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College Prep history courses build an understanding of and an appreciation for civilizations of the past and present. 
The College Prep History Program engages students through an integrated approach that emphasizes interconnections between different regions of the world, an examination of primary source documents, and the building of skills that students will need in college and beyond. 

A three-year required sequence of courses (Asian Worlds, Atlantic Worlds, and U.S. 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. 

The department also offers a variety of optional seminars for juniors and seniors, including Economics, Politics of Protest, Linguistics, American Government and Politics, and Social Transformations, an applied studies class that includes a six-week summer internship. Through these seminars, 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, reconstructing events as well as constructing their own historical arguments.

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  • Asian Worlds (9th grade)

    With nearly half of the human population living in the rapidly growing nations of Asia, the world’s economic and political center of gravity is shifting eastward. Asian Worlds gives students a thorough understanding of the historical forces that have shaped, and are continuing to shape, the major powers of Asia. Students explore the philosophical, religious, and political movements that have profoundly influenced the evolution of cultural identity in China and India. They 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 21st century—culminating in the exploration of important topics such as globalization, environmental degradation, women’s rights, economic development, and challenges to existing political systems. Students read primary sources, monographs, and scholarly articles while honing their analytical skills and growing as writers, thinkers, and collaborators.
  • Atlantic Worlds (10th grade)

    Atlantic Worlds focuses on the interactions among the peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas from the 15th to the 19th centuries. This period of history has fundamentally shaped our modern world. The broad geographic scope across a relatively restricted time period encourages students to develop their thinking and historical reasoning skills by pushing them to make connections among histories that at first may seem isolated from one another. This comparative 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, the interplay of Atlantic revolutions, and many other important events. Students participate in group collaboration, independent research, persuasive writing, public speaking, and advanced reading comprehension across centuries of writing styles. The capstone project for the year 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.
  • U.S. and the World (11th grade)

    This final required course in the College Prep history sequence constructs a narrative of the American experiment, focusing on the 20th century and emphasizing issues of race, immigration, and constitutionalism. 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? Core questions are explored through discussions of a wide range of primary sources, essays by noteworthy historians, biographical sketches of pivotal figures, simulations of key events, and debates over controversial issues. Students might find themselves embracing the logic of an Antifederalist as they rail against the excesses of a centralized state in our ratification simulation, while others might design a museum exhibit that highlights the Progressive response to immigration in the early 20th 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 U.S. History, they build one. 


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  • American Government and Politics

    The current American political scene is fractious and polarizing. Rare is the news out of Washington that does not feature the words “dysfunction,” “impasse,” or “crisis.” What are they fighting about? Is the system broken, or is it supposed to work this way? Is someone in the fight representing you and your beliefs? If not, what options do you have to sway policy and politics towards your vision of a fair and just society? These are a few of the core questions that inform this study of American politics and government. 
  • Applied Studies Social Transformations—Oakland: STOak

    Do you want to make a positive difference in your local community? Are you passionate about social justice, community health care, youth education, or the urban environment? Have you considered a career in the non-profit, advocacy, or community organizing fields? Do you want to learn from effective leaders working for positive social change?
    STOak is a yearlong course that begins in the spring semester with a mix of structured course work, group discussion, and independent research. The class explores the fields of social change theory, community-based research, systems thinking, and leadership strategies. The structures of non-profit organizations and local government agencies are examined and the professional expectations and conduct that students will uphold in their summer work are discussed. Students work independently to deeply research the economic, social, and political history of their area of concentration. The core of the program is the summer internship in which students are paired with mentors working in community organizations in one of four areas of concentration (environment, health, education, and social equity). Students participate in six-week, full-time internships in the wider Oakland community to help these organizations make a difference in the lives of local residents. The program concludes in the fall semester with independent and collaborative work and the preparation of a formal presentation for the wider College Prep community. Students must enroll in this program for the full year and complete each component consecutively. Space is limited and participation is application based. Students may apply to start the program during the spring semester of their sophomore or junior year. 
  • Economics

    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 the economy allow you to get a good job after graduating from college? This course explores topics such as how prices are determined, the impact of government policies on the economy, unemployment, inflation, international trade, and the causes of the “Great Recession.” This course also includes an in-depth analysis of the stock market in which students manage a $100,000 virtual portfolio. 
  • Linguistics

    Language is, as far as we know, unique to the human species. It builds our societies, defines our consciousness, identifies our culture, and even influences our perceptions of reality. We learn its complexities at an age when we cannot add single digits or tie our own shoes. How does language work? How do individual languages relate to each other and evolve through time? How do linguists analyze languages? How does all of this aid with the study of individual languages? Specific topics include language, the brain, and consciousness; the production and perception of sounds around the world; words, sentences, grammar, semantics, idioms, poetry and humor; language evolution and relationships; and the politics of language. Do the Eskimos really have 87 words for snow? Can dolphins talk? Why is English so weird? Why would some people object to the word “Eskimo” in the earlier sentence? And why do we park on driveways and drive on parkways? Learn to make sounds from clicks to whistles; invent your own rule-governed language; read hieroglyphics, cuneiform, or Mayan; report on languages few have ever heard (or heard of); and watch an episode of Star Trek for credit. 
  • Politics of Protest

    In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Was Dr. King right? This class explores how social change happens in the United States. How do ordinary citizens make their voices heard? What rights do people deserve? What behavior is acceptable in trying to get those rights? Focusing on how these issues have played out in America since 1945 and using theories developed in political science and other social sciences, students examine the actions, rhetoric, and impact of these movements, exploring the connections between local grassroots efforts and national politics. The class considers how violence has been used to contain and control ideas and actions and examines how activists use and challenge existing institutions in their attempts to bring about change. Students also look at the ways that the language and ideas surrounding protest have changed over time, tracing the shift from a “rights revolution” to “identity politics” in American society and exploring the ways that American democracy has been defined and redefined. Social issues covered include: the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, the Christian Right, animal rights, environmentalism, debates over abortion and immigration, antiwar protest, the LGBTQIA movement, and #Occupy. 


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The College Preparatory School

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right
Photo Credit: Dan Battle, Mark Compton, Bosky Frederick, Polly Lockman, Richard Wheeler, and Jonathan Zucker.