Dave Raymond's Modernity - DVD Set

Dave Raymond's Modernity - DVD Set

by Dave Raymond
Publisher: Compass Classroom
Item: 77883
Current Retail Price: $125.00
Used Price: $85.00 (1 in stock) Condition Policy

Modernity is the second installment in Dave Raymond's history course series for middle and high school students. While there is only one more lesson than in the American History course (27 instead of 26), he covers quite a bit more ground here, beginning with the early modern period and going all the way to the late 20th/early 21st centuries. He continues his project of instilling the ability to discern worldview and moral philosophy in young people, covering such things as the scientific revolution, the rise of modern art, and postmodernism.

As with American History, Modernity showcases Raymond's Dutch Reformed perspective. While this may alienate some Christian viewers, it's also less intrusive in this course—much of what has transpired in the last few centuries has been so clearly unchristian and even antichristian that believers of all stripes will be much more likely to unite behind his interpretations of such things as the insurgency of Darwinism and the general move toward edging God out of the picture and replacing him with autonomous mankind.

This installment is definitely for high school students. Whereas American History can be used with kids as young as 7th grade, and while Raymond's approach doesn't change substantially, the content is necessarily more challenging and more mature. Some of the artwork is less anodyne than in the earlier course, and discussions of things like modern literature and philosophy will require more discernment as the content became less constrained by morals or church.

How Does This Work?

Dave Raymond's Modernity is a one-year course intended for high school students. It consists of 27 lessons all broken into five video lectures of about 20 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 reproduce a famous work of art (music, painting, poem, or scientific invention), write and deliver a speech on the importance of tradition, write a research paper, and finally choose their own project they will work on throughout the year and which can be anything from writing an essay in the style of Samuel Johnson to building a scale model of a galleon ship. 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 Rene Descartes essay, an account of the French Revolution, a famous speech, or even listening to Bach's Goldberg Variations. 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 sample answers to short essay / discussion questions based on the lectures. The suggestions for further reading are excellent, and dig deeper than typical fare: The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott, Greenmantle by John Buchan, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among several others.

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 many comparable history courses, such as the role of film in spreading the Modernist worldview and the rise of scientism and its attendant Darwinian high priests.

Students will be exposed to many difficult ideas and distasteful facts. This is by design, and is crucial to a genuine understanding of history and of our present experience in the world. Raymond discusses transgressive modern art and the often reprehensible lives of the artists themselves, mature films like Ingmar Bergman's Trilogy of Faith and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and the nihilism of postmodern philosophy. Young people need to be equipped to defend their beliefs and maintain their faith in often hostile environments, and this course is a great place to start equipping them to do so.

Our Honest Opinion

Raymond slows the pace in this course because there's so much ground to cover. This is a decidedly Western-centric treatment of the modern world from about 1500 to the present, a period which has seen revolution after revolution in every sphere—science, art, music, religion, industry, sexuality, etc. This isn't a comprehensive treatment of any of these topics, but it is a solid introduction and provides a good jumping off place for further research.

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. Again, users should be aware of his Reformed perspective, and how his Calvinism sometimes colors his view of events and figures.

There is less of a story approach in this course than in American History, though there is still plenty of that here. However, Raymond goes much deeper into ideas and philosophy, largely because the modern period has seen an unprecedented assault on tradition which has in turn resulted in a massive upset of the world order. Students are expected to read Descartes, Pascal, Samuel Johnson, the art historian Hans Rookmaaker, and many, many others. Not only to read them, but to understand them and interact with their ideas! It may sound like a tall order for high school students (or for many adults for that matter), but Raymond does a first-rate job of presenting these ideas in a way that is understandable and approachable without dumbing anything down.

This is probably best for 9th or 10th graders. Modernity is a challenging course, partly because of the pace and partly because of the ideas presented, but by high school students need to be working at a higher level than in younger grades. As with the previous Raymond course, we recommend parents watch the lectures with their students—not only will many discussions result, parents will likely learn a lot of history themselves. Older students should be given a fair amount of leeway, and should pursue further research. We also recommend looking up Raymond's source texts, as they will provide even more insight and perspective.

Dave Raymond’s Modernity History Series - Trailer from Compass Cinema & Classroom on Vimeo.

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.
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