The College Prep history program engages students through an integrated approach that emphasizes interconnections between different regions of the world.
A three-year required sequence of courses—Asian Worlds, The Atlantic World, and The US and the World—is designed to deepen students’ understanding of history, strengthen their sophistication of thinking, and build the skills of writing, group work, public speaking, and independent research. By developing an understanding of systems of powerand oppression that shape our society, students are empowered to have agency in their own lives and affect positive change in their communities.
The department also offers a variety of optional electives for juniors and seniors. Through these courses, students learn how historians and social scientists use evidence, construct arguments, relate their findings to the work of other scholars, and examine differing historical and theoretical viewpoints. Students have opportunities to become scholars, reconstruct events, and build their own historical arguments.
Nearly half of the human population lives in the rapidly growing nations of Asia, shifting the world’s economic and political center of gravity eastward. Asian Worlds provides a thorough understanding of the historical forces that have shaped, and are continuing to shape, the major powers of Asia. This course explores the philosophical, religious, and political movements that have profoundly influenced the evolution of cultural identity in China and South Asia. Students learn how trade, diplomacy, and war facilitated the rapid spread of ideas from the Steppes of Central Asia to the shores of Japan. The course follows the arc of Asian history from the emergence of the first great empires up to the twenty-first century, culminating in the exploration of important contemporary topics like globalization, environmental degradation, women’s rights, economic development, and political protest. Students read primary sources, monographs, and scholarly articles while honing their analytical skills and growing as writers, thinkers, and collaborators. Throughout the course students are asked to reflect on how history intersects with their own lived identities and are challenged with the intellectual responsibility of using the past to understand the present.
This course focuses on the traditions, ideas, and interactions among the peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, a period of history that has fundamentally shaped our modern world. The course’s broad geographic scope across a relatively restricted time period encourages students to make connections among histories that at first may seem isolated from one another. This transnational approach deepens students’ understanding of exploration and colonialism, the role of the environment in shaping history, the costs and the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade, the influences of religion and belief systems, and the interplay of Atlantic revolutions. Indigenous primary source materials are frequently used to highlight the limitations of more eurocentric material. Students practice group collaboration, independent research, persuasive writing, public speaking, and advanced reading comprehension across centuries of writing styles. The capstone project is an independent research essay in which students design, research, write, and revise a robust paper that allows them to delve into a course topic of their own choosing.
What is the United States of America? How do Americans define themselves, their nation, and its position on the global stage? How have those definitions changed over time? Continuing from the discussions of slavery and comparative revolutions in The Atlantic World, this final required course in the College Prep history sequence constructs a narrative of the American experiment with a focus on the twentieth century. This course explores core questions through historical and historiographical study. Students examine and analyze a wide range of primary sources, evaluate and challenge the arguments of historians, and explore and reinterpret pivotal events and issues. Some students might find themselves challenging the mythical origin stories of American creation by emphasizing histories that have long been marginalized, while others might create a documentary that highlights the Progressive response to immigration in the early twentieth century, or write a research paper that links the fears of the Cold War to the hopes of the Civil Rights Movement. In this course, students do not receive a narrative of US History, they build one.
STOak is a community-based experiential learning course that features a unique summer internship that focuses on social or environmental justice. STOak is hands-on and project-based, with a mix of structured course work, field trips, group discussions, and independent research. Students engage with Oakland’s past and present through a lens of indigenous history, social justice movements, and community development. Students research the social, political, and economic landscape of their individual focus topic while learning the professional conduct they will practice in their summer internships at community-based organizations.
During the internship, students are paired with mentors to learn how their organization operates and to support its mission. The program concludes in the fall when students share their experiences with one another and prepare a formal presentation for the College Prep community. Students emerge from STOak well versed in local history and current events, with concrete professional experience, tremendous leadership skills, and the confidence to understand how they can positively impact their community.
