All of our social studies courses are designed to foster self-reflection, curiosity, and global citizenship, as well as ensure students have an understanding of the history of this country and the modern world.
In addition to the required three years of study, seniors and select juniors, can choose from yearlong or semester courses that take a deeper dive into specific areas of interest in Social Studies.
Human Crossroads: Confronting Global Challenges through Time, Identity, and Place
Human Crossroads asks students to respond to some of the world’s greatest challenges using an interdisciplinary approach that draws from the intersection of geography, history, anthropology, and sociology. The curriculum is composed of units dedicated to central thematic questions ranging from the meaning of human identity to the value of borders, the possibility of religious pluralism, and vexing problems of global inequities. Each unit starts by asking, “What is where, why there, why care?” using maps. Course material and projects include current events, academic texts, online resources, and data visualizations. Students learn to read actively, analyze maps, interpret data, write thesis-driven essays, and synthesize information, with skill-based assessments. This class is not only intended to develop academic skills, but to foster curiosity, self-reflection, global citizenship, and a renewed commitment to the pursuit of truth, love, and justice in the world.
The Modern World
First, the good news: many people alive today are better off than all other humans who have preceded them. That may not surprise you. But, the bad news will: many others alive today are actually worse off than their predecessors. That includes medieval serfs, African tribesmen, and even prehistoric cavemen. How can this be? The modern world, loosely defined as the last two centuries of human life, has witnessed some of the most dramatic transformations in our history. Yet, those transformations have often functioned as a double-edged sword, bringing great reward to some and devastation to others. Why did these changes occur in the first place? Why did certain countries and people benefit while others suffered? And what does this say about the world we live in now, and where we’re headed in the future? This course endeavors to answer those questions through a wide-ranging study of the last 200+ years, from the Industrial Revolution through to the present.
United States History
While chronological, this course focuses on several themes that have reverberated throughout the American experience. The central theme is the epochal tug-of-war between Jefferson’s credo of equality and its paradoxical partners: conquest, slavery, and racism amidst a diversity of historic proportions; gender discrimination; and the class inequalities generated within a dynamic economy. Accordingly, we will pay significant attention to the history of movements that challenge the dominant meaning of equality, such as labor unions, suffragists, and the multitude of civil rights movements across time. The nation’s history is also traced through the tensions between a deep-rooted fear of centralized power and the drive for an efficient and powerful federal government. Lastly, significant time is given to U.S. involvement in global affairs, with a particular stress on presidential decision-making, and its impact both abroad and at home. While classic political issues are at the core of the course, there are times—such as the era between Reconstruction and World War I—when the magnitude of cultural and economic changes are at the heart of an era. We will use a very wide range of primary and college-level secondary sources.
American Studies is a field of study that integrates many traditional disciplines into a single search for the answer to the question, “What is an American?” In this course, we look thematically and chronologically at American lives. What do we see in the Dreamers, the Builders, the Rulebreakers, and the Seekers? How do these individuals reinforce or challenge our ideas about who is an American? How have experiences of colonialism, immigration, enslavement, westward expansion, and urbanization impacted Americans, and how can we better understand these experiences through studying the past and present in dialogue with one another? Where do we see ourselves in this tapestry of American experience? To answer these questions, students are simultaneously enrolled in English and Social Studies classes with common units and work coordinated by the instructors, creating a cultural studies approach to both historical and literary content. We cross disciplines, examining primary and secondary historical texts, literature, film, visual art, and music. We seek to understand not only what happened and what was written, but what it meant to diverse groups of Americans, and how it connects to American culture today. Writing assignments continue the development of narrative and analytical skills and will offer the opportunity for some creative writing as well. Over the course of the year, students continue to develop their collaboration, research, presentation, and project-based learning skills, and are responsible for planning and teaching class sessions.
