Social Studies

Lee Payton, Department Chair

Graduation Requirements:

The graduation requirement in Social Studies will be met when students successfully complete the required full-year courses in ninth, 10th and 11th grades. Juniors and seniors are encouraged to pursue topics of interest beyond the required courses in a variety of electives. All of these courses are academically demanding and are designed for students who wish to pursue historical studies in a more focused manner.

Advanced Placement:

The Social Studies Department offers Advanced Placement courses in United States History, World History, U.S. Government and Politics, and Art History. Advanced Placement courses involve demanding reading, writing and study requirements from students in preparation for the exam. A selection process may be necessary for enrollment. It should be clear at the outset that students enrolling in these courses are committing themselves to taking the AP exam in the spring. In accordance with Upper School policy, at the end of Quarter 1, any student who does not demonstrate academic progress and engagement with the material, as indicated by a grade below a B, may be removed from the course. If the student’s transcript has been sent to colleges, the colleges will be notified of the change in status.

Course Offerings:

ALL YEAR
SS110 Ancient and Medieval Civilizations  
SS330 The Rise of the West 
SS500 U.S. History 
SS510 AP U.S. History 
SS520 American Studies, Social Studies  
SS600 AP Art History   
SS700 Philosophy   
SS730 AP U.S. Government and Politics  
SS740 AP World History 

 

SEMESTER 1 SEMESTER 2
SS615 Intro to Economics 

SS616 Intro to Economics

SS627 American's Women's History 

S606 Penn: His School, His State and the City of Brotherly Love

SS637 Modern China SS636 Nationalism 
SS633 Being Black in America  SS622 American Foreign Policy in 21st Century
  SS634 Urban Education

 

SS110
ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL CIVILIZATIONS
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

Required of all 9th graders, this course surveys the ancient and medieval world through close study of civilizations throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia, the Middle East and Mesoamerica. The course studies the interactions and influences of politics and geography with a particular emphasis on religion, philosophy, and social traditions in these cultures. During the second semester, each student completes a research paper on the topic of his or her choosing, and learns proper research, citation and historical writing techniques.  (9th grade)

SS330
THE RISE OF THE WEST
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

This course is required of all 10th graders. Beginning with the rise of powerful national monarchies and forces of revolution, the content is intended to explain how Europe rose to the pinnacle of world power by the 20th century. It also addresses the reconfiguration of the international community in the post-World War II era and the emergence of the non-Western world. Topics include the Reformation, the rise of constitutional and absolute monarchies; the Enlightenment and the French Revolution; the industrial revolution; imperialism; the rise of totalitarian states; the causes of World Wars I and II; and the post-war world. The 9th grade skills program provides a foundation for further skill development throughout the year. (10th grade)

SS500 
UNITED STATES HISTORY
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

The course, required for all 11th grade students, surveys American history from early settlement through the 20th century. The course will follow an essentially chronological sequence but will also deal with certain themes that recur in the national experience: the evolution of political parties, the growth of the American economy, the expansion of the power of the federal government, the evolution of the U.S. Constitution, the experience of American minority cultures, and what influenced changes in politics, economics, society and culture. Emphasis is placed not only upon mastery of facts but also upon relating facts to broader trends and processes. Students can expect written exercises, quizzes and tests on a regular basis. In-class activities might also include analysis of primary documents and artifacts, as well as participation in simulation experiences. A research paper will be required. (11th grade)

SS510 
AP UNITED STATES HISTORY

(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

This AP course goes into considerably greater detail and depth with regard to the interpretation and analysis of critical issues in U.S. history. The expectations for this course are closer to college-level work than to a normal U.S. history course.  Reading and writing assignments will be more demanding than in the regular course.  Students applying should have strong social studies and English skills.  Success in the course depends heavily on students’ ability to cover material outside of class discussion. Students in this course are often expected to step into the role of a historian and analyze evidence with a critical, sometimes skeptical eye. Some summer reading in preparation for this course will be required. Students will be expected to take the AP exam. Students must have high honors grades in prior English and Social Studies courses, complete a timed writing prompt, and obtain their current history teachers’ recommendations. (11th grade)

SS520
AMERICAN STUDIES, SOCIAL STUDIES
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

American Studies is an interdisciplinary course that seeks to explore American culture and identity through the intersection of history and literature, and satisfies the graduation requirements of United States History and English XI. Collaboratively, students and teachers build and design curriculum. This course encourages student inquiry and the development of multiple strategies for responding to their own and others' queries. It challenges students to listen carefully to each other, build on each other's ideas and experiences, and create new meaning and relationships with each other and with the material. Collaborative discussions and projects with Advanced Placement English, other departments, and organizations beyond Penn Charter are also objectives. The culminating experiences include the Junior Capstone project and the term paper. (11th grade)

SS600
AP ART HISTORY
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

This course is, in essence, a college survey course on the history of art. There is more emphasis on Western art, but the course also explores non-Western art and culture, including Asian art, Middle Eastern art, African art, and art of the Americas. Much of the course is based on the requirements of the College Board; however, special emphasis is placed on having students learn to analyze, synthesize and reflect upon art as it has changed and evolved over time. As most art has been religiously based, there is much exposure to the belief systems and iconographic language of a wide variety of living and past religions. Assessment is based on tests, quizzes, textbook chapter notes and a final presentation on an artist of their choosing. All students are required to take the AP exam in the spring. (11th, 12th grades.)

