We would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the 9th grade Humanities program at Upper Merion Area High School. This is an exciting venture, and we are looking forward to working with you. You will have the unique experience of working in a combined class of English and Social Studies. This will allow us to survey the history and culture of human beings from a societal perspective as well as from a literary perspective. We will look at religion, government, cultural practices and social structures, mainly from a non-western perspective. Additionally, we will read from a variety of literary genres, examine themes and characters, and delve into ways the literature reflects societies.
The Humanities course is structured around one central idea: What does it mean to be human? You will also examine other essential questions over the course of the year. You will begin this exploration through the following summer assignment:
This summer you will read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and articles about the history of European exploration and colonization in Nigeria. As you read, take notes to aid your understanding of the literature and history. Your notes should also help you to respond to the following prompt:
Examine how characters in Things Fall Apart and individuals/groups in Africa's colonial history answer two of the following essential questions:
Draw specific and explicit connections between literary and historic events in the essay.
Insight into the Essential Questions
"Leadership" and "followership" address behavior and actions by individuals in a group. Leaders are responsible for guiding groups of people to action (in good and bad ways). Followers have the responsibility to act in ways that are in the interest of the group (i.e. family, tribe, community, or nation). If a follower disagrees with the direction of a leader, that follower can become a leader by taking the group in a new direction. It is common for multiple leaders to compete for the loyalty and support of a single group of followers (think about any political campaign where different candidates each want your vote). Leadership can also exist at the institutional level and can seem faceless. The rules we follow and values we support in school and the community are not established by one person, but are the product of governments--groups such as school boards, municipal supervisors, and state and federal governments. Both leaders and followers are important. You cannot be a leader unless someone is following you. You cannot be a follower without taking someone's lead.
Religion helps humans explain their existence in the universe. Throughout history, humans have sought to understand where we came from, our relationship to other animals or humans, and what happens when we die. Most societies develop these understandings over time. Often, religious beliefs inform societal, political, regional and cultural practices.
Economic needs and wants are the food, clothing, shelter, and other products that we use everyday. The means to secure these needs and wants vary tremendously. In its simplest form, a subsistence farmer may grow his own crops for food, weave his own clothing, and build his own home. In contrast to that, the specialized laborers of today's interconnected economy often work in a narrow set of tasks and rely on trade with others to meet human needs and wants. For example, a cashier at a clothing store in the mall may work as many hours in a day as the subsistence farmer but in order to eat, be clothed, and obtain shelter he or she must trade with others who actually create those products. (Even the very clothes in the store where he or she works were probably manufactured in China with cotton grown in India.) As you develop your answer to this essential question in this assignment consider the economic activity in Nigeria as well as related work in England.
Your essay will be graded holistically
but the following categories will be given approximate values as follow. The full rubric can be found here.
The paper should be no more than 4 pages, double-spaced. Please use only twelve point, Times New Roman or Courier New font. Please consult the formatting document you provided at the meeting at the Middle School in June for a sample for formatting the heading, margins, and title. This format follows MLA procedures and will be used throughout the school year.
The literary packet is designed to serve as a guide for you to use while reading Things Fall Apart. The "themes and pertinent issues" section of the packet will provide additional ways of thinking about the above essay.
The essay and literary packet are both due in printed form on the first day of class.
If you have questions or problems, please email us.
We are looking forward to a great year!