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History and Social Studies

Graduation requirement: World History, United States History, and either two additional semester electives or one additional yearlong elective

Students at The Pennington School are engaged in a wide variety of learning activities within the History Department to gain competency in academic skills that are both discipline-specific and transferable to other areas of study. Effective research, critical reading, analytical writing, historical thinking and presentation skills all are emphasized throughout the course of study, and each is rooted in the process of inquiry, the practice of document analysis, and the thoughtful synthesis of content. By offering a wide variety of course offerings that range from core classes to AP to non-AP electives, the History and Social Studies Department provides each student with the opportunity to develop his or her unique individual excellence through intellectual challenge and to empathize and connect more broadly to the variety of human experience.

World History; Grade 9

World History
Grade 9
1 credit
World History serves as an introduction to the Upper School history program. This course explores a major theme in each quarter and follows a broad chronological approach. Themes studied include Creation-Religion-Ethics/Philosophy to 500 BCE, Empire and Leadership from 500 BCE to 600 CE, Commerce-Trade-Technology in the Medieval World from 600 to 1750, and Revolutions-Imperialism-Global Wars from 1750 to 1950. In the freshman year, teachers emphasize the development of skills needed for successful work in upper level history. These skills will be taught in conjunction with the ninth-grade World Literature classes, and will include note-taking, analytical writing, research, critical evaluation of primary and secondary sources, effective academic discussion and presentation as well as continually working on the study skills and strategies needed to be a successful history student. Students write a number of papers and begin work with document-based questions.

World History–Honors; Grade 9

World History–Honors*
Grade 9
1 credit
Why do some empires prosper and others collapse? What are the common ideas of the world's religions? Why do revolutions occur, and how do they affect the social and political systems that instigated them? How does trade connect distant parts of the world? World History Honors is an intensive reading and writing course intended for students who are motivated and capable of meeting the higher expectations of an accelerated curriculum. This course serves as an introduction to the Upper School history program and provides a thematic survey of world history to modern times. The class will read a piece of literature in each quarter that is connected to its theme. Theme 1: Creation–Religion–Ethics/Philosophy to 500 BCE. Theme 2: Empire and Leadership from 500 BCE to 600 CE. Theme 3: Commerce–Trade–Technology in the Medieval World from 600 to 1750 CE. Theme 4: Revolutions–Imperialism–Global Wars from 1750 to 1950 CE. Students will be asked to use many skills, including researching properly, reading novels of each time period, creating healthy and productive debate, working in teams, thinking critically, and writing frequently. The culminating project for each quarter will be a written assignment that will include research. Students will work on document-based questions throughout the year.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department and successful completion of a placement exercise

United States History; Grade 10

United States History
Grade 10
1 credit
Who or what is an American? What is the role of government in Americans’ lives? How does the United States interact with the world community? How have the answers to these questions changed over time? These are the core questions students will explore by studying the events and principles that founded the country, the different experiences of black Americans throughout America's history, and the nation's rise as a world power. Students will examine foundational themes while developing sharper analytical and critical thinking skills through primary and secondary source evaluation, project-based learning, research and writing, hands-on activities, and class discussions. Among other requirements, students will write multiple document-based essays, and the course will culminate with a research paper.

United States History–Honors; Grade 10

United States History–Honors*
Grade 10
1 credit
Who or what is an American? What is the role of government in Americans’ lives? How does the United States interact with the world community? How have the answers to these questions changed over time? These are just few of the questions students will explore in this intensive reading and writing survey course of U.S. History, which will cover key events from the creation and significance of the U.S. Constitution through the modern era. Students will examine foundational themes while developing sharper analytical and critical thinking skills through primary and secondary source evaluation, project-based learning, research and writing, hands-on activities, and class discussions. Among other requirements, students will write multiple document-based essays and complete AP-style exams; the course will culminate with a research paper.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department and, if not enrolled in World History–Honors successful completion of a placement exercise

