History and Social Studies
In Upper School history courses, students gain historical perspectives, develop critical thinking skills, and refine discussion strategies. All students take a two-year world history sequence in Grades 9 and 10. Topics include classical empires, world religions, the post-classical world, revolutions, industrialization, globalization through colonialism and in the post-colonial world, and a formal history research process and paper each year.
In Grade 11, students complete a United States History course that includes a significant research component and work with various primary documents, scholarly secondary sources, and college level texts.
Senior elective seminars focus in depth on specialized topics. Seminars include Economics, History of Law, Government and Citizenship, History of Thought, US Foreign Policy Since World War II, Global Issues, History of Refugee Communities, World Religions, Honors United States History, Gender in the Americas, History of Law, and History of Race.
World history and U.S. history courses may be used in preparation for AP exams.
- World History I (Required, Grade 9)
- World History II (Required, Grade 10)
- United States History (Required, Grade 11)
- Ancient World
- Honors U.S. History Seminar (Semester I)
- Gender in the Americas
- Government and Citizenship
- History of Refugee Communities
- History of Thought
- U.S. Foreign Policy Since WWII
- Global Issues
- History of Law
- History of Race
- Israel and Palestine
- Social Movements in US History
- World Religions
In World History I students examine the history of the world up to the year 1600 CE. In the first semester student inquiry is organized mostly thematically, with units on the development of civilization, government, religion, social hierarchy and trade in Eurasia, as well as units on cultures in Africa and the Americas. These first-semester activities provide a firm foundation in the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills that are crucial to the study of history in the Upper School. During the second semester students apply their developing analytical skills to the study of geographically-organized units on East Asia, the Islamic world, Medieval Europe, and the Mongols, as well as completing an individual research paper. A variety of classroom activities are used to help students make sense of the material, including class discussions and activities, primary document analysis, formal assessments, and written work. The year concludes with a survey of the world from 1500-1600 in preparation for the transition to the World History II in 10th grade.
In the second year of the two-year world history sequence students investigate historical themes such as colonization, decolonization, imperialism, nationalism, globalization, and human rights. The transformation of the world between 1500 and the present provides the framework for a year-long critical examination of social, political, and economic interactions between western and non-western worlds. The course uses primary and secondary source analysis as a basis for further developing students' analytical thinking and writing skills. Investigation of historical themes is supported by a variety of activities including class discussions, written essays, oral presentations, web-based research, and a formal research paper. Combined with World History I, this course may be used as a basis for preparation for the Advanced Placement examination in World History.
In U.S. History students survey the political, social, and cultural history of the United States between 1607 and 2014. Students use a textbook and accompanying primary documents to master content and sharpen their critical reading and analytical skills. Topics include the colonial era, the Revolution and development of the federal government, the early national period, antebellum expansion and reform, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Progressive Era and U.S. Imperialism, the 1920s and Great Depression, the Cold War, and post-World War II society and politics. Emphasizing both change and continuity across historical eras, the course strives to enhance students' understanding of the diverse experiences and ideas that have shaped the United States. Tests and other assignments assess students' understanding of broad patterns and key details of the course content. Written work includes frequent in-class and take-home assignments, along with a formal research paper. This course may be used as the basis for preparation for the Advanced Placement examination in U.S. History.
After reviewing what exactly a civilization is, students in Ancient World investigate the development of cities, art and architecture, writing systems, and other socio-cultural aspects of ancient civilizations, starting with the world’s first civilization in Mesopotamia. Using both scholarly secondary works and primary documents, students explore what life was like for people in cultures whose legacy continues to inform our worldview. After a deep dive into Mesopotamia (Sumer), the class will jointly select three additional ancient global civilizations to explore (possibilities include Egypt, Greece, Rome, Carthage, China, India, and Maya). Students will lead one or two classes on a particular culture with a partner, as well as complete an individual research project. Students will hone their seminar, research, writing and reading skills as they develop a deeper understanding of the ancient world and grapple with challenging texts.
Texts include "the Epic of Gilgamesh", Hammurabi's Laws, the Popol Vuh and other primary and scholarly works determined by student interest. Texts will also include Amanda Podany, The Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford) and/or the Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Civilizations.
The Honors U.S. History seminar introduces seniors to historiography, the study of how historians constantly engage in a process of reinterpreting and rewriting history. Starting with the assumption that all history is “revisionist history,” the course highlights the dramatic changes that American history has undergone over the course of the past century. Students read a variety of scholarly accounts of selected eras and themes, including the Revolution and Constitution, the "Age of Jackson," slavery, the American West, and Reconstruction. For each topic, we examine the questions that guide historians’ inquiry, scrutinize their underlying assumptions, and think critically about whose perspectives are included and whose are absent. Students write analytical essays at the end of each unit and complete a formal eight-to-ten-page research paper on a topic of their choice.
