A Seminar on the Philippines

“Trey, it’s your turn to pick,” Ms. Wallace says. I smile, nervously, as I draw a slip of paper. Hoping for Mahan, a proponent of U.S.-Naval superiority before the Spanish American War, I examine the name in my hand: Mark Twain. “Oh no, anyone but Twain!” I laugh. Following my pick, the teams for our in-class debate, or seminar, split in two. Half of the students walk to the pro-imperialism side of the room, and the other half to the opposition corner; I move my books to the anti-imperialist table.

Sharing Mark Twain with Powers Trigg ’20, we take our seats alongside Senator Hoar and Andrew Carnegie—played by Brooks Anderson ’20 and Caroline Beran ’20 respectively. Across the Harkness Table, Captain Mahan, Senator Beveridge, Rudyard Kipling, President Teddy Roosevelt, and President William McKinley stare us down. Speaking about Joint Resolution 53—a proposition to allow the U.S. to claim the Philippines as territory in 1900—our discussion commences, and afterward, we drop the roles and deliberate the issue ourselves.

One of my favorite classes this fall, America Empire in Liberty: Philippines, has been fantastic. Centered on U.S. foreign policy and Philippine relations, discussion dominates the classroom atmosphere; I love the constant conversation. Before arriving on the Circle, I took U.S. history and the school allowed me to bypass the required credit. So in lieu of U.S. history, I decided to take more U.S. history, haha. Our tests are in-class essays, and homework is not graded, but rather preparatory for our talks in class. We use dates and facts we learn from the readings to compose a timeline, and then as a group, we discuss everything from language to infrastructure and economics to military.

This upcoming winter, I will take a similar class, except with an emphasis on Vietnam. In the spring, I continue history with a course on U.S.-Iraqi affairs. I’m super excited and can’t wait!

At the school’s birthday: Captain Alfred Mahan (Henry ’20), Mark Twain (me), Senator George Hoar (Brooks ’20)

Fun Fact: We are all in the same advisory!