The American Experience at Trinity-Pawling School

Headmaster Taylor’s American Experience course comprises a diligent group of senior and PG students, providing deep and comprehensive insight into American history and the narrative of American Exceptionalism. Sitting in his class, one sees Mr. Taylor’s fluent knowledge of the delicate blend of religious, individual, and political climates that coincide to make the United States a country like no other in the world.

The course is unique because it has a dual literature component taught by John Teaford. The same students are afforded Teaford’s fictional anecdote to Taylor’s historical facets for a wholly synergistic impetus. “Having Mr. Taylor’s class really makes my job a lot easier,” Teaford said. “When the students are assigned a 15-page paper, they get to come into my class and now I have a backdrop to teach with.” Currently, students are reading The Scarlet Letter with Mr. Teaford while Mr. Taylor examines the landscape of colonial America as religious autonomy dictated colonial identity.

Originally proposed in 1995, Headmaster Taylor has adapted and expanded the course to capture advanced students in asking the big questions of American identity: What are American myths and why are they important? Why is there tension in our history between personal liberty and the quest for the common good? What role does religion play in the creation of the American Experience? Is American democracy a civic virtue in the nation’s experience?

Now, as much as ever, asking those questions can help lead students to understand the richness of this nation with so many components worth celebrating, while simultaneously examining historical problems that will necessitate their dedicated attention in the future.

by Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris