By the Students: What Everyone Should Know about Ancient, Medieval, and U.S. History and Literature (First Semester)


  • Every modern American should understand that Hector from the Iliad having a scene with his family does not make him better than Achilles; a family does not make you a good person.
  • Every modern American should understand the Stargazer analogy from Plato’s Republic because it shows that things that may look useless and like a waste of time can be important and something that gives you direction.


  • The Consolation of Philosophy is important for Americans to look into because it can help point people’s views towards, as Boethius says, True Happiness. It also shows you that God never changes.
  • Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy: It is important for current Americans to remember the nature of fortune is constant change, but God is always stable. If you think you are happy and then you remember fortune can take it away in a second, you will always live in fear. Only God can be a happy foundation. God is the opposite of fortune totally unchanging while fortune is unstable. God is true happiness.
  • It is important for current Americans to remember Beowulf because in Beowulf, we learn that being a hero is not all about fighting with swords and other weapons, but it is also about bravery and being able to use your head.
  • It is important for current Americans to remember Dante’s Inferno more as a metaphor rather than true facts. Dante’s Inferno gives several unreliable facts about Hell when you should just be looking to the Bible for this type of information. You should remember not to love any worldly things more than God.
  • The Paradiso takes you through what Dante imagines heaven to be like; although it is fictional, it is still important to today’s culture to read about what they believed heaven would be like to challenge ourselves to have that same confidence and joy in the thought of heaven.
  • Chronicles of the Crusades is important to know because many Christians can forget the trials other Christians have gone through.


  • Americans today need to understand the Constitution because if they don’t understand it and know it, they won’t know if what the government or president is doing is constitutional or if it is what they are supposed to do.
  • We need to understand The Federalist Papers because Hamilton and Madison wrote about not having too much ambition.
  • Although people in the government are trying to get rid of the Constitution and have had some success in no longer upholding it, it is still important because without the Constitution, we will have a tyranny.
  • Washington’s “Farewell Address” is important because Washington was the first person with the amount of power he had to give it up; he also specifically tells the people what they must do in order to not go to a civil war.
  • The Declaration of Independence is a precious document to save because it allowed Americans to know why the Founders founded America. It reminds people of what the Founders risked in declaring independence. Americans will also be able to remember the principles the Founders held when they founded America—the country the Founders risked their lives for.
  • De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America: Knowing why their government is special allows Americans to appreciate their government and be motivated to keep it from destruction. Knowing the risks of their government also allows Americans to know what can destroy their government so they can be on the lookout for any warning signs of potential tyranny or destruction.
  • Jefferson’s “First Inaugural Address” contains quotes that tell people that debate and arguments are not always bad, but instead allow people to practice their freedom of speech. Jefferson’s quotes are very important because when people disagree with each other, it is very likely negative feelings would come through. Jefferson’s quotes assure people that debate is normal and can be good. Debate allows people to exercise their rights as US citizens. If people always thought debate was bad, then they will try to stay away from it, leading to a country with a single opinion. When there is little diversity of opinion, a tyrannical government could arise, because people will try hard to have equality instead of freedom.