONE looking to develop a creative approach to life.
Instructor: Mr. Edmonds
In his 1951 novel Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” That line—cliché though it has become—will be our jumping off point for this tutorial. After a few short readings to establish key concepts, we will spend the bulk of our time on two somewhat different but certainly related topics: first, the contested “public memory” of race in the United States, as it has developed since the Civil War; and second, the contemporary debate over the “1619 Project,” published in 2019 by the New York Times, and the “1776 Report” produced by the 1776 Commission (created by President Donald Trump) and released in January.
At the heart of the tutorial will be an attempt to address a series of nested questions:
- Why do Americans argue vehemently about the past? Has it always been this way?
- How has the story of race in America been told publicly? How should it be told?
- What is at stake in contemporary political debates over the New York Times “1619 Project” versus the Trump Administration’s “1776 Report”?
- More broadly, why do historical narratives matter?
Instructor: Mrs. Hurtt
This tutorial will explore some of the most well-known, popular poets of our time—Mary Oliver, Amanda Gorman, Li-young Lee, Billy Collins, Terrance Hayes, and others. Students will have some input on the poets and poems we study. We will experience each writer’s unique voice, context and style, primarily by studying their poems, and also by viewing readings and reading critical reviews. Paper assignments will vary each week, ranging from the more creative (“Give this poet’s collection to someone you know well. Write a letter to this person explaining why you think they’ll connect with this poet.”) to the analytical (“Explain and analyze references to current events in Hayes’ poem.”). Our goal is to help readers appreciate a variety of contemporary voices, discover their own taste in poetry, and consider the role of poetry in our contemporary lives.
Instructor: Mrs. Carroll
What virtue will make one a better firefighter, teacher, doctor, or friend? Practical wisdom: the ability to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. In our pursuit to learn the moral skills required to make difficult decisions, we will examine the following questions: What is practical wisdom? When and why do we need it? How do we learn it? What systematic rules and principles may threaten practical wisdom? We will investigate these questions through a variety of lenses including friendship, the workplace, parenting, and even COVID-19. Readings pertaining to ethical theory and case studies will provide the background for our discussions. Students’ personal stories will enhance conversation as practical wisdom is often learned through reflection on experiences and practices.
Instructor: Mr. Finch
This tutorial will explore race and racism in the United States, with a focus on the economic causes and consequences of racism. In addition, economic theory will be used to understand multiple topics related to race and racism in the US. For example, labor economics will be used to examine the plantation system and immigrant workers; theories of public finance will be employed to study the impact of policies like redlining and the GI Bill, explaining how they hindered the creation of generational wealth; a study of free trade will highlight the current plight of cities in the Rust Belt.
Primary texts will include Debby Irving’s Waking Up White and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning. Additional resources will be readings drawn from multiple sources and the viewing of selected documentary films.
Instructor: Dr. Hyde
Alternative genres of music such as rock, heavy metal, and punk are often negatively stereotyped as consisting of meaningless noise, or of promoting violence and even anarchy. However, there are many artists within these genres—if not most—who use their music as an almost poetic outlet for their personal views, producing eloquent musings on life, love, and death. Others tackle social issues such as racism, poverty, and corruption. These artists create music that often deliberately rails against mainstream views and societal norms. It is designed to be hard-hitting and emotive, to encourage us to have difficult conversations, and to confront and raise awareness of what the artists feel are important issues or injustices in our society or on a global level. A song or lyric may contain an inflammatory concept or theme, not necessarily because this is what the artist believes or supports—instead, their intention is to criticize this view or to shine a light on the issue. The Sex Pistol’s “God Save the Queen” is a classic example: despite its title—which is also the title of the official royal anthem of Great Britain—the song is actually a scathing criticism of the British monarchy.
This tutorial aims to explore examples of these alternative genres of music, to decipher the messages and arguments being expressed, and try to understand what might have influenced these artists and their views. We will examine a variety of songs by a variety of artists from the 1970s until the present day, broken up by theme: songs that condemn war and describe its horrors; songs that rage about the damage we are doing (or may do) to our planet and ourselves in the form of pollution, climate change, and nuclear weapons; songs that tackle police brutality, gun violence, and the pandemic of school shootings in America; and songs that deal with love, loss, and grief.
Instructor: Mr. Olana
Chekhov is likely the greatest master of the short story genre. With his brief but vivid descriptions of ordinary Russian life, he draws comedy and tragedy out of mundane events, and moves readers to reflect on the painful complexities of existence. At the heart of many of his stories is the tension between human dignity and circumstantial differences, such as class, that privilege some over others. We will focus on this perennial motif of Chekhov, and explore its relevance to our times.
Because Chekhov’s stories are situated in rural 19th century Russia, it is important to understand the historical context that shaped his concerns. To become more familiar with his world, therefore, we will also study aspects of 19th century Russian history.
Instructor: Mr. Miller
The United States has a unique relationship with Latin America due both to historical coincidence and to geographical proximity. Perhaps no other country in Latin America has as special a relationship with the United States as Cuba. Cuba’s destiny has been inextricably tied to the foreign policy decisions of the U.S. since before its independence from Spain. (Indeed, Cuban independence followed directly from United States military intervention.) The relationship has gone through many phases, beginning when both countries were colonies of European powers, through independence for one, then the other, through revolution, the Cold War and a fifty-year estrangement during the Revolutionary Period, to the brand-new age of regularized relations, to a horizon which is again cloudy on both sides of the Florida Straits. In this tutorial, which is politico-historical in nature, we will explore the entire span of this relationship, and will follow current events in U.S.-Cuban relations as they occur. We will make our best guesses as to how the next phase of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba will develop. There is no more timely a moment to take on this case study than right now.
Instructor: Ms. Reddy
In an interview with writer and educator Alexander Chee, he explains his journey to writing about himself and teaching this skill to his students: “How do we write our own literature? I am thinking of when I interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin and she told me she had to teach herself to write as a woman. Or my own first stories, when I did much the same as these students. In the 1980s, I had to learn how to write myself and people like me onto the page. My own life on the page felt impossible to explain in any detail when I was a student writer. I had to ask myself why I was embarrassed to mention that I was Asian-American, much less to center it in a story. Strangely, it took finding writers like Mavis Gallant and Gregor Von Rezzori, whose works described characters who had lived among several cultures, as they were writing about Europeans. Reading about someone who was of Austrian and French heritage may not feel like a mix of cultures, but I unexpectedly found permission there—white writers teaching me how to write mixed-race Asian-American characters like me.”
In this tutorial, we will examine how various Asian-American writers write themselves “onto the page.” By reflecting on their approaches, what they choose to examine, and how they tell their stories, you will be asked to complete a final project where you write your own story onto the page. For this final project, you will have the option to write in any of the genres we read in the tutorial: a “graphic” essay/portrait, a comedic piece that can be used in the form of a show or presentation, or a personal essay.
Over the course of the tutorial, you will be writing analytical and personal pieces in response to the following:
- Mira Jacob’s illustrated memoir Good Talk
- Thi Bui’s Illustrated memoir The Best We Could Do
- Hasan Minhaj’s stand-up performance Homecoming King
- “Snake Heart”— a short essay by comedian, actress, and writer Ali Wong