History Behind the Headlines finds its schedule niche

Dr. Nagl addresses the impeachment process during a “History Behind the Headlines” session in the library, Thursday, December 5, 2019 – photo by Mr. Thomas Stambaugh

The current geopolitical scene is chaotic and confusing. Topics like Brexit, the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, the state of the impeachment process against President Trump, and the ongoing trade war in East Asia are all difficult topics to understand.

     Fortunately, Haverford offers a unique opportunity to explore these topics. Headmaster Dr. John Nagl hosts the bi-weekly History Behind the Headlines to discuss current geopolitical events, provide in-depth analysis, and answer audience questions. 

    Attendance has been high, despite the fact that Dr. Nagl’s talks are scheduled at a time when many Fords are in class. The event takes place during fourth period, at 1:10 p.m.

     “But this is a great problem to have,” Dr. Nagl said. “The fact that boys are engaged in the events of the world around them. That is a first-world problem, and that is a first-rate school’s problem that we ought to be able to solve with smarter scheduling.”

     An avid attendee, history teacher Mr. Kevin Tryon thought that that the current time was the “best we can do for our schedule” and that it “serves the adult population” by allowing some teachers to use their lunch period to attend. 

     Head of Information Services Ms. Lisa Snyder schedules the events. Because community period is usually programmed, Ms. Snyder looked at class periods and decided to pick a fixed day in the week, so every block could cycle through and allow people with various free periods to attend.

     Ms. Snyder said, “I heard from the registrar that one of the most heavily flexed periods is the 1:10 to 1:55 time.”

Email Reminder for the “History Behind the Headlines” event, sent on January 28th, 2020

     Students with schedule conflicts have a number of options. Not only has the headmaster mentioned his desire to discuss these topics with interested students when opportunities arise, but every History Behind the Headlines event is recorded and stored online.

     “The librarians can provide access to a podcast of these,” Dr. Nagl said. “We have not made the podcasts more broadly available, but that is something we’re talking about.”

     So what should students take away from these types of conversations? Both Ms. Snyder and Dr. Nagl want to provide the context and analysis for geopolitical events to keep the student body well informed. Ms. Snyder said a Second Form class also attended a recent session.

     “This boy looked at me and he said, ‘I guess I really gotta be paying more attention to what’s going on in the world,’” Ms. Snyder said. “That was an awesome thing for somebody to take away.”

     For those who are already following the events in question, History Behind the Headlines is still worth attending. After a brief explanation of the events in question to catch everybody up, Dr. Nagl proceeds with his analysis. 

Dr. Nagl speaking during History Behind the Headlines on January 30th, 2020 – photo by Tucker Wurman ’20

     “Frankly, most of what I provide is analysis of articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post,” Dr. Nagl said. “Of course boys can and should be reading those two great newspapers as well as The Philadelphia Inquirer each and every day as they become informed citizens of our republic and the world.”

     For those who want even more in-depth analysis and discussion on geopolitical events, Dr. Nagl also emcees events for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, bringing in speakers for an hour at 7:30 p.m. in Ball Auditorium.

     The events, called the “Main Line Briefings,” are registration-only events but are free for students with a valid student ID. FPRI hosts “The U.S. Military Role in the Middle East: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” on February 18, 2020.

     Dr. Nagl said, “I would love to see more boys and interested faculty members come to those sessions.”

Author: Tucker Wurman '20

Tucker Wurman '20 writes as a part of the journalism seminar. He's a student who has no real specific disciplinary focus, but takes classes across math, science, history, foreign languages, and English in equal measure. That doesn't stop him from being interested in mostly math and computer science for career options, though.