Texts: Davidson and Lytle, After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection; Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America; Degler, Out of Our Past; and a wide variety of scholarly readings.
Through selected readings (monograph, scholarly articles, excerpts, websites), students learn basic chronology and discuss the shifting understandings of the concept of “gender” in the geographic region of North and South America. After an introduction to terminology and theory, students lead discussion on thematic and case-study units. Students will complete an individual project (website, book reviews, or short research paper) which allows for a fuller exploration of a specific topic, examples of which include suffrage movements in the U.S., anarchist women’s politics in the hemisphere, Cuban gay resistance movements, pre-contact sexuality, and female conquistadors among many others. Mohanty’s theory of “feminist solidarity” is studied and implemented in relation to a group service project. A major emphasis is put on making connections between historical time periods and current events.
Texts include: The Flower and the Scorpion; Lieutenant Nun; This Bridge Called My Back; Gender Matters.
Citizens should be familiar with the institutions and practices of participatory democracy in order to understand, effectively navigate and change our shared civic communities. This course will explore the underpinnings of government from the Constitution to the various branches and levels of the State that govern us.Citizenship and Democracy is a study and discussion of how public policy is formed rather than the merits of a particular policy; it will be an exploration of process, place and people rather than a debate on the substance of specific issues. The course will examine how citizens interact within their government, how government influences the citizenry and the role of civic engagement in society. Students will have opportunities to volunteer on campaigns, observe government in action and overall get a better sense for what government does and how it shapes citizens, and how citizens can shape it. There will also be a comparative component and project to the course, allowing students an opportunity to explore other forms of government around the world. This course is open to students in grades 10-12.
According to the census, Minnesota has two percent of the U.S. population but thirteen percent of its refugees making it the state with the highest numer of refugees per capita in the country. Since 1980, almost 100,000 refugees have settled in the Twin Cities. What does this mean for our community? What are the challenges and opportunities that this presents? In this course, we examine several specific communities starting with their lives before Minnesota, why they left their home countries, what led to their legal designation as ""refugees"", why they came here, how MN has changed them and how they have changed MN. After studying the Hmong, students will select three other immigrant groups or topic areas on which to focus. Possibilities include: Somali, Karen, Latinx, Liberian, Tibetan, health services, education and many more. Using a variety of secondary and primary sources along with guest speakers and tours of enclave neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis, students will learn more about where we live, the groups that make up our community, and the agencies and people who serve us all. Students explore the experiences of additional immigrant groups as part of independent research projects.
Texts: Hmong and American: From Refugees to Citizens edited by Vincent K. Her and Mary Louise Buley-Meissner; The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang
This course focuses on the great questions that have been discussed, debated and analyzed throughout world history. As an introduction to philosophy, the course is organized around how different philosophers in different times and places attempted to answer questions central to the human experience. Guiding questions are organized into three categories: The Self, The World and The Self in the World. Specifically, the topics of freedom, human nature, society, ethics and identity are studied by reading the great philosophers from the Classical Age to the present. History of Thought is taught in a student-centered seminar format where discussion skills are actively coached and assessed. Students prepare one research paper, as well as numerous other shorter essays for this course.
Text: The Canon and Its Critics, an anthology of primary sources from philosophy.
This seminar invites students to deepen their understanding of United States foreign relations during the Cold War and post-Cold War era. The seminar explores the implications of foreign policy on domestic politics, and the influence that domestic politics exerts on foreign policy. Students will primarily examine the Cold War in Asia, Europe, and domestically through class discussions of printed and visual primary documents. Topics addressed include: origins of the Cold War, strategies of containment, conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam, Détente, the Age of Reagan, the end of the Cold War, the wars with Iraq, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Students write periodic exams and quizzes, while the course culminates with a research paper and presentation.
Texts: LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2006; Hanhimaki and Westad, eds., The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, James Mann, George W. Bush.
This one-semester elective offers an introduction to fundamental economic principles and to real-world economic issues today. Students spend the first two months learning basic micro- and macroeconomic terminology, principles, and frameworks for analysis, presented in a case study/simulation format (with very limited graphing and mathematics). As a group, students choose and debate controversial questions affecting our economy today. Past debate topics have included globalization, tax reform, healthcare reform, stadium financing, organ donations, environmental policy / disasters, immigration, sin taxes, drug legalization/cartels, affirmative action, counterterrorist measures, the value of college, and others taken from student interest. Individually, students will choose topics for a substantial research project/presentation. Following those, students will balance the federal budget. Students also participate in a semester-long stock market game and make microfinance loans. (This course does not prepare students for the AP Micro- or Macro-economics exams.)
