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A Better Approach to History: Cox and Dardis on their New Book

What does it mean to be “civilized”? What is justice? What is a citizen? Given the opportunity, would you have killed Julius Caesar? Was Nero inevitable, or is it possible to keep one’s wits while running such a powerful empire?

These are a few of the questions that eighth graders at The Heights are challenged to ponder together in their core class. With the help of their teachers and a new history textbook, the boys not only consider these questions amongst themselves but do so in dialogue with some of the greatest thinkers of the Western tradition.

This week on HeightsCast, we discuss Tom Cox and Bill Dardis’s new book, Becoming Rome: Foundation, Republic, and Empire in the Words of Eminent Romans. In addition to sharing the story behind their writing, Tom and Bill introduce us to their method of teaching history at the primary and secondary school levels. Drawing on fourteen years of experience in the classroom as well as graduate studies in the liberal arts, Tom and Bill offer practical insights for teachers who hope not only to bring history to life in the classroom but also to prepare their students to bring those lessons into their own lives.


  • 0:32 Introduction
  • 2:00 A better approach to the history textbook
  • 4:50 The big questions hidden in the narratives of history
  • 7:00 The contemporary approach to history lessons
  • 9:56 Receiving tradition and engaging it
  • 11:00 Why study history at all?
  • 15:50 A roadmap to history
  • 19:15 Method of the book
  • 24:23 Seminars and discussing difficult topics
  • 28:15 Why write a book?
  • 31:32 The book’s target age level
  • 32:45 The relationship between Christianity and the book

Also on the Forum

The Importance of Ugly History by Mark Grannis

Keeping the Story in History by Mark Grannis

Seeing History: On Using Images in the History Classroom by Kyle Blackmer

Hillsdale’s M. Spalding on the Importance of History Pt. I with Dr. Matt Spalding

Hillsdale’s M. Spalding on the Importance of History Pt. II with Dr. Matt Spalding

Plutarch’s Lives Teach: Character Education through Story with Tom Cox

History the Way it Was…and the Way it Should Be by Bill Dardis

Writing and Thought; Oratory and Ethics: What We Give Our Seventh Graders in the Core with Tom Cox

About the Guests

Tom Cox

Chief Editor

Tom Cox teaches Latin and Greek in the Upper School at The Heights, where he has taught since 2009. Having earned his B.A. in Classics at Hillsdale, he completed a Master’s Degree in 2019 in the Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD.

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Bill Dardis

Bill Dardis joined the Heights faculty in 2011. After receiving a B.B.A. from Notre Dame and a commission in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Dardis worked as an IT consultant with Ernst & Young in New York. From 1996 to 2011, he founded several character development initiatives in St. Louis and Chicago. He has led service projects and summer camps in the U.S...
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