AP Modern European History; Grades 11-12

AP Modern European History*
Grades 11–12
1 credit
How did Europe emerge from a period of political chaos, religious crisis, and demographic collapse to become the focal point of a scientific and industrial revolution? How did the expansion of European economic and political influence affect people around the globe? In this college-level course, high-achieving juniors and seniors gain knowledge of the basic chronology of major events and trends from approximately 1450 to the present to form an understanding of some of the principal themes in modern European history. They also develop an ability to analyze historical evidence and express what they have learned in writing. Students conduct research and strengthen their understanding of primary and secondary source material as part of their coursework. There are extensive opportunities to work with document-based questions.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department and, if not enrolled in United States History–Honors, successful completion of a placement exercise

AP United States History; Grades 11-12

AP United States History*
Grades 11-12
1 credit
How do U.S. historians come to understand the past? What skills and tools are necessary to become a U.S. historian? This course is for juniors who have a sincere interest in United States history and possess strong historical reading and writing ability. Designed to teach students to think critically about the people, events, and developments in the United States, the Advanced Placement U.S. History course emphasizes the historical thinking skills that are valued by colleges and universities as central to studying history. Through regular exercises in critical writing, primary and secondary source interpretation, and seminar discussion sessions, students learn how to support historical arguments with relevant factual information. Preparation for the national AP exam in May also is emphasized.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department and, if not enrolled in United States History–Honors, successful completion of a placement exercise

East Asian History; Grade 11

East Asian History
Grade 11
.5 credit
How did the ancient cultures of East Asia confront the challenges of industrial and political revolutions? Why was the arrival of western nations so disruptive to long-established ideas and patterns of life within East Asian societies? This course will introduce juniors to the history of China, Japan, and other East Asian nations while investigating the different ways East Asian cultures have responded to, and exerted influence over, the challenges of imperialism and globalization. Assessments will include critical reading and writing, analysis and interpretation of primary and secondary sources, collaborative work, seminar discussions, and student presentations of research.
Offered fall semester

Global Studies; Grade 11

Global Studies*
Grade 11
.5 credit
The Global Studies Seminar is the gateway course to the Global Studies Certificate Program and will familiarize students with the outcomes of the program. Students confront a variety of cultural perspectives and examine the fundamental social, economic, and political systems that frame international relationships. Course texts include primary and secondary, as well as nonfiction and fiction, texts. The course culminates in an independent project in which each student defines and addresses a global problem of his or her choice.
Offered fall and spring semesters
*Prerequisite: Successful application to the Global Studies Certificate Program

Middle Eastern History; Grade 11

Middle Eastern History
Grade 11
.5 credit
Why has the Middle East been in turmoil for generations? What responsibility, if any, do other nations have in securing peace and promoting humanitarianism in that region? Why is establishing stability in that region important geopolitically? For decades, the world has been asking these questions, and understandably so. Many nations have vested interests in the Middle East, which have led to political, economic, and military entanglements. This research-based course will examine the history of those involvements with the Middle East through the lens of contemporary issues and events in the region. It will also explore how policy decisions related to the region have an impact on nations around the world. Development of historical thinking skills, geographic proficiency, and research will be primary to the course.
Offered fall semester

Modern American History and Art: Context and Creation; Grade 11

Modern American History and Art: Context and Creation*
Grade 11
.5 credit

Where do artists find inspiration for their work? How does the work of artists reflect the culture and society in which it was created? This course will explore United States history and American experience through the lens of visual art. Students will encounter the unique expression of U.S. politics, ideology, and social and technological change conveyed from a variety of notable artists. Visual and interpretive literacy skills will be developed as students create their own artwork that reflects the themes and styles of these artists, produce sketchbook discoveries, deliver describe-interpret-evaluate speeches, and write short papers. Close reading of excerpts from various primary and secondary documents will be used to provide historical context for each image. A field trip to a local art museum or similar experience is planned.
Offered spring semester
*Prerequisite: Successful completion of any Arts Department course
*Successful completion of this course also garners Arts credit

