History and Social Studies

Three years of history and social studies are required for graduation. Ninth-grade students will study Multicultural America, and tenth-grade students will take Contemporary World History or AP European History. Juniors and seniors will have several options and will choose from a set of electives, which may include: AP American History; AP European History; American Environmental History; Genocide and Holocaust Studies; Urban Research and Design; Politics, Principles, and Public Policy; Memory, Culture, and Identity; Modern Middle East History; Russian History; and Topics in History. These elective courses will be offered on a rotating basis, and any of them can be taken to fulfill the required third year of study.

History and Social Studies Faculty

Multicultural America
Year – 6 credits

Americans in the 21st century continue to struggle over the meaning and substance of the nation’s democratic ideals. In the process, they must navigate complex sets of institutionalized forms of power and privilege, which significantly shape their life chances and opportunities. This course focuses on issues of social justice and the social construction of both individual and national identities and on how individuals operate and dream within community contexts shaped significantly by race, class, gender, sexuality, and power. We will use a multicultural, interdisciplinary lens to explore the ways I which identity-based conflicts have shaped American politics and social interactions as well as struggles for power and rights conducted on a more global scale. Students will be pressed to explore their personal values and to think critically about the meaning of social justice and equity.

Contemporary World History: Human Rights in the Modern World
Year – 6 credits

Throughout the year, students will work to unravel the ways in which our world is deeply interconnected and to better understand our shared humanity. Students will look at how human rights have been defined, how human rights have been debated, and students will continually work to identity and articulate their own statements and beliefs about which rights, if any, human beings are entitled to. Throughout the year we will use personal narratives to better understand the causes and impact of human rights violations. We will pay particular attention to the rights of workers, women, and children. This course further explores the historical context surrounding contemporary human rights violations. As we examine human rights violations, we will also explore the extent to which mechanisms designed to uphold human rights have protected those they have been designed to protect. This course will raise questions of accountability and justice, and it will call upon students to develop their own ideas for how to address complex issues. Student research skills will be developed in this course, and students will be required to ground their voices and insights in historical evidence.

AP European History
Year - 6 credits

This college-level course requires the following:

  • Extensive (at least one hour) nightly reading of college-level text
  • Written analysis of primary and secondary sources
  • Timed weekly essay writing
  • A willingness to devote the time required for mastery of detailed content material

The course serves as an intensive study of the history of Europe from 1400 to the present. From the time of the Renaissance through the collapse of communism, this class teaches the evolution of political, cultural, military, economic, philosophical, and religious ideals. Although there are certainly a lot of names, wars, and dates involved, AP European History is primarily a class about ideas. We will pursue our study of European history from a thematic approach each trimester. The first trimester will be devoted to the intellectual break with tradition from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment.

Students will discover the ideas and thoughts that influence the Long-19thcentury from 1789 (French Revolution) to the outbreak of World War I (1914), which will be the focus of the second trimester. Our third trimester will be devoted to responses to war, revolution, and totalitarian regimes in the 20thcentury. Throughout class, we will analyze primary and secondary sources, stressing the importance of their connection to the ideas and themes of history. Students will develop critical thinking and analysis skills through the use of these documents and sources. All students will prepare to take the AP European history exam in the spring. Students will practice with free-response and document-based questions taken directly from past AP exams.

AP American History

Year - 6 credits

This college-level course requires the following:

  • Extensive (at least one hour) nightly reading of college-level text
  • Written analysis of primary and secondary sources
  • Timed weekly essay writing
  • A willingness to devote the time required for mastery of detailed content materials

This course will cover the American experience from 1400 to the present. The course will be organized thematically as well as chronologically. We will begin with the transatlantic Age of Revolution, exploring the American Revolution in a global context. The course will trace the development of the American nation and the persistent challenges to American nationalism throughout the 19thcentury. We will chart the origins of the Civil War and assess the radicalism of Reconstruction. Industrialization, the Progressive reform movement, the New Deal, the domestic consequences of the world wars, the Cold War, and de-industrialization will be some of the additional themes examined. Lectures, discussions, films, and primary document analysis will provide the basis for our exploration into the American past. Students will master analytical writing, oral argumentation, and critical thinking skills, and students will read secondary works penned by some of the greatest modern historians.

