New honors history class offers a glimpse of school life post-APs


Jordan Levine

HISTORY: Students in Tipping Point discuss the 17th century monarchies in Central Europe. Since there are only 5 students in the original class, Mrs. Sunshine teaches it like an informal seminar.

By Alexa Fishman, Editor-in-Chief

Sitting around a small circular table, the students in Tipping Point prepare to read Castiglione’s The Courtier, a 16th century guidebook for Italian noblemen.

“I’ll play Sir Frederick,” said senior Daniel Steinberg as he looked over the excerpt. “But can someone help me, because it is such a long part?”

When none of the other students volunteered, Tipping Point teacher Mrs. Tove Sunshine agreed to split the part with Daniel.

It wasn’t so surprising, since there are only five students in the class. That may not be enough for a dramatic reading, but it does make the class seem like an informal seminar.

Even though Daniel was reluctant to play Sir Fredrick at first, he was soon getting into character and projecting across the room.

“I love Sir Fredrick because he is so complex,” he said later. “This is definitely not the kind of activity that you do in most classes.”

As part of an effort to eventually abolish AP classes at school, Shalhevet has replaced AP European History this year with a new, original course called Tipping Point. Mrs. Sunshine, who created the Tipping Point curriculum, decided to focus on 150 years of history, instead of the 700 years covered in AP Euro.

“It was always really difficult to race through the Euro material,” said Mrs. Sunshine, who taught the AP version for seven years. “Tipping Point instead focuses on the years 1500 to 1650, where you can see Western Europe as a whole, and especially England, transform into countries with recognizably modern ideas.

“We’re going into far greater depth than Euro and using many more primary sources,” she said. “There’s a lot more general discussion, which I really like.”

Senior Tom Amzalag took AP Euro last year.

“The class is much more laid back than Euro and there isn’t as much pressure because we’re not cramming for an AP test,” said Tom. “I feel like I can learn more because we can spend vast amounts of time on certain topics.”

According to Mrs. Sunshine, the class had only just finished the introductory section before Sukkot break, which may be why students think it’s easy thus far.

“The class will have a comparable difficulty to Euro,” said Mrs. Sunshine. “It is not as fast moving and there are only a couple objective tests, but there is a lot more writing.”

Enrollment may be small because of scheduling: Tipping Point meets during the same block as Advanced Biology and AP Calculus BC, classes that juniors and seniors may need for college readiness. But General Studies Principal Mr. Roy Danovitch is confident that the course will attract more students next year.

“There is logjam with other advanced courses,” said Mr. Danovitch. “This is a structural issue, not an educational one, and it’s something we’ll be addressing going forward.”