Course Description

Graduation requirement: Three years (30 units)

10th Grade: World History OR AP World History

11th Grade:  United States History OR AP United States History

12th Grade:  AP United States Government


Government & Law (Required Semester Course) and

Economics (Required Semester Course)

Courses in the social studies department address the following themes:  change over time; contributions of many types of people; economic transformations/globalization; revolutions, war, and diplomacy; the changing role of government; and American identity and the growth of democracy.

Courses in the social studies department stress competence in the following skills:  active and critical reading; various types of writing; interpreting data, including charts and maps; researching; presenting; test-taking; and unique, creative, individual, and critical thinking.


World History is a year-long required survey course that explores the key events and global historical developments since 1350 A.C.E. that have shaped the world we live in today. The scope of Modern World History provides the latitude to range widely across all aspects of human experience: economics, science, religion, philosophy, politics & law, military conflict, literature & the arts. The course will illuminate connections between our lives and those of our ancestors around the world. Students will uncover patterns of behavior, identify historical trends and themes, explore historical movements and concepts, and test theories. Students will refine their ability to read for comprehension and critical analysis; summarize, categorize, compare, and evaluate information; write clearly and convincingly; express facts and opinions orally; and use technology appropriately to present information.


Guideline:  Average of A- or higher in both semesters of English 1-2 or B- or higher in English 1-2 Honors, or instructor approval.

AP World History is offered to motivated students who, according to the College Board, wish to “develop greater understanding of the evolution of global processes and contacts in different types of human societies.”  Students will combined selective factual knowledge and skills of analysis to examine the nature, causes, and consequences of changes in global frameworks.  Students will also compare major developments in and among major societies. The course “emphasizes relevant factual knowledge, leading interpretive issues, and skills in analyzing types of historical evidence” and “offers balanced global coverage, with Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania all represented.” Summer work is required.


United states HISTORY (P)

This course provides a one-year survey of American history from the Colonial Period and the American Revolution to the present day, with an emphasis on the twentieth century.  Using the textbook and primary documents and current events, students learn about the various political, social, religious, and economic developments that have shaped and continue to shape the United States.  Essay writing and critical thinking are emphasized as integral ways of understanding how the past relates to the present and future.  A major research paper is required in the spring semester.


Guideline:  Grade 11. Average of A- or higher in both semesters of World History and English 3-4 or B- or higher in AP World History, or instructor approval.

Advanced Placement United States History is designed to give students a thorough understanding of United States History, requiring students to master historical and analytic skills, including chronological and spatial thinking, historical research, and historical interpretation. The class strives to prepare students to assess historical materials, evaluate relevance and reliability, and deal critically with problems and materials in United States History. The course is equivalent to a full-year introductory college class, thus preparing students for intermediate and advanced college courses. Students have an opportunity to demonstrate content mastery by taking the AP Exam in May.  All students enrolled in this course are required to take the Advanced Placement exam.  See “AP and Honors Courses” (p. 11and 12) for more information. Summer work is required.


AP United States Government & Politics (H) (P)

Guideline:  Grade 12. Grade of A- in US History or instructor approval.

AP U.S. Government & Politics is an intensive study of formal and informal structures of government, as well as of the political theory and practice that direct the daily operation of government and shape public policy.  The express purpose of this course is to prepare students to take the corresponding AP Exam in May.  To this end, the course is taught on a college level and it requires a substantial amount of reading and preparation for every class.  Students will read approximately 30 pages a week from a college level text book.  The course is divided into daily lectures, discussions, and assessments.    A research paper may be assigned in the second semester.  Summer reading and writing will be required prior to the course.  Students should expect a stimulating, fast-paced and rigorous course with approximately one hour of homework each night. All students enrolled in this course are required to take the Advanced Placement Exam. See “AP and Honors Courses” (pg. 11-12) for additional information. This course fulfills the government requirement for graduation.

Government and LAW (P)

Required for students NOT taking AP US Government

This course is viewed as a source of civic literacy and will survey the principles, philosophies, practices and institutions that comprise the United States system of government and law.  Students are expected to apply knowledge gained in previous social studies courses to pursue deeper understanding of American government.  Contemporary issues will frame conversations about the Constitution, the courts, legislative and executive branches, federalism, and a review of major political philosophies around the world.  Emphasis is also given to the dynamics of political decision-making and the degree to which citizens participate in political processes.


Required for students NOT taking AP US Government

This course provides a one-semester study of Economics in which students learn the fundamental concepts of micro-, macro-, and international economics and apply them in intellectually and engaging ways.  Using the reader, Economics, as well as various current events, tables, graphs, statistics, and other data, students will gain a general understanding of economics and economic philosophy that will enable them to assess and evaluate the U.S. economy and their personal finance more successfully.  Essay writing, critical thinking, active reading and note taking will be emphasized as important means for fully participating in the class.

Related courses to consider

The courses below do not fulfill the graduation requirements in this department. They are part of a series of electives designed to enhance the required course of study in social studies.

Introduction to Philosophy (P)

Prerequisite:                  Grade 11, 12

This course will introduce students to the most prominent people, movements, and methods of Western philosophy from ancient times to the present. We will examine the fundamental problems that philosophers have dealt with, as well as the various approaches and arguments they have used. Students will become familiar with the terminology used in philosophical discourse, learn about the historical development of the discipline, and develop their own skills for philosophical argumentation.

Introduction to Psychology  (p)

Prerequisite:                  Grade 11, 12

This academic, college preparatory elective course will introduce students in the major principles of 19th and 20th century psychological thought.  Starting with Freud in the late 1800’s and concluding with the likes of Albert Ellis and William Glasser, students will obtain a solid understanding of psychology and how it is used and applied in our world today.

Perspectives on Diversity (P)

Course Number:             8430

This course introduces students to the interconnected effects of race, ethnicity, class and gender on human beings.  Students will examine how each individual has been socially constructed and how structured systems of inequality work. Students will also explore how these systems affect people’s health, life chances, self-concept, and material well-being. Along with the exploration of race and ethnic issues, the class will also study institutionalized racism and discrimination.  Approaches to gender will consider the ways in which males and females are socialized to become boys and girls, men and women, ladies and gentlemen.  Issues of class will be fully integrated throughout the course as the class examines how economic status has had positive effects on people of privilege and thus shows the connections between power and powerlessness, wealth and poverty, confidence and despair.

Public Policy and Contemporary Issues (P)

Prerequisite:                  Grade 11, 12.

This course combines service learning and leadership/management training as a vehicle by which to examine American public policy.   As such, it is a part of the leadership program and LSL here at Saint Mary’s College High School.

Students will be introduced to basic political philosophy so that they can examine issues that our federal, state, and local governments typically address through debate and policymaking.  In class, as students become experts on domestic and foreign policy, they will be able to critically evaluate the roles of governments and policy makers in their lives, and thus become informed, actively engaged citizens.

In addition to conducting their own semi-independent research, students will be required to coordinate their studies with a monthly visit to the Martin Luther King Center.  Also, at six-week intervals students will stage a multi-media, student-managed presentation.  The course examines issues like consumerism, oil, food, health care, foreign policy, and public spending.

Students taking Public Policy in the fall semester will have some summer work and students taking the course in the spring semester will have some work during winter break that affords some background knowledge so that students can pitch a policy proposal at the beginning of the semester.