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.

In 2018-19, due to a change in graduation requirements, all 10th and 11th grade students will enroll in a U.S. History course.

To graduate from University High School, students must earn eight credits (one credit is earned each semester) in social studies.

Top Five Things You Need to Know About Social Studies at University

The study of history is valued by University High School, and this value is illustrated by the graduation requirement of eight semesters of social studies credit.

There is a clear scope and sequence to the social studies curriculum so that students experience a general coverage over time, geography, and cultures through required classes in nonwestern history, western history, and American history.

Teachers use various methods to address individual student needs in a personalized manner.

Courses and teachers in the social studies department emphasize writing.

Social studies teachers bring a broad range of experience and interests to the school.

2018-19 Social Studies Course Descriptions

World History

This course is a study of human history covering the period between 8000 B.C.E. and the present. The course 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

The AP World History course is a global study of human history covering the period between 8000 B.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.

U.S. History

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.

U.S. History: Race in America

This corequisite course (taken with Advanced English: Race in America) examines the history and literature of the United States through the lens of the African-American experience from World War II to the present. It seeks to provide students a deeper understanding of this experience as it relates to our course themes of identity, consciousness, and social justice. This depth will be achieved through analytical reading, writing, and discussion of texts, films, and music. While we will begin our study with a brief background on the African-American experience prior to World War II, the majority of the course will dive into the ways African Americans shaped and were shaped by events from the 1940s to the present day. Topics covered will include the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders, the Nation of Islam and Black Nationalism, the Black Panther Party, the Black Lives Matter movement, housing and segregation, systemic racism and mass incarceration, intersection of race and gender/sexuality, the development of hip-hop and other forms of expression, and sports and society, among others.

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.

AP U.S. 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.


The class is a survey of the basic terms and concepts in microeconomics and macroeconomics. The primary reading is from a formal introductory text. Supplemental reading and studies include primary sources (Adam Smith), articles, and current issues.

AP Psychology

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 class is meant to simulate the experience of taking an introductory level course in psychology in a college setting and will culminate with the opportunity to take the Advanced Placement exam for psychology.

The World Wars

This class will address the causes of World War I, the treaties concluding that war, and their role as a cause of World War II and as a source of modern conflict in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.  Essential in understanding of the World War I and World War II is their impact on society, the political pressures and consequences, the role of technology, and military campaigns.  Focused projects will be considered on the role of propaganda, race, and the arts, as well as areas of particular student interest.