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.
2021-22 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 21st 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 Cold War: An International History
The Cold War ranged from 1945 to 1991, involving a great deal of the world. The threat of nuclear war, the orientation of society, entertainment, and politics around ideology, the use of covert political operations, and the use of outright military force pervaded this age. While the conflict centered around the United States and the Soviet Union, the course will also look at how other countries both viewed the standoff and were affected by it. Topics for this class will include the “hot wars” (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan), decolonization and the effect of the Cold War on the “Third World,” the Red Scare and how the Cold War affected entertainment, and the effects the Cold War had on countries beyond the U.S. and USSR, from Latin America, to Africa, to the Middle East, and to Asia. As sources, the class will use primary and secondary texts, as well as excerpts from appropriate literature, film, and television.
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.
Advanced Social Studies: Film History
This course will cover the history of motion pictures – from the first silent films to the present-day streaming era. Students will examine the cultural significance of each pivotal era of cinema history, with a focus on the industries that created these films and the audiences surrounding them. Films will be viewed as texts and art to be analyzed; they are not just pieces of entertainment, but also social and historical time capsules. The course will also track the constantly evolving technology and platforms for filmmaking. As an advanced social studies course, students will be expected to read historical texts and write formal essays and weekly film journals/reviews.
Advanced Social Studies: Law in America
This semester-long course will introduce students to numerous topics within the American legal system, including constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, tort law, and contracts law. Students will read challenging cases and articles in order to develop a better understanding of how the American legal system seeks to balance different interests in an effort to maximize fairness and justice. In doing so, students will be able to form their own opinions about the effectiveness of the justice system and consider possible legal reforms to help meet the justice system’s goals. Students will also write a research paper and perform an oral argument during the course of the semester.
Advanced Social Studies: Modern African History
This course will span recent African history from late colonization and imperialism, to decolonization and independence, and then to the post-independence period. For each of these we will overview the history generally and then focus in on the case studies that best illustrate the impacts of the systems at play and the experiences of individuals. We will approach these topics from multiple perspectives and historical schools of thinking. Students will be using a variety of texts, videos, and other sources throughout the course, including primary sources whenever possible.
Advanced Social Studies: Sociology
Sociology is the study of people in groups. This class investigates how the structures of society affect human behavior and interaction. The course takes a social issues perspective as students learn to use sociological frameworks and specific theoretical perspectives to creatively and deeply analyze the United States.
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.