Departments & Courses

Social Studies

SHC Graduation requirement: Three years

UC/CSU admissions requirement: Two years

Our Mission

The Social Studies Department encourages students to refine their literacy and critical thinking skills in pursuit of historical and social inquiry. We prepare future citizens to understand global economics; international relations, social customs, and historical trends; and the impact of the United States within the global community. Students develop analytical abilities through writing, research, document analysis, projects, creative interpretations, role-playing and discussion. We learn collaboratively and cooperatively in an environment of respect and dignity, stimulating intellectual curiosity about the world, and expanding appreciation and respect for diverse cultures and religions.

Our Goals

Based on our Lasallian Vincentian Catholic traditions, students will:

  • Establish an awareness of the relationship between the individual and society, including the context of Gospel values.
  • Evaluate and synthesize multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g. visually, quantitatively and through narrative) in order to address a question, solve a problem or make an argument.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of social studies content and its significance through a variety of assignments and activities.
  • Articulate a moral understanding of their responsibilities as global citizens by considering the short- and long-term consequences of particular courses of action and the interests of those affected.
  • Strengthen cross-curricular skills as they question critically and think independently within their social studies courses.

A Note regarding the 2022-23 Social Studies Curriculum:

  • We will offer AP World History in 2022-23 and in 2023-24. AP European History will be offered in 2024-25 and 2025-26. 
  • Beginning in 2022-23, we will offer only preparatory and AP US History.

Courses in this Department

This year-long elective course exams various theoretical models of the structures and functions of political systems. It aims to illustrate the rich diversity of political life, to show available institutional alternatives, to explain differences in processes and policy outcomes, and to communicate to students the importance of global political and economic changes. It focuses on an in-depth study of six specific countries: Britain, Russia, China, Mexico, Iran and Nigeria. By making comparisons between countries, students will acquire the conceptual tools necessary to develop an understanding of complex and diverse political systems. The course is open to students in 10th to 12th grade.

Note: AP Comparative Government and Politics does not fulfill SHC’s graduation requirement, which must be filled by enrolling in Civics/Econ or AP United States Government and Politics.

Prerequisites: 1) A cumulative 3.0 GPA 2) AP Potential Score

AP Human Geography introduces students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of Earth’s surface. Students employ spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human social, cultural, political and economic organization and its environmental consequences. Students also learn about the methods and tools geographers use in their science and practice. Topics include: population demographics, migration, folk and popular culture, languages, religions, ethnicities, political geography, economic development, food and agriculture, industry and manufacturing, services and settlements, and urban patterns.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: 1) 3.25 GPA 2) AP Potential Score 

This course is an introduction to studying the resource allocation decisions of individual entities - consumers, workers, or firms - in a market environment. We will explore cases in which the market forces of supply and demand yield socially optimal outcomes, and cases in which they do not. In the latter cases, government intervention will be a useful remedy, while in the former cases, such intervention itself will cause a sub-optimal result. The goal of AP Microeconomics is to have each student be able to tell the difference between useful and harmful government policy, to analyze the impact our decisions have on society, and to see the impact markets have on our well-being.

Note: This class is open to seniors only. AP Microeconomics fulfills the graduation requirement of Economics.

: 1) Cumulative 3.25 GPA 2) AP Potential Score

This course is specifically designed to prepare the student with the skills necessary to pass the Advanced Placement Exam in Psychology. It will survey psychology from its earliest foundations to its most recent theories. The vocabulary level and workload will be consistent with that of an introductory college level course in psychology. Outside readings and research, in addition to term projects, are an integral part of this course.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: 1) Cumulative 3.5 GPA 2) AP Potential Score or PSAT 8/9 Score

AP U.S. Government and Politics is a college-level, year-long course that seeks not only to prepare students for success on the AP exam in May, but also to provide students with the political knowledge and reasoning processes to participate meaningfully and thoughtfully in the discussion and debates that shape American politics and society. It is important to note that this course is not a history course; it is a political science course that studies the interconnectedness of the different parts of the American political system and the behaviors and attitudes that both shape this system and are byproducts of this system. 

AP U.S. Government and Politics accomplishes these goals by framing the acquisition of political knowledge around enduring understandings and big ideas about American government and politics. Through development of political knowledge, disciplinary practices, and reasoning processes, students will be able to analyze current and historical political events like a political scientist. They will develop factually accurate, well-reasoned, thoughtful arguments and opinions that acknowledge and grapple with alternative political perspectives. 