SS700
PHILOSOPHY

(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

This year-long course is a thematically-based overview of the great questions of world philosophy. Through careful inquiry, debate and reflection, students will explore issues related to ethics, the state, freedom and choice, and the nature of mind and personal identity. Building upon the foundation laid in 9th, 10th and 11th grade social studies, this course will expose students to the ideas of a diverse array of thinkers, ranging from the very foundations of critical inquiry in ancient Greece, China and India to recent theorists working at the cutting edge of philosophy today, both in the United States and abroad. The course will rely heavily on student-led discussions and activities in preparation for the final project of the fourth quarter. Assessments throughout the course shall include traditional measures such as tests and papers. The culmination of the year of study will occur in the spring when, after specific teacher training, teams of students shall design and lead age-appropriate discussions and activities in both the Lower and Middle schools on themes covered earlier in the course. Using a Quaker protocol, these teaching teams shall then report and reflect back to the class both in writing and though a mixed media presentation about their teaching experiences. In addition to various handouts, students shall use Green, Engaging Philosophy: A Brief Introduction and Lawhead, Voyage of Discovery: An Historical Introduction to Philosophy. The course shall be limited to 15 students. (12th grade)

SS730
AP U.S. GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

Americans are not known for their active engagement in politics and their in-depth knowledge of the American political system. We are now moving into the uncharted waters of a Donald Trump presidency. We need educated and active citizens if we are to meet future challenges without losing sight of the admirable principles which have made America unique and “exceptional” in the modern world. This course provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the operation of American national government. Students will develop perspectives for interpreting, understanding and explaining political events. Topics will include constitutional arrangements, policymaking institutions such as the Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy and the court system, public opinion and the media, political participation and voting behavior, political parties, interest groups, civil liberties and rights, and budget making. The course will stress the interpretive and analytical skills commonly used in political science. Selection may be based on a student’s previous grades and social studies teachers’ recommendations. (12th grade)

SS740
AP WORLD HISTORY
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

The AP World History course is a senior elective that aims to give students a deep understanding of the interaction between different types of human societies. What are the forces that have, over time. lead to a more close-knit world? Students will examine these types of questions as they address major political, economic, religious, social, intellectual and artistic developments, all the while making comparisons across cultures. Through those comparisons, patterns and causes of change will emerge. The chronological time frame is from 8000 BCE to the present and includes topics ranging from Mesopotamia to the European Reformation and 21st century globalization. Global coverage means a balanced representation of Africa, the Americas, Europe and Asia. Ultimately, this course will challenge students to think analytically across multiple time periods and geographic borders. Selection will be based on a student’s previous grades and social studies teachers’ recommendations. (12th grade)

SS615, SS616
INTRODUCTORY ECONOMICS
(1 UNIT) SEMESTER 1, SEMESTER 2

This course will provide an overview of economics. The goal for the course is to give students a sufficient understanding of economic concepts to be able to understand current economic events and incorporate that knowledge with their knowledge of government and society. One quarter of the course will cover selected topics in microeconomics (taught by one teacher), and the other quarter will focus on macroeconomics (taught by another teacher). The course will touch upon finance and accounting to help explain the real-world application of economic theory.  Topics will include supply and demand, financial markets, accounting, monetary policy and fiscal policy.  The course will feature a range of tests, quizzes, and projects.  (11th, 12th grade).

SS627
AMERICAN WOMEN'S HISTORY
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1

This course will approach American history through the lens of social history, tracing the shifting roles and expectations of women, and exploring topics such as gender roles, family life, class distinctions, legal and social rights, and the various arenas in which women had power to shape their world. Beginning with the colonial period and moving chronologically through to recent history, this course will trace the pendulum swing of this nation’s views and expectations of women in both the public and private spheres. Our historical studies will be punctuated with discussions of more recent events and discussions of modern reflections on the course’s themes. Students will examine a number of primary sources in addition to the core text, and will supplement with various articles, reference sources, and film clips. Assessments will include tests, mini biographical documentaries, and an essay. (11th, 12th grades)

SS637
MODERN CHINA: THE RISE OF THE RED DRAGON

(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1

Only someone living in a cave for the past several decades would be unaware of the rise of modern China. This ancient and storied civilization was on the brink of virtual oblivion in the first half of the 20th century. Remarkably, China survived and has emerged as a modern "superpower.” How did this happen? This course will briefly explore the touchstones of Chinese civilization and then pursue an investigation of China’s modern period; its 19th century degradation at the hands of Western powers; its virtual disintegration during the warlord period of the early 20th century; its near subjugation to the Japanese during World War II; its self-imposed isolation under the totalitarian dictatorship of Mao Zedong; its dynamic and rapid rise to superpower status following the reforms of Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s; and its emergence in the last several decades as a dynamic but troubled society challenging the long-accepted international balance of power. In addition to primary and secondary readings, the course will include literature, film (both documentary and dramatic), class discussions, and Skype conversations with Chinese citizens. (11th, 12th grades)