History Research Seminar: Material Culture; Grade 11

History Research Seminar: Material Culture
Grade 11
.5 credit
What can we learn from studying physical objects that have been created by humans in recent history? This course will analyze the functional, decorative, and ceremonial nature of objects created in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and also provide significant information about the society that produced them. In short, evaluating objects and how people interact with them offers modern scholars insight into the lives of preceding generations. In this course, students will learn how to apply object analysis to think critically about selected social, cultural, political, and economic events, and to make connections with the present and with other fields of study such as science, languages, and the arts. Working independently and collaboratively, students will analyze various objects from the two key periods, produce annotated bibliographies, make presentations and complete substantive research projects that use objects to understand major trends in American history.
Offered spring semester

AP United States Government and Politics; Grade 12

AP United States Government and Politics*
Grade 12
1 credit
What has happened to the original vision of the framers of the U.S. Constitution? In modern America, how do the three branches "check and balance" each other? What role has the U.S. Supreme Court had in changing how our elections are run? AP United States Government and Politics provides high-achieving seniors with a college-level perspective on government and politics in the United States. The course includes the study of the constitutional underpinnings of our government; the structure, relations, and operations of the government’s three branches; and the relationship between media, public opinion, and lobbyists in the formation of public policy. Current events are also emphasized, as is the formation of clear views on contemporary politics. Through regular exercises in critical writing, primary and secondary source interpretation, and seminar discussion sessions, students learn how to support their arguments with relevant factual information. Preparation for the national AP exam in May also is emphasized.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department and, if not enrolled in a previous AP history course, successful completion of a placement exercise

Economics; Grade 12

Economics*
Grade 12
1 credit
Is there really no such thing as a free lunch? Why do economists say that if you want something done correctly, you shouldn’t necessarily do it for yourself? Seniors who enroll in this course should be adept with mathematics and possess secure graphing and analytical skills. This course is designed to expose students to the specialized vocabulary and basic concepts of microeconomics and macroeconomics while training them to look at the world through the eyes of an economist. After a brief review of scarcity, opportunity cost, and supply and demand, the more advanced topics of the American free market system and the various types of market structures that exist within it will be undertaken. The various ways in which businesses can be organized and the roles of wages and labor in pricing and public policy will also be covered. In the spring, the macroeconomic challenges of unemployment and inflation and advanced principles such as monetary and fiscal policy, and international payments and trade will be studied. In both semesters, students will be engaged in mathematical calculations. Students also will be trained to create and interpret a variety of different graphical models and to apply them to the process of economic analysis. Greater student independence and initiative is expected. Upon completion of this course, students should be able to complete a college-level macroeconomics course with greater facility.
*Prerequisite: Algebra II

AP Economics; Grade 12

AP Economics*
Grade 12
1 credit
Is there really no such thing as a free lunch? Why do economists say that if you want something done correctly, you shouldn’t necessarily do it for yourself? AP Economics is a fast-paced, college-level course designed to introduce highly motivated, highly independent, and academically talented seniors to economic analysis. The first semester will be devoted to the basic principles of microeconomics, such as cost structure, the theory of the firm, factor markets, and the role of government within the economy. During the second semester, students will learn to analyze the intricacies of the aggregate economy. The models used examine national income, employment, and price levels, and explore how stabilization policies (fiscal and monetary) affect economic growth in an integrated world economy. The impact of financial and trade interactions between nations is included in the analysis. A unit on different macroeconomic models completes the curriculum. Preparation for the national AP exam in May also is emphasized. Students will sit for two AP exams in the spring: one for AP Microeconomics, and the other for AP Macroeconomics.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department and, if not enrolled in a previous AP history course, successful completion of a placement exercise
*Corequisite: Calculus

Civil Rights and Liberties; Grade 12

Civil Rights and Liberties*
Grade 12
.5 credit
Do you trust the government? In 1775, Ben Franklin was quoted as saying, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Franklin’s quotation pinpoints the exact nature of conflict between governments and the consent of the governed. We look to our governments to provide safety and security but also to protect our essential freedoms; this seminar explores the history where those two institutions have been in conflict. This course may include both American and global topics. Assessments will include critical reading and essay writing, document interpretation, independent critical thinking, the research process, peer collaboration, seminar discussions, and the use of oral/visual presentations.
Offered fall and spring semesters