Economics is an inescapable part of our everyday lives. Will a rise in oil prices affect your plans for a cross-country road trip this summer? Will a recession dampen your chances of getting a good job after college? This course offers an overview of both microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics topics include prices, taxation, and market structures while macroeconomics units consider large-scale economic phenomena, like unemployment, inflation, and international trade. The course concludes with a deep dive into the two major economic shocks of the twenty-first century, the Great Recession and the COVID-19 crisis.
Over the past year, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has progressed at an exponential rate. What was once relegated to science fiction has become commonplace as our technology-reliant society integrates AI into daily life. This pursuit of innovation is not without ethical dilemmas. This course analyzes the ethical positions that have led to such extreme polarities in the public discourse about AI. After establishing a baseline in ethics, students focus on areas where this emerging technology is gaining traction by examining the justification for incorporating AI, the public responses to that process, and the material consequences of those choices. While the use of AI is certain to become a larger part of our lives, analyzing these applications gives students tools to consciously engage with this inescapable technology.
From the eighteenth century to the present day, consumer culture has played an increasingly central role in human societies as a form of self-expression and identity creation. The rise of mass production and consumption has reshaped work practices as well as forms of political engagement. This course focuses on the relationship between increasing material abundance and shifting class, race, and gender identities in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe and America, considering topics such as the emergence of a capitalist market economy, the transformation of cities and homes, innovations in retail and marketing, and imperial expansion. The course then delves into the globalization of mass consumption since the twentieth century, covering topics such as Taylorism and Fordism, Cold War competition, Chinese economic development, and the environmental impact of consumerism. Consumerism is explored through primary sources, including material objects, advertisements, and fiction, and through the works of scholars such as Thorstein Veblen, Pierre Bourdieu, and the Frankfurt School.
Does capitalism have a history? If it does, why is it made to appear so natural and inevitable, as if it lacked one? This course focuses on the historical emergence and evolution of capitalism as an economic structure, an ideology, and even as a particular type of rationality. Students explore the different ways that scholars have approached capitalism as an object of historical analysis over the last century. Topics include the historical relationship between capitalism and slavery, the turn towards ‘neoliberalism’ in the 1970s, and the ways in which capitalism and the climate crisis have altered how historians approach the study of humans and the planet. By the end of the course students gain an understanding of capitalism as an historically situated and contingent phenomenon and are well positioned to imagine and shape new futures in critical relationship to its boundaries.
This course explores the ways in which historians have used the study of sport to answer broader historical questions. Students begin their journey with a conceptual framework of modern sport as a distinct form of physical culture that began in the eighteenth century before focusing on the ways in which sport has helped articulate and reinforce dominant gender and racial ideologies in American society as well as to challenge those same ideologies. Finally, the course considers sport in a global context by examining the complex relationship between sport and nationalism.
Using primary sources (dance, newspapers, philosophy, film, and music) and scholarly analysis, this course explores fundamental questions about identity and social conditions across time and place within Black life, politics, and culture in the twentieth century. Who are African Americans? What is the Black diaspora? How have African-descended people shaped the modern world and resisted the confines of white supremacy? In addition to the experiences of Black people in the United States, the creation of a transnational Black identity is explored through the experiences of Black people in West Africa, South Africa, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. Class analysis is rooted in racial identity’s formation and operation at the intersections of other identities, such as gender, sexuality, and class.
This course is an introduction to American constitutional law in historical and modern context, focusing primarily on the constitutional text and relevant Supreme Court decisions. From a framework of individual rights and civil liberties, topics include the rights of the accused, abortion, and free speech. The allocation of decision making authority among government institutions is explored, including the distribution of power across the branches of the federal government and between the federal and state governments. The course culminates with a written and oral advocacy component in the form of a moot court case. Using materials adapted from an appellate lawsuit, students research and write an appellate brief and argue their case before a panel of practicing Bay Area attorneys.
taking risks in history class
List of 8 members.
Johanna Lanner-Cusin 99
Dean of Faculty / History Teacher
Director Of Curriculum Innovation And Research / History Teacher
I’ve been interested in law, justice, and government for a long time, but ConLaw reaffirmed all of that passion for me. I suddenly saw social justice issues through a new lens: the law and the Constitution."