SS633
BEING BLACK IN AMERICA
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1 

The goal of this course is to understand the historical, social and cultural milestones of the African-American community during the 20th century and opening years of the 21st. Among the central themes of this course is the changing identity of African-Americans. From the era of Jim Crow and overt racism to the modern day, where the nation saw its first African-American president, blacks have worked to overcome their past and shape their future. The course will examine what it has meant to be black throughout the centuries. Students will use The Struggle for Freedom as a core resource, but will also utilize various supplemental readings, artifacts and other material. You can expect nightly readings, writing assignments of various lengths, presentations and a major paper due near the end of the semester. (11th and 12th grades)    

SS606
PENN: HIS SCHOOL, HIS STATE AND THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2

This course will explore the unique and intertwined relationship of a man and the three great entities that he founded. Students will be led through a journey that begins in both pre-colonial America and Elizabethan England and ends with the establishment of the modern Penn  Charter in 1875. Students will examine both primary and secondary sources, watch films and take field trips to places where our rich history began. The inextricable force of Quakerism that guided all three of these entities will be emphasized, and Penn’s role as a “founding father” will be scrutinized. Key authors to be considered are Woody, Wickersham, Mulhern, Weigley and Kashatus. (12th grade)

SS622
AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY IN THE 21ST CENTURY 
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2

The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, marked the most dramatic catalyst for change in American foreign policy since World War II. Has the new and evolving foreign policy of the Obama administration respected and built on the principles and traditions of the past, or does it mark a departure from past policy? This course will address this question and others by examining the international changes of the late 20th century and the challenges confronting America in the post-9/11 world. Materials will include both primary and secondary readings, documentaries and films. Activities will include traditional quizzes, tests and short papers as well as student-run discussions, simulations and a group project. (11th, 12th grades)

SS634
URBAN EDUCATION
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2

We will examine education in the city of Philadelphia by exploring its history, controversies and prospects for the future. Students will work biweekly with an ESOL class at Taylor Elementary. At Taylor and through our course study, we will examine and experience project-based learning. In addition, we will take a daylong field trip to a variety of innovative schools in the city. Speakers representing a variety of perspectives will come into the classroom on a regular basis, as well. Grading will be based on regular classroom discussions, journaling, participation and a final project. (11th, 12th grades)

SS636
NATIONALISM
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2

This course will explore the modern political phenomenon of nationalism. Students will seek to define the concept of the nation, and explore the question of how concepts as emotional as myth and belonging can be the basis for political constructs. Considering how much violence and conflict is associated with modern nationalist movements, we must also ask: can nationalism be a positive force? The course will include a study of the origins of the concept in 19th century Europe, particularly the French Revolution. From there it will be structured around a series of case studies, tracing the development of nationalist movements in Ireland, Mexico, India, and the Balkans. Students will do a culminating research project analyzing nationalism in a country or region of their choice. In the end students should have an understanding of what nationalism is and how it affects our world. (11th, 12th grades)

SS900

INDEPENDENT STUDY

This option is open to qualified and motivated students who would like to pursue a cohesive independent study under the guidance of a faculty adviser. A student may also pursue an independent study in any other topic area deemed acceptable to the adviser, the department chair and the director of the Upper School. This option can be exercised only if other requirements are met. Interested students should consult with the anticipated faculty adviser and the department chair. Available every trimester; credit will vary.

Courses Not Offered in 2017-2018

SS717     
AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY IN THE 20TH CENTURY
(1 UNIT)   NOT OFFERED

The dynamic nature of the American republic and the changing tides of international events have brought America to her preeminent place in the community of nations. This rise to power has been both breathtaking and controversial. This course will examine America’s rise to power in the 20th century, as she found herself more and more conflicted in her effort to establish and maintain this preeminent position without losing touch with the principles at the heart of our republic. Topics will include the constitutional foundations of foreign policy, the post-World War II evolution of the cold war, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the Reagan years, and the end of the Soviet Union, among others. The course will include readings (both primary and secondary), documentaries, films, and excerpts from current periodicals. Activities will combine traditional quizzes, tests and short writing assignments with student-run discussions, simulations and a group project. (12th grade)

SS725
ART, LITERATURE AND WAR
(1 UNIT)   NOT OFFERED

The phenomenon of war in its various manifestations has fascinated artists and writers throughout history. The experiences of war include some of the most horrific, but also some of the most intense, human experiences that artists have grappled with. Creative depictions of war filter the experience of war through the cultural and personal perspectives of the artist, which raises a number of interesting questions. Does this cultural bias make depictions of war less “real” and “genuine”? Is there an ultimate “truth” to all experiences of war, or is the truth of war ultimately personal? How do art and literature of war reflect, explicitly or implicitly, the values and beliefs of the culture from which they originate? We will examine these and other questions through a variety of both literary and visual materials. Reading will include, among others, German World War I novel All Quiet on the Western Front, the poetry of Wilfred Owen, war-inspired visual and monumental art, and films such as The Seven Samurai, Full Metal Jacket and Paths of Glory. (12th Grade)

Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
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