History 11/12: Urban Research and Design: Communities and Civic Engagement
Year – 6 credits

This course seeks to breach the traditional classroom walls, pushing students outside of the confines of Winchester Thurston and reducing the boundaries between the city and the school. Cities acquire their shape and function from the dynamic interaction of social, cultural, political, ecological, and economic systems. Urban design connects these various systems in order to create places and programs that elevate the human condition. Broadly conceived, urban designers fuse various disciplines—ranging from architecture to political science to environmental science—to promote the creation of communities that connect people and places, raise the quality of life, and address recognized impediments to long-term sustainability. Global trends underscore the importance of thoughtful design. By 2050, human geographers believe that 75% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, and the cities in which you will live, work, and raise families will face difficult challenges involving social inequality, housing, transportation, deteriorating infrastructure, post-industrial revitalization, environmental sustainability, crime, and food security. Throughout this course, you will be challenged to address these issues and imagine creative solutions. We will explore these issues through hands-on activities, course readings, conversations with experts and community members, and extensive fieldwork throughout the city. You will become familiar with different aspects of urban site design, and you will work individually and collaboratively to address social issues and to create two studio projects. This course envisions students directing their own learning, pursuing their intellectual interests, and making a lasting, valuable contribution to the Pittsburgh community.

History 11/12: Politics, Principles, and Public Policy
Year – 6 credits

“The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is beside the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.”

–Justice Anthony Kennedy, 1992

Questions will dominate this course as we seek to understand the complex values and principles lurking beneath Mr. Justice Kennedy’s call for tolerance and vision of government. What does it mean in practice to tolerate speech? Under what, if any, circumstances can meeting the obligations governance require the restriction of rights? How is political power best exercised? To what extent should public policies become agents of social change? What is the proper balance between liberty and security? To address these and other questions, we will survey some of the great issues and controversies that surround American politics. We will analyze the principles behind the formation of the Constitution, paying particular attention to the federated nature of the American system and the dispersal of political powers among the three branches of national government. Students will deepen their understanding of civic life, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and the formation of public policies. This course has an additional, somewhat practical side. It is hoped that students will be inspired to invest themselves in the political process, will think of ways to improve public policies, and will be inspired to press their ideas in the public realm. This course will emphasize critical thinking, the open exchange of ideas, and the occasional essay.

History 11/12: Modern Middle East History
Year – 6 credits

This course surveys the history of the Middle East with a focus on the political and economic reforms. We will spend the year studying the Middle East from the late Ottoman period to the current events re-shaping the region. Topics of focus will include the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, European colonialism, the rise of nationalism and Zionism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and political Islam and the role of the United States in the region. Attention will be paid to the links between the history of the modern Middle East and current events surrounding the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria, and Iranian nuclear negotiations. Key questions that will guide us through our discussions and debates are:

  • What are the roots of the Arab Spring?
  • What are the origins of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and how have they impacted other developments in the region?
  • How is the political map of the Middle East, defined by European powers in World War I being redefined today?

History 11/12: Russian History
Year – 6 credits

Winston Churchill once said that Russia ‘is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ Together we will seek to unwrap the mystery and understand the complex historical forces at work in Russia. This course follows a chronological study of Russia from Peter the Great (1689-1725) to President Vladimir Putin. Although the primary focus of this course will be placed in the internal developments, appropriate attention will be paid to Russia’s role in international relations. Combined with political, social, and economic studies of Russia, this class will provide opportunities to engage with Russia culture and literature. The works of Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, and Solzhenitsyn will supplement our readings from assigned texts. Major thematic units will be: the rise of the Russian empire, enlightened despotism under Catherine the Great, Russia’s role in 19th century Europe, the era of reform, Russia in revolution, the Stalinist era, the Soviet Union’s Cold War, the Gorbachev era, and the creation of a new Russia after the collapse of Communism. Special attention will be paid to current events concerning Russia’s role in the modern world as they develop. Partnering with the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, students will be offered the opportunity to attend lectures and events from global experts on modern Russia.

AP Economics
Year - 6 credits

Open to juniors and seniors. This course begins with a study of the content of the AP curriculum in Microeconomics and ends with Macroeconomics. Students are required to take the AP exam in either Microeconomics or Macroeconomics, but they may choose to take both. These are separate two-hour exams, one offered in the morning, and the other on the same day in the afternoon. The focus of Microeconomics is on factors that influence economic decisions made by individuals and firms. Major topics covered include supply and demand analysis, theory of consumer choice, costs of production, market structures, and market failure and the role of government. Macroeconomics focuses on the economy as a whole. Major topics involve measuring economic variables related to production and prices, and developing models that explain the relationship between these variables in the short-run and long-run. Graphical analysis is used extensively throughout the year. A strong background in mathematics is required.

NOTE: This course does not meet the WT graduation requirement for the third year of history.

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City Campus
555 Morewood Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
P: 412-578-7500
F: 412-578-7504

North Hills Campus
4225 Middle Road
Allison Park, PA 15101
P: 412-486-8341
F: 412-486-8378

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