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: Cumulative 3.0 GPA 

This course is designed to provide students with analytical skills necessary to deal critically with the problems and developments of American history. It is designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement test in United States History. The overall pace of the class and demands upon the students will be equivalent to those of an introductory college course on American History, including analysis of complex primary source materials.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: 1) Cumulative 3.25 GPA 2) A writing test 3) AP Potential Score

AP World History is a full-year course that examines the political, cultural, economic, environmental, technological and social developments that have shaped the world from c.1200 CE to the present. Students will analyze primary and secondary texts, visual sources, and other historical evidence and write essays developing historical arguments that incorporate the skills of sourcing, contextualization, periodization and historical analysis. This college-level course prompts students to identify, compare and make connections between broad historical developments and global processes. Students will learn collaboratively, while building their individual skills and content understanding in preparation for the Advanced Placement Exam in May. The course is open to qualified 10th to 12th graders.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: 1) Cumulative 3.25 GPA 2) AP Potential Score

This year-long course examines the history of California and San Francisco. We study geography, natural resources, and the impact of immigration on the state. One significant focus of the course will be the challenges and contributions of all of the people who have made California their home. We will analyze the economic, social, and cultural history of the state through primary sources, historical writing, film and personal histories. We will explore the recurring theme of San Francisco and California as unique places of escape, invention, and a counterculture to the rest of the country, looking closely at the recent past, present day issues, and the future of our state and city.


Civics is the study of American government with emphasis on the Constitution, the three major branches of the federal government, civil rights and civil liberties, and the roles and responsibilities of an American citizen in a representative democracy. As time and interest permit, we will investigate political parties, the election process, public opinion and pressure groups, and/or domestic and foreign policy.

The course is an examination of the criminal justice system, including criminal law, crime, the police and their roles, and policing topics such as profiling, use of force, police discretion, and arrests for criminal offenses. Criminal Justice will also examine the court system, differences between a felony and a misdemeanor, and how the system deals with these. Students will explore issues such as sentencing, plea bargaining, amicability of evidence, and the role of the prosecution and defense attorneys. The final portion of the Criminal Justice triangle is corrections, conventional prison and jails as well as alternatives to incarceration. Students will research the merits and shortcomings of community service, drug and alcohol diversion, domestic violence school, and probation. Lastly, the course will highlight street law particularly as it relates to teens, including an examination of the rights that teens have when dealing with the police.

This one-semester course in economics examines how individuals and groups confront and solve economic choices in relationship to scarcity and surplus, with particular attention to global economic issues. Topics include economic systems, microeconomics, business cycles, the role of government in economics, and personal finance. Group and individual projects, including the senior service learning project on microfinance and a stock market investment simulation, allow students to explore these topics in greater depth.

This interdisciplinary course will examine the United States beginning with the post-World War II era. The focus will be on the Cold War and its impact on modern and domestic developments in the United States. Particular emphasis will be placed on the following topics: the Truman administration, the nuclear arms race, McCarthyism, the Civil Rights Movement, the emergence of television, the Eisenhower administration, the race for space, Kennedy and confrontation, and Johnson’s Great Society versus the Vietnam War.

This course is for those interested in the study of human behavior and mental processes. Students will be introduced to the major approaches within Psychology, becoming familiar with concepts including learning and cognition, social and cognitive development, personality, motivation, consciousness, memory, and the connectedness and relationship between the body and mind. Students will explore research methods and design, and how psychological research and theory contribute to the study of other sciences and the humanities while improving the lives of individuals and society.

This course will offer an in-depth look at societal issues as they affect racial and ethnic groups in the United States, a nation of many peoples. Students will study cultural differences among groups in our community in an attempt to increase awareness of and appreciation for diversity. Topics will include education, gender, media and employment as they relate to multiculturalism.

Sociological concepts are used to examine daily life in contemporary society. This course will include an overview of the causes, characteristics, and responses to social problems in the United States. Topics such as American culture, the dimensions of social inequality, the American family, and the criminal justice system will be studied through the sociological framework.

This preparatory course surveys United States history from pre-colonial beginnings through the twentieth century. Students will explore the foundations of the United States and its emergence as a world power. Students develop skills in the five interconnected dimensions of historical thinking: chronological thinking; historical comprehension; historical analysis and interpretation; historical research capabilities; and historical issues, analysis, and decision making.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

This one semester course examines a mid-twentieth century American society that had been transformed by the Second World War. To create a more accurate image of America and to enrich the students’ learning experience, this interdisciplinary course will incorporate components of literature, science, music and film in addition to historical developments between 1941 and 1945. Topics will include the Great Depression, FDR and the New Deal, America’s isolationism, Pearl Harbor, wartime rationing and shortages, propaganda, the relocation of Japanese-Americans, and the scientific and technological developments brought about by the war.


The World History course offers a general survey focused on the patterns of interaction and themes that define our world. The content of the course begins with the dawn of the modern era in the 1400s. Students explore how societies around the world began to converge during this period, sowing the seeds of the globalization we see today. These early encounters lead to the end of some societies, the dominance of others, and the remaking of entire ecosystems. Students analyze the evolving roles of religion, economics, science, forms of government, and social structures to understand the interplay of forces of continuity and drivers of change. Teachers facilitate learning through lectures, discussions, primary source documents, and audio and visual media. Students develop historical thinking skills through critical reading, historical research and writing, collaborative learning, and the creation of multimedia content. Assessments include class work, homework, group projects, papers, quizzes, and exams.

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