Social Studies Department
University High School offers a well-rounded social studies curriculum that features standard 9th and 10th grade courses (World History/AP World History and U.S. History/AP U.S. History, respectively) and several elective courses for upperclassmen.
To graduate from University High School, students must earn eight credits (one credit is earned each semester) in social studies.
2020-21 Social Studies Course Descriptions
This course is a broad study of human history. It will touch on the major developments of human civilization across the globe. Roughly equal attention will be paid to each region and period covered, giving students a wider perspective of the events and peoples that shaped our world. Particular focus will be on the development of historical thinking and writing skills, which will prepare students for future history courses at University and beyond.
AP World History: Modern
The AP World History: Modern course is a global study of human history, concentrating on the period between 1200 C.E. and the present. Given such a breadth of time and geography, the course is organized to focus on developing students’ skills of historical analysis using a thematic approach. It is taught at the level of a college survey course, and it follows the guidelines provided by College Board’s Advanced Placement program. As such, the academic expectations, amount of reading and writing, and testing are significantly greater than in the regular World History class.
If we want to understand our country and ourselves, we need to know the character of the land and why people in this country act as they do. Therefore, this course covers the major political, social, economic, diplomatic, and military events that shaped life in the United States. The class will focus on more modern topics. The first semester will begin with an investigation of some of the foundational ideas of the country (by looking at the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Reconstruction Amendments), then move to the ‘Gilded Age’ following the Civil War and will end with the Second World War. The second semester will begin with the changes in American life in the 1950s and will end with an overview of the U.S. in the early twenty-first century.
The focus on more modern topics will allow for two primary goals to be met. First, we’ll see more clearly where the factors directly affecting our lives today came from. Second, there will be room for more small group or individual investigation of topics of special interest. The course requires students to learn specific factual material, using primary and secondary sources, then analyze and synthesize that information through taking tests, writing essays, writing papers, and completing projects.
AP U.S. History
The AP U.S. History course covers the historical development of the U.S. from colonial times up to the 21st century. Students have to study and comprehend many specific historical events from this time span, as well as understand and connect them through the seven themes of U.S. history called out by the College Board: identity, work, exchange, and technology, peopling, power and politics, environment and geography, culture, belief and ideas, and America in the world. The AP U.S. History course follows the guidelines and requirements provided by the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, and it is taught with the academic expectations and rigor of a college survey course. Consequently, the amount of reading, testing, and writing is significantly more than the regular U.S. History course.
Advanced Social Studies: The Civil War Era
The American Civil War was one of the most important events in the history of the United States, and it was the heart of an era from 1848 to 1877 that had immediate and long-term military, diplomatic, political, economic, and social effects. The class will investigate the origins of the war, the war itself, and the aftermath of the war (Reconstruction and beyond) from all of these different angles. We will use texts, primary documents, videos, and possibly games to get a better understanding of this war and its effects. This class should be enlightening both for those who already consider themselves Civil War buffs and those new to learning about the conflict.
Advanced Social Studies: The Human Experience of War
War is as old as human civilization, and so are stories of war. However, most of war has been taught from the perspective of kings, presidents, and generals. How have the basic soldiers experienced war through the ages? What commonalities can we find among them? How might these help us to explain why wars are fought? This course will use primary and secondary historical texts, as well as literature of war. While this class will look at events from the Trojan War (or earlier) to the Iraq War (or later), it is not a study of all these wars, but rather a search for an understanding of the human experience of war at the front line and on the home front.
Advanced Social Studies: Economics
This course will provide an introduction to both microeconomics and macroeconomics. Students will learn how individuals and businesses make economic decisions as well as how entire countries respond to economic dilemmas. In the process, students will study fundamental topics such as opportunity cost, supply and demand, trade, monopolies, unemployment, inflation, recessions, the banking system, how government policies impact the economy, and many others. Finally, a portion of the course is designed to help students make wise economic choices for themselves when those opportunities arise in the present and in the future.
AP European History
The AP European History course will trace the development of European history from 1450 to the present. Students will study cultural, diplomatic, economic, intellectual, political, and social history while learning about key concepts, facts, and personalities of the time period. This course follows the guidelines of the College Board’s Advanced Placement program and is consequently taught at an increased pace and with the heightened expectations of a college course. Students must be prepared for significantly more reading, writing, and testing than a non-AP history course. Assessments will contain both multiple-choice and essay questions in order to model the actual AP test, which will take place in May.
Advanced Social Studies: China, Japan, & Korea: From 1800 to the Present Day
This course explores events significant in shaping the history and culture of East Asian societies from 1800 to the present day. Geographically, countries covered include China, Japan, and Korea. The course traces historical relationships among these nations involving cultural diffusion, trade, conquest, and colonialism and how these have impacted Asia. Furthermore, this course will consider how globalization has affected Asia’s relationship with the rest of the world.
Advanced Social Studies: Art History: The Ancient World
The purpose of this course is to explore the development of architecture, sculpture, and artworks created from prehistoric times to the medieval period. Throughout this course, students will examine art from areas of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Africa, to China, Greece and Rome, as well as the Islamic world. We will discuss why certain artistic styles developed in these various parts of the world and investigate how these artifacts and structures served their cultures in both functional as well as symbolic ways. This course will allow students to develop an understanding of historical context of these works by examining issues such as politics, religion, patronage, gender, function, and ethnicity.
It’s important to note that while this is listed as an Art History course, this class is a history credit. Course content will be composed of discussions and the emphasis will be on writing and analysis, therefore students will not be creating any actual artistic works.
Advanced Social Studies: Art History: Modern Art
This course will explore the diverse range of artistic styles that evolved from the period between the mid-18th century through the 20th century. As the birth of modern art can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, this is where this course will begin and the semester will end with the avant-garde movements of the 20th century such as the Expressionists, Minimalists and Pop artists. Students will learn to identify and discuss the defining features of modernism in its various manifestations, understand the relationship between African art in modernism, see connections between the role of technology and its influence on art, as well as understand the place of critics, galleries, and museums in shaping conceptual discussion around artwork. Ultimately, students will gain the skills that allow them to view these artworks as a lens into the past.
It’s important to note that while this is listed as an Art History course, this class is a history credit. Class content will be composed of discussions and the emphasis will be on writing and analysis, therefore students will not be creating any actual artistic works.
Advanced Social Studies: The 1960s: American Social Justice Movements
This class will explore the “rights” movements that now define that decade’s cultural legacy. We will specifically focus on Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, and the emergence of Youth Culture. We will examine these 1960s phenomena through the lens of social justice by looking at a vast array of texts including feature films, short stories, visual art, television, novels, documentaries, poetry, music, and more. Students will produce a variety of work including conversation documents, short essays, Harkness Table discussions, a museum exhibition, and a multifaceted final exam.
Psychology is the systematic, scientific study of behaviors and mental processes. In this year-long course, students will be exposed to major thinkers, famous experimental studies, key concepts, and methods related to the field of psychology. This course follows the guidelines of the College Board’s Advanced Placement program and is consequently taught at an increased pace and with the heightened expectations of a college course.
AP United States Government & Politics
This AP Government & Politics: United States course addresses numerous topics including the history and content of the Constitution, the details of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and the interaction of all three. It also covers other subjects such as federalism, elections and campaigns, political parties, civil liberties, interest groups, and the relationship between the media and politics. This course follows the guidelines of the College Board’s Advanced Placement program and is consequently taught at an increased pace and with the heightened expectations of a college course.