Dave Raymond's Modernity: World History is a two-semester, high-school-level course in modern history presented from a Christian worldview. Course lectures are either streamed to your computer or tablet or downloaded. You can also purchase them on a DVD. The course includes digital files for the companion Modernity Student Reader (that includes exams) and the Modernity Teacher’s Guide. The digital files can be downloaded or else accessed on the DVD. Downloadable files are provided in PDF, Kindle, and epub formats.
The course covers from the Post-Reformation period through modern history. However, as presenter Dave Raymond presents his lectures, he often jumps back in time to the roots or influences from prior centuries.
He explains in an introductory lecture that in this course he will contrast five major categories under two worldviews: the culture of modernity and the culture of Christendom: authority (God vs. man), structure by which things are accomplished (family and church vs. force), ethics (absolutes vs. relativism), justice (standards from Scripture vs. the greater good determined by man), and continuity (God’s provision of grace and perseverance to live life faithfully vs. man having to work at being good on his own).
Worldviews, especially the influence of ideas as they shape cultures and events, are woven throughout the course. Raymond selectively chooses his topics and key people to illustrate ideological movements in history rather than trying to cover every important event.
The introductory sessions for the first week present a great deal of information based upon the Reformation since the Christian worldview from a Reformed Protestant perspective dominates through the entire course. As he moves into history in the second week, Protestant themes continue as Raymond begins with the 30 Years War, highlighting the conflict between the Reformation and the Counter-reformation and highlighting the five “solas” of the Reformation. The next session introduces John Amos Comenius, a key intellectual leader in the realm of education, a promoter of missionary work, and an influential figure in the Reformation. Later in the course, an entire lecture is dedicated to “The Prince of Preachers: Spurgeon,” and an entire week is spent on Protestant missionaries. Raymond concludes with the final lecture on the topic of Postmodernity from a Christian worldview. These are just a few of the “Protestant” topics.
While the course is heavy with information supportive of a Protestant worldview, it does cover other key historical people and events plus movements in the realms of religion, philosophy, science, the fine arts, culture, politics, government, and warfare. For example, Raymond covers the Enlightenment devoting lectures to key figures such as Spinoza, Hobbs, Locke, Hume, Kant, Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau. He talks about the Scientific Revolution and brilliant scientists such as Leibniz and Newton.
I found Raymond’s treatment of the benevolent despots in Europe following the Enlightenment especially interesting. These lectures illustrate how reliance on man rather than God, as well as separation of the sacred and the secular, led to increased reliance on larger centralized governments, something that has led to current problems around the world. Ideas such as this that come up at different points tend to support belief in a conservative, limited role for government.
Even though the course is Protestant, Raymond’s presentation of history is surprisingly accurate and positive when discussing Catholics and their influence. For example, his complimentary presentation about the history of Catholic missionaries from the Jesuit order during the colonial period and similar positive comments about some works of Catholics when credit is due are refreshing, especially given the strength of his own Protestant worldview.
The course is divided into 27 lessons with five lectures per lesson. Lectures vary in length from about ten minutes to more than twenty minutes; there are a total of 47 hours of video lectures. Videos primarily feature Dave Raymond presenting lectures, but there are occasional illustrations or other images on the screen. Raymond is such a passionate and well-read teacher that the content is engaging even without loads of images. In addition, the length of the video segments seems just right for covering the material without overwhelming students. The only exception might be the introductory lectures for the first week. If students are not very excited about those first lectures, make sure they persevere into the second week.
The first lesson, “Introduction and Note-Taking,” stresses the importance of and strategies for taking notes as students watch each lecture. Raymond tells students that they need to be taking notes continually through all of the lectures. He presents a vast amount of information, so students need to learn how to identify key points and summarize rather than try to write so much that they can’t pay attention to the lectures.
Beginning with week two, the week's sessions start with a lecture on a basic principle that will be developed throughout the week. For example, the Enlightenment is the theme for the third week, so the ideas of the Enlightenment are explained in the first session and then developed through the stories of key figures and events through the next four sessions.
For each of the first four lectures each week there is a reading from the Modernity Student Reader. Readings are from primary source documents and occasionally from Scripture. They might be as brief as a few sentences or as lengthy as the 12-page reading for Lecture 11.4, "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection" by Thomas Chalmers. Before each reading, there are a few questions that help direct student attention to key points or ideas. In addition, occasionally there is an assignment that directs students to websites. For example, on page 56 it directs students to: “Explore the life and works of artist Jan Vermeer…” The assignment includes two weblinks to be used as a source of information.
The Modernity Student Reader has an exam for each week that is completed on the fifth day when there is no reading assignment. Exams have a list of questions for students to answer that are drawn from the content of both the lectures and the readings for the week. Many questions require short essay responses.
Also, students are to create a portfolio with at least five entries per week, ideally one entry for each lecture. These might be pictures, photos, maps, quotations, poems, drawings, song lyrics, or other entries that represent topics discussed in the week’s lesson. Captions and comments should be added to portfolio entries.
Besides video lectures, readings, exam questions, and portfolio entries, students will complete four projects through the course, one per quarter. The projects stretch students to present information in different formats. The first project, “Reformational Imitation” directs students to focus on the composers and artists of the period then write out a composer’s music, reproduce a great artwork or sketch, build a model of an invention, or otherwise imitate their work. The second project is to present a “Speech Defending Tradition.” The third project is a thesis paper. The fourth project is to craft something of lasting quality, spending 30 to 40 hours on the project. While the course should work well for independent study, the speech should be presented before an audience if possible.
Specific suggestions and instructions for the projects are in the Modernity Teacher’s Guide along with course instructions, grading information and rubrics, portfolio instructions, suggested answers for the questions presented before the readings, and suggested answers for the exams.
The Modernity Teacher’s Guide acknowledges that some of the readings might be difficult for students. It goes on to say that parents or teachers can assist students through the readings or skip some of them if they think it best. However, the readings are a significant part of the course work, so skipping all or most of them should not be an option. Parents or teachers who have time to read the readings themselves might have an oral discussion with their student(s) over the questions posed before the readings. Otherwise, students might be required to write answers on their own.
Because of the strong worldview component, Dave Raymond's Modernity: World History might have a more limited audience than other courses covering modern world history. However, even those who might not share Raymond’s Reformed Protestant beliefs might find the content so interesting that they will want to use the course anyway. I strongly encourage homeschooling parents to at least watch the lectures as their teens work through the course since they bring up many interesting and challenging ideas that are worth discussing.