Honors Dialogue for Democracy
What role does journalism play in creating and maintaining a healthy democracy? How might we learn to be more critical media consumers and, in turn, more deeply engaged democratic citizens? In this interdisciplinary course, students consider these questions as they learn about the history and role of journalism as foundational to democracy. Over the course of the semester, students study journalistic ethics, media and rhetorical analysis, the history of print media, news in the divided digital age, and core journalistic writing and multimedia production skills. In addition, students spend time in the community in and outside of school learning from both experienced journalists and local citizens. As part of the CatlinSpeak staff, students practice writing and publishing for an audience by producing weekly content and one print edition per semester of CatlinSpeak, an award-winning, student-created online news magazine and print newspaper.
The Mortal Coil
In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “everything has been figured out, except how to live.” In this interdisciplinary seminar, we explore that question from a wide range of perspectives, pulling from the wisdom of the ages, our own lived experiences, and elders and experts in our community. We examine different stages in life, from play and identity development in childhood to reconciling end-of-life scenarios. We read works of philosophy and religion, converse with local faith leaders, and explore the psychological and sociological impact of our collective fear of death. And, we produce biographical and autobiographical works, telling our stories and the stories of others.
Honors Economics: The Language of Choices
The aim of this course is the study of economics through the choices humans make at both the micro and macro level; applied to real-world examples. Since economics incorporates elements of history, geography, psychology, sociology, political theory and many other related fields of study, students are expected to approach this course with a wide array of interests in the social sciences. Alongside the empirical observations of economic choice and outcome, students are asked to formulate questions around how they, as economics participants, can apply the principles of this course to the world around them. Encouraging students to explore such questions forms the central focus of the economics course.
Honors Modern Middle East
Where did ISIS come from? What tools do experts use to predict the fate of Syria? What hopes are there for improving Palestinian-Israeli relations? How is the world’s greatest refugee crisis (from Syria) transforming neighboring states? What the heck is going on with the price of gasoline? What happened to the bright lights of the Arab Spring, and how will the struggle for supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran play out, particularly in the shadow of U.S. efforts to challenge Iran’s nuclear policy? These and other questions are explored, starting in the late 19th century, with the spread of Western imperialism in the region. We examine the rise of secular nationalism in the age of decolonization, and how this lands squarely in today’s cauldron of religious ferment, ethnic conflict, and revolutionary hopes for a better tomorrow. Student research and oral presentations are the primary form of assessment, which will adapt to the events as they are unfolding.
Honors Latin America: Historical Connections
This course focuses on the colonial origins of Latin America to the present day realities of this region. With a specific focus on revolutions, social movements, populism, and the cultural features that distinguish the prism of identities that define the plurality of narratives, students investigate the intersection of perspectives that serve as the foundation for what it means to be Latin American via a variety of projects and discussion seminars.
Honors Philosophy: Practices in Thought and Action
The purpose of this honors elective course is to have students wrestle with the specific areas of philosophical problems and issues, and gain experience in practicing the act of being a ‘philosopher’. Questions revolving around ethics, determinism, and theories of the self and the collective are the focal points as students navigate the dynamics of their own thinking.
Honors The Rise of the Authoritarians
As the Cold War sputtered out at the end of the 1990s, it seemed that peace was at hand and democratic institutions were implanting themselves more deeply in much of the world. From the vantage point of 2019, such sentiment looks terribly naive. This course examines the rise of authoritarianism in the 21st century, with a quick glance back to fascism in inter-war Europe, and then proceeding to the transformation of Russia from a budding democracy to an autocratic state under Vladimir Putin. Other key states (Turkey, China, the Philippines, and Brazil, among others) will serve as case studies of authoritarian rule, and finally, we will examine the United States through this lens. Students interested in global politics, economics, social psychology, and social/traditional media, as well as the surveillance state, are encouraged to consider the course.
In this course, students will learn to lead positive change. This semester-long class has two distinct phases--theory and practice--that emphasize an “inside-out” approach to leading at the intersection of individuals, groups, and communities. During the first half, students will use a systems thinking lens to examine various models of self, interpersonal, and systems dynamics. After building upon their personal and group membership skills, students will then fortify research, planning, and project management skills. As a group, they will address a pressing community issue selected by the students themselves. In the end, students will leave with the skills and knowledge to navigate complexity in service of affecting positive change.