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History

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, The Atlantic Worlds, and The 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 electives for juniors and seniors, including American Government and Politics, Ancient and Medieval History, Constitutional Law, Economics, Linguistics, and Social Transformations—Oakland, an applied studies course that includes a six-week summer internship. Through these electives, 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 provides a thorough understanding of the historical forces that have shaped, and are continuing to shape, the major powers of Asia. The course explores the philosophical, religious, and political movements that have profoundly influenced the evolution of cultural identity in China and India. 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 21st century—culminating in the exploration of 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.
  • The Atlantic Worlds (10th grade)

    This course focuses on the interactions among the peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas from the 15th to the 19th centuries, a period of history that has fundamentally shaped our modern world. This 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 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, and the interplay of Atlantic revolutions. 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.
  • The U.S. and the World (11th grade)

    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? 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. The United States is explored through 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 during a 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.

Seminars

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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? This course emphasizes voting behavior, campaigns, elections, and the actions of the executive and legislative branches of American government.
  • Ancient and Medieval History

    Pre-Modern times were a long bleak stretch of human history dominated by minimal life spans, despotism, and bad food. This course recreates life in the years 500 BC - AD 1500 through review of original sources, the latest theoretical approaches, historical simulation activities, and multimedia. Art, music, literature, warfare, and philosophy are all considered; Homeric heroes and Roman bureaucrats, Huns, Khans, Lion-Hearts and fish guts (a Roman delicacy), from the love songs of Sappho to the Isle of Avalon, and much more. Students have the chance to command the Greeks at Marathon, talk their way into power in Rome, build Xanadu, and manage a lord’s estate in 12th century France. 
  • 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 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 research the economic, social, and political history of their area of concentration. 

    The core of the program is the summer internship in which pairs students with mentors working in community organizations in one of four areas of concentration: environment, health, education, or 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. Students may apply to start the program during the spring semester of their sophomore or junior year.
  • Constitutional Law

    This course is an introduction to American constitutional law in historical and modern context. From a framework of individual rights and civil liberties, controversial topics are explored such as the rights of the accused, abortion, free speech, immigration, and the war on terror. Other themes include the allocation of decision-making authority among government institutions, including the distribution of power across the branches of the federal government and between the federal and state governments, focusing primarily on the constitutional text and historic Supreme Court decisions. 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 “judge.” 
  • 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 a recession dampen your chances of getting a good job after graduating from college? This course offers a basic overview of both microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics studies how individuals and firms decide to spend their time and money. This part of the course explores how prices are determined, taxation, and market structures. Macroeconomics considers large-scale economic phenomena, like unemployment, inflation, and international trade and includes a deep dive into the causes and effects of the Great Recession that began in 2008. Are we fully recovered? Are we in danger of repeating the kind of economic mistakes that nearly crippled the global economy? The culminating project for this class is a stock market simulation. Working in small groups, teams manage two $100,000 virtual portfolios.
  • 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 course topics include language, the brain, and consciousness; the production and perception of sounds around the world; words, sentences, and 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?

    Students in this course learn to make sounds from clicks to whistles; invent their 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.

History

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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.