Social Studies

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America at War

This course examines United States involvement in wars throughout this century, and the economic links to war in the U.S. Why does the U.S. get involved in wars with other countries? How do these wars impact the people of the United States? How do these wars impact the people in other parts of the world? Does our country gain or lose more money through war? Does the military provide necessary jobs? Could we find these jobs some other way? Is the United States too dependent or entrenched in a military lifestyle and mindset?

The course is built around various and appropriate primary and secondary sources for each war and topic.
Media Used: 
Significant Assignments: 

Notebooks: Students keep a notebook on the readings and their responses to the readings. Each week, we will analyze one source together as a class. Students are then responsible for analyzing additional sources on their own. The notebook will be the place that they will keep your sources and their analysis of them.

On Friday of each week, students write in class essays. After teaching MEAT, students will become accustomed to writing solid responses to the Socratic Seminar questions. In addition, at the end of each “unit” (or war), they will write a 2-3 page essay synthesizing their understanding of why the United States got involved in that particular war. Each of these shorter essays will be revised at least once – based upon feedback from peers and/or teacher. All of this will help prepare us for the deep analytical writing needed for the PBAT.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Socratic Seminars will give you the chance to talk about your interpretations and questions about the weekly question and the primary and secondary sources. This is the space to discuss our guiding question for the week. The Socratic seminars will allow students to hear different perspectives on that question.


For each weekly question, students will do some additional research on their own into the topic. This will be presented and shared during the weekly Socratic seminar. In addition, their final PBAT will require some additional research, which will be guided based upon their thesis. Their PBAT is a synthesis of the wars studied and discussed as a class. Their thesis will dictate their comparative lens for those wars.

Sample PBATs: 
“America: It’s nothing personal, it’s just business”
“Why does America go to war?”

American Empire

In this unit we will examine the territorial and economic expansion of the United States in the late 19th early 20th century. Examining primary and secondary sources, we will study the events leading to America’s conflict with Spain, the debate surrounding the annexation of the Philippines, and America’s expanding role in Latin America and Asia. We will then examine contemporary world politics through the lens of imperialism

Among the essential questions that will guide the unit are,

1. Under what circumstances is one country justified in becoming involved in the affairs of another?

Brown University, "Choices" Curriculum: Origins of global power
Brown University, "Choices" Curriculum: Spanish American War
Brown University, "Choices" Curriculum: Walk Away From Empire
Brown University, "Choices" Curriculum: Seize an Empire
Distant Possessions: The Parting of the Ways By Andrew Carnegie
ALBERT J. BEVERIDGE : In Support of an American Empire
Imperialism -- Its Dangers and Wrongs By Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor
It Rests with the People By William Jennings Bryan
"Benevolent Assimilation" Proclamation of President William McKinley
Letter to the Secretary of State By Felipe Agoncillo
The Monroe Doctrine And The Panama Canal." Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, New York: The MacMillan Company 1913
The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine Theodore Roosevelt, 1904, 1905
Media Used: 
PBS Documentary: Crucible of Empire
Significant Assignments: 

Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy

Beginning in the final decade of the 19th century, the role of the United States in world affairs was fundamentally transformed. As American economic, military and diplomatic power expanded to levels unthinkable a generation earlier, the period witnessed the annexation of Hawaii, war with Spain, annexation and insurrection in the Philippines, intervention in China, the building of the Panama Canal, and continued U.S. military and diplomatic intervention in the Caribbean and South America. This period also saw a conflict at home as a debate raged in America regarding the nation’s proper role overseas.

In this paper, you will make an argument assessing American foreign policy during this period

Chose one of the following arguments:

1. American foreign policy during this period was a natural continuation of our history up to that point.
2. American foreign policy during this period represented a reversal of our historical norms.
3. American foreign policy during this period was based on economic self-interest.
4. Both Imperialist and Anti-Imperialist arguments centered on issues of race.
5. American foreign policy had, in general, the best interests of other people in mind.
6. Annexing the Philippines was a logical and moral decision for United States at that time.
7. Annexing the Philippines was a moral and practical disaster for the Unites States.
8. The United States could be classified as a Empire during this period
9. The United States could not be classified an Empire during this period.
10. Modern U.S. foreign policy mirrors its policy during the late 18th early 20th century.

