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Area Studies and Gifted Students – A Dynamic Fit at Davidson Academy Online

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Familiarity with Europe was once enough for an American to be “well-rounded.”  That is no longer the case.  Today, the importance of Area Studies, meaning investigation of the non-Western world, is repeatedly affirmed by political events.  Tragedies such as America’s recent and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the instability that followed our intervention into Iraq, and lingering Cold War tensions in East Asia, bring forth a lot of unsettling questions.  What happened?  How did ventures begun with good intentions lead to such unfortunate results?  And what role should America have in these regions?

Although the reasons for these debacles are many, one likely factor was the lack of cultural competency.  Neither America nor the countries being assisted possessed a real understanding of the other.  As a result, signs were missed and tensions were inflamed.  Future diplomatic endeavors will need to be informed by a deeper and wider understanding of the other’s history, culture, and aspirations, so as to avoid repeating such mistakes.  Although it is too early to tell how the rest of the 21st century will develop, it is clear that the influence of the world outside of “the West” will continue to grow.  The days when Area Studies could be considered “exotic” are gone forever.

We already see this keenness for Area Studies among the profoundly gifted (PG).  Not only are PG students profoundly intelligent, scoring in the 99.9th percentile on IQ tests, but they are profoundly curious, eager to consider opposing viewpoints and unravel the mysteries of unfamiliar cultures.  Profoundly and highly gifted students take initiatives, assert their positions, and stand in the frontier, ahead of their same-aged peers.  Engaging Area Studies is a crucial way for them to configure the outside world and affirm their own talents.  The critical reasoning skills, greater levels of empathy, and expansive moral compass that Area Studies provides are requisites for our multi-cultural and increasingly globalized world.

At Davidson Academy Online (DAO), we take Area Studies seriously.  While DAO is already well distinguished for its recognized strengths in writing instruction and STEM, its Areas Studies program is exceptional as well.  Compared to other high schools, both brick-and-mortar and online, DAO has some of the broadest coverage of non-Western cultures available for profoundly gifted teenagers in the U.S.  Because DAO students aspire to shape America and the world, it is imperative that they are exposed to a variety of cultures, histories, and viewpoints so that, when they are in positions of power and influence, they can make ethical and informed decisions in tune with political realities.

To aid in that effort, DAO offers a wealth of courses in Spanish and Chinese languages, Asian and Latin American cultures, and modern world histories, all taught by experts in their fields.  DAO students express their nuanced voices regarding global politics in online live sessions, read the latest scholarship, and tackle complex and incessant conflicts via self-directed research.  Those who take courses in Area Studies at DAO gain the cross-cultural competency and sensitivity necessary to become the future leaders the world needs.

Area Studies courses offered at DAO:

Core courses

World Languages:

  • Spanish Fundamentals I/II
  • Intermediate Spanish I/II
  • Advanced Spanish I/II
  • Spanish Practicum
  • Chinese I, II, III, IV, V, VI


  • Asian Studies
  • Hispanophone Literature and History
  • Imperialism and Postcolonialism


  • Culture and Society in East Asia
  • Chinese Martial Arts Film

See the entire list of Davidson Academy courses >

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