Text: Anderson, Economics by Example, and current events followed online.
This senior seminar course adopts a cross-cultural perspective in examining the unique and universal nature of several global issues based on Shirley A. Fedorak's text, Global Issues, with a focus on peace keeping and sustainable development. Students investigate a conflict of their choice with a focus on peace and conflict resolution. Using the framework of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals students identify a local, national or global issue to research, critically evaluate and come up with a multi-dimensional approach to achieve their selected goal. The foundation of the course is built around elements of identity politics, human rights, cultural imperialism and cultural relativism as they apply to societal activities, norms and practices around the world. Students explore the theory of modernization and globalization in light of how both issues challenge and threaten specific cultures and locales.
This course invites students to explore the concepts of law and justice. Students survey a history of codified law, explore issues of justice, and relate the concept and practice of justice to contemporary legal systems. During their investigation of the history of codified law students examine the underlying philosophical strands that form the basis of contemporary laws. The course then shifts its focus to concepts of justice in the modern world. The U.S. legal system is examined and current issues in justice are studied, along with appropriate Supreme Court cases. Students also consider the issue of universal justice and international human rights. Finally, students explore issues in practical and "street" law. Issues examined may change from year to year depending upon student interest. Students engage in seminar discussions, research, and simulations to help understand the issues involved. Assessments include essays, analytical papers, and a research project.
Texts include the U.S. Constitution, The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, selections from Aristotle, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Plato; Supreme Court cases such as Korematsu v. U.S., Miller v. California, and New York Times v. Sullivan.
This course builds upon the junior year survey course and examines the role race has played in US history. To do this, the course will investigate the ways in which we think about race as historians and create an understanding of the motivations, choices, and resulting actions around racialization in distinct periods from U.S. history. Beyond the formation of race in the U.S., the course will seek understanding of the ways that people on the margins of political and economic power exercise their agency over their lives and find their voices in the American historical narrative. Using scholarly articles and primary sources, students will piece together the story of race in America. Assessments will take varied forms from class discussions to written pieces on the topics of each unit. Students will keep a journal to reflect on the ways their thinking evolves over the semester. After covering a variety of forms that racialization and agency take, students will conduct and craft an historical research paper to delve more deeply into their topic.
Texts might include, but are not limited to: Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in North America by John Wood Sweet, Who is Black? One Nation's Definition by f. Davis, and Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act by Andrew Gyory, and Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric; A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota edited by Sun Yung Shin
This region has been a consistent center of worldwide attention since the end of the 19th century, and conflict in the region continues to have a direct impact on global international relations. Students study the roots of the conflict from multiple sides, and explore both the internal struggles and the ways that conflict in the region of Israel and Palestine has impacted the rest of the Middle East and the outside world. Using primary source readings, research assignments, and documentaries, students delve deeply into Israeli and Palestinian perspectives and assumptions. Students express their understanding of the key issues through case studies, class discussion, written assessments, and a research project. The course traces the challenges and the prospects for peace up to the present day.
Throughout American history groups of citizens have challenged our nation to live up to the Declaration of Independence’s affirmation that “all men are created equal.” This seminar explores a variety of American social movements, all of which drew ordinary American citizens into grass-roots politics and activism. The course will focus on three eras: the mid-nineteenth century, the Progressive Era, and the late 20th century. During each of these periods, we will investigate movements that promoted racial justice, gender equality, and peace. How have social movements celebrated, challenged, and transformed foundational American ideals of democracy, equality, and opportunity? What long-lasting impact have these movements had on American politics and culture?
Texts: Zinn and Arnove, eds., Voices of a People's History of the United States, 10th anniv. edition (978-1609805920) Kauffman, How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing and Resistance (978-0520301528)
This senior seminar focuses on the history of the world's major religious communities. Students survey the histories and theologies of some of the major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Daoism, and Zoroastrianism. The curriculum invites students to compare and contrast how each of the religious traditions fosters a sense of community and how each tradition has changed over time. World Religions is taught in a student-centered seminar format where discussion skills are actively coached and assessed. The class frequently hosts guest speakers. Students are required to observe worship, conduct interviews, and seek other experiences as part of their preparation for their class leadership. Students also design and complete individual research projects.
Text: Brodd, Jeffrey et. al. Invitation to World Religions. 2nd Ed.; Huston Smith's "The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom's Traditions"