There’s a growing consensus that the curriculum of many American high schools has been dumbed down, and that we need to expect more of our students.

In response, some schools are returning to a curriculum that approximates the rigor of times past. One is Trinity School at River Ridge – a private school in Minnesota about a stone’s throw from the Intellectual Takeout offices. Here is the reading list from their Humane Letters Seminar, which combines the subjects of Literature and History: 

9th grade

Documents in American History
The Declaration of Independence

The U.S. Constitution
The Federalist Papers (selections)
Selections from the writings of Thomas Jefferson
Selections from the Lincoln-Douglas debates
Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Henry David Thoreau, Walden & Civil Disobedience
Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass & An American Slave
Will Cather, My Antonia
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Short stories of Stephen Crane, Willa Cather, Flannery O’Connor
Thornton Wilder, Our Town
American poetry

10th grade

Documents in European history
Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (selections)
John Locke, Second Treatise on Government (selections)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Inequality
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution (selections)
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (selections)
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
George Orwell, Animal Farm
British and European poetry

11th grade

Homer, Iliad & Odyssey
Aeschylus, Oresteia
Sophocles, Theban Plays
Plato, Gorgias, Apology, Crito, Meno or Phaedo, Republic
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian Wars
Athanasius, On the Incarnation
Augustine, Confessions

12th grade

Augustine, The Spirit and the Letter
Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Law
Martin Luther, Letter to the Galatians
Dante, Inferno
Montaigne, In Defense of Raymond Sebond
Descartes, Meditations
William Shakespeare, Macbeth & Hamlet
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Of the Social Contract
John Locke, Second Treatise on Government
Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (selections)
Hegel, Reason in History
Mill, On Liberty
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Flannery O’Connor, Parker’s Back
James Agee, A Death in the Family
Raymond Carver, A Small Good Thing
Ethan Canin, The Palace Thief
Contemporary American poetry

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