International Politics; Grade 12

International Politics
Grade 12
.5 credit
What are the rules for how nations behave on the global stage? What are the implications of the superpower status of the United States? How is the international community responding to the most pressing modern issues? This course is designed to introduce students to the international political system, with an overall goal of encouraging students to think like global citizens. Students will develop a framework for understanding current issues like fighting terror networks, addressing global warming, the challenge of immigration, and the shifting rivalries between nations. The first topic is an introduction to the “players on the world stage” from corporations to philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, which is followed by a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations. American foreign policy creation and options are then explored, in addition to an overview of international law and the movement toward global human rights standards. Through discussion, readings, research, guest speakers, role-playing, and debates, students will be encouraged to develop their own views on the most pressing issues of our times.
Offered spring semester

Comparative Politics: The United States and the World; Grade 12

Comparative Politics: The United States and the World
Grade 12
.5 credit
How do historians look at American history and government from a global context? What similarities and differences does the U.S. constitutional republic model of government have with European parliamentary systems? How does America address social issues comparatively with other nations? What are the implications of U.S. power globally, and what impact does this have on the nation itself? This course is designed to expand students’ perspectives on the United States and its history. Students will develop a framework for understanding America in a global context from a range of perspectives. The first topic will look at critical eras in U.S. history from a global view. The main institutions of American government are then explored comparatively, followed by a discussion of controversial social issues. The last unit explores America’s status as a superpower, looking at its historical roots and current implications. The main format of the class will be student-led seminars, with students preparing discussion-based lessons for their classmates. This will also be a project-based class with an emphasis on persuasive essays.
Offered fall semester

Public History I: Interpreting School History; Grade 12

Public History I: Interpreting School History
Grade 12
.5 credit

How do we define public history? This course is designed to build on students’ previously acquired historical research skills of finding, interpreting, and evaluating primary sources in order to engage the public with historical narratives. Students will explore how archival materials and objects convey meaning both on their own, and, more importantly, as part of a larger collection. Using the School’s archives and collections, students will be able to put their academic knowledge of primary-source research skills to work as they gather data and evidence from letters, ledgers, notes, memos, photographs, and other historical documents. The outcome will be student-created materials to encourage visitor engagement and enrich the larger community’s experience of The Pennington School’s Archives and Special Collections.
Offered fall semester

Public History II: Exhibiting School History; Grade 12

Public History II: Exhibiting School History*
Grade 12
.5 credit

How is public history used? This course is designed to build on students’ previously acquired historical research skills of finding, interpreting, and evaluating primary sources in order to engage the public with historical narratives. Using materials and objects found in The Pennington School’s Archives and Special Collections, students will be able to put to use their academic knowledge of primary-source research skills as they develop the content for an exhibition on campus. Students will learn the fundamentals of exhibit design: developing an argument about a topic, writing interpretive text, and interpreting archival materials and objects. The outcome will be the designing and displaying visual and written information for a School-wide event such as Alumni Weekend.
Offered spring semester
*Prerequisite: Public History I
*Corequisite: Students are enrolled in Public History II: Exhibiting School History with the commitment that their Horizon Project will be an internship in the School’s Archives and Special Collections.

Sociology and Sports; Grade 12

Sociology and Sports
Grade 12
.5 Credit
What is sociology, and how can the study of this discipline help us understand who we are? Can a cultural activity like sports help us understand how we interact with each other beyond mere competition? How can we critically evaluate history through a sociological lens using sports as a cultural artifact? In 2009 ESPN Films launched the Emmy Award–winning documentary series 30 for 30, based around sports topics, focusing on much larger global issues and their impact on society. These in-depth films show how sports is a reflection of humankind. Accomplished filmmakers from around the world have covered a wide array of topics including historical periods and events such as the Vietnam War, apartheid in South Africa, and the rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba. Topics such as the evolution of the athletic shoe industry, its effect on college and professional athletes, and its impact on the economy have been explored. The examination of social issues, such as urban violence on the streets of Chicago, racial tensions in the South, and varying experiences of college athletes who play on the same team, has been central to the documentary series as well. Students will engage in dialogue and research, applying different sociological models and theories to a different film each week, exploring related topics and other aspects that may not be readily discussed in the viewing. Students will be asked to think and write critically about sociological theory, topics, and the impacts addressed.
Offered spring semester