In the first lecture of Dave Raymond's American History, Raymond states that his purpose is not just to impart facts, but to help students learn to interpret those facts through the lens of a Christian worldview. He specifically calls out the formation of moral philosophy, and as part of this project he declares his intention to hold up great figures of our nation's past as heroes to be honored and emulated.
He is quick to add that even the greatest heroes are fallen human beings, and that some of them had significant flaws that we should certainly not emulate or defend. However, he laments the modern world's denial of great men, and calls students not to dismiss the feats of our nation's forefathers simply because they had faults and personal struggles.
Mr. Raymond is a veteran history teacher with over a decade experience teaching the humanities to middle school and high school students at various Classical schools in his native Franklin, Tennessee. He is clearly a Reformed Protestant, apparently of the Dutch variety, and this informs both the way he approaches the material and which events and figures he chooses to discuss.
How Does This Work?
Dave Raymond's American History is a one-year course intended for middle and high school students. It consists of 26 lessons (13 each for two semesters) all broken into five video lectures 10-15 minutes in length. A student reader and a teacher's guide accompany the DVDs, and provide the exams and other assignments. Students will complete four projects (one for each quarter), read primary source texts from the student reader, test their knowledge through weekly tests, and work on a portfolio project throughout the year.
The filmed lectures are pretty simple—Raymond stands in front of a blank wall and speaks, with images of famous people, art, artifacts, and other pertinent photographs and illustrations shown periodically. Raymond speaks clearly but very quickly, and uses terms younger students will almost certainly not be familiar with. He covers a lot of ground, including territory most similar courses don't go near. Students watch the lectures and take notes. Raymond emphasizes at the outset the importance of note taking and offers some advice for doing so effectively.
Quarterly projects help students dig deeper, and provide opportunities for creativity: students create a colonial map, memorize a famous speech and deliver it in costume, write a research paper, and finally choose their own project they will work on throughout the year and which can be anything from writing a novella to building a scale model of a military fort. The portfolio project is essentially a scrapbook, with one entry for every lesson of the course.
Each of the first four lectures of each lesson has a corresponding entry in the Student Reader for students to read on their own. This is usually a primary source excerpt or set of quotations from eyewitness participants, and can be a poem, part of a Benjamin Franklin essay, an account of a Civil War battle, or a famous speech. After the fifth lecture, students complete an exam consisting of short essay questions focused on ideas rather than on basic questions of names and dates.
The teacher's guide provides parents with a scope and sequence, project guidelines, guidance for grading student work, an exam answer key, suggestions for further reading, and a complete list of available audio stories. The audio stories are actual old radio programs that deal with figures or events covered in the video lectures. They can be accessed for download on the Compass Classroom website free of charge and listened to as companion pieces to many of the lectures.
Students can work largely or entirely on their own. Parents will have to grade their work and offer guidance as needed. Due to the highly worldview-oriented nature of the course, however, we strongly encourage parents to watch each lecture with their students at the very least in order to discuss important ideas as they come up. This is especially true for Christian families not in the Reformed tradition, particularly Catholic and Orthodox families, as Raymond's worldview is staunchly Protestant and Reformed.
Raymond urges students often to study certain figures, events, and ideas more thoroughly. This is at least partly because he moves quickly through large amounts of material, not always stopping to explain terms or concepts that most viewers will not be familiar with. He covers a lot of material not found in most American history courses, such as the pre-Columbian explorers (mythical and historical) and the exploits of John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and John Clay.
Our Honest Opinion
Raymond offers a pretty thorough if lightning fast overview of American history, hitting most of the key points if not always from the usual perspective. Because he approaches his subject from a conservative Reformed perspective, he doesn't always hold the mainstream view on our nation's history. He admirably focuses on the providential aspect of history, but also states that everything that happens is specifically ordained by God to transpire, something many Christians obviously won't agree with. That said, this isn't something he harps on, and he does a much better job than most presenting the bad with the good, a kind of "warts and all" approach.
His lecture style is humorous and engaging, but some students will have a hard time just watching him talk, though the illustrations and the short length of the daily lectures will go a long way to alleviating this possible drawback. The fact that he delves below the mere data to discuss the reasons and ideas behind the historical narrative automatically makes this a cut above similar courses.
Similarly, his story approach to history is extremely engaging, and draws students into the saga of America's discovery, founding, growth pains, and establishment as a world superpower. As mentioned above, he even unearths facts about early Irish settlement on the North American continent, and the great Welsh prince Madoc (look him up, seriously). Even reluctant students of history will likely be drawn in by the revelations, and by Raymond's obvious talents as a storyteller.
This is probably best for 8th graders. It will likely be a challenge for many in that age group, but it's a good introduction to deeper historical study while remaining approachable and fun. We do encourage parents to watch the lectures with their students, both to ensure they understand what they're hearing, and to discuss key topics in more depth. Older students using this course should be encouraged to spend as much time as possible digging deeper into topics that interest them or are of particular significance.
DOWNLOAD 3 FREE LESSONS
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
Did you find this review helpful?