The paper must use a minimum of four primary source documents. Additional research is recommended but not required.

The paper must be 5-7 pages. 12 font standard margins.

The first draft is due on February 23. Final draft is due on March 2. The will not be opportunities to rewrite this paper

Imperialism Exam

1. List at least two arguments for the annexation of the Philippines provided by Albert Beveridge. Which argument does he pay particular attention to and why?

2. Explain how racism played a role in both imperialist and anti-imperialist arguments.

3. Explain how the anti-imperialist arguments of Andrew Carnegie made sense considering his position in American Society and the anti-imperialist arguments of Samuel Gompers made sense considering his position in American Society.

4. What was the “Open Door Note”? How did it represent a different vision of colonialization in the U.S. as opposed to Europe?

5. How are the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary similar in terms of U.S. Foreign Policy? How are they different?

6. Newspaper Robber Barron William Randolph Hearst told his reporters heading to Cuba in 1898,

“You supply the pictures, and I’ll supply the war”

Based on our discussion about the “yellow press,” what do you think Hearst was talking about?

7. Name three connections between the strategies used by American forces the Philippines and those suggested by Secretary of State Donald Rumsefeld’s Memo to the President?

8. Why does William Jennings Bryan see imperialism as a threat to American Democracy?

9. How does president McKinley argue that American can still be democratic while colonizing the Philippines?

10. In a 2003 speech president Bush declared

…America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind.

Explain specifically how this quote connects to the notion of White Man’s Burden.

Extra Credit:

. “U.S. Imperialism is a natural continuation of Manifest Destiny”

a. How could one argue this statement is accurate?
b. How could one argue imperialism represents something very different than Manifest destiny?

Sample PBATs: 
Research Paper Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy (see above)

Constitutional Law

Constitutional Law

In this unit we will be examining the Constitution and the Supreme Court. We will examine both modern and historical rulings on issues such as freedom of speech, the death penalty, right to privacy, search warrants, abortion, separation of church and state and civil rights. We will explore the concept of the rule of law in American government and the role of Judicial Review.

Among the essential questions we will be addressing are

1. How is the Constitution a means of protecting the rights of individual citizens?

We the People... The Citizen and the Constitution: Judicial Review
We the People... The Citizen and the Constitution: Freedom of Speech
We the People... The Citizen and the Constitution: Freedom of Religion
We the People... The Citizen and the Constitution: Due Process Miranda vs. Arizona, Mapp vs. Ohio Roe vs. Wade Brown vs Board of Education Furman vs. Georgia Johnson vs. Texas
Media Used:
Significant Assignments: 

Constitutional Law Paper Modern and Landmark Decisions

In this paper you will be exploring the Modern developments of a Constitutional issue of a Landmark case that we discussed in class. You paper will examine how the modern court’s ruling relates to the rulings in the landmark case. Questions you may want to explore include: Has the court respected or changed the precedent of the landmark case? Is the court interpreting the Constitution in a new way? What new developments have arisen regarding this issue? Has the debate regarding this issue shifted or remained constant?
What accounts for this change?

Among the Constitutional Issues you can examine are

• Free Speech
• Free Exercise of Religion
• The Separation of Church and state
• Free Association
• School Integration
• Due Process of Law
• Abortion
• Search Warrants
• Self Incrimination
• Death Penalty

In your paper, begin by examining a landmark case explored in class, focusing on the context of the case, issues and values in conflict, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the constitution. Then move on to the modern debate and modern court cases regarding your topic Your thesis should connect the modern court cases with the landmark rulings.

Paper should Reference landmark as well as modern cases and pertinent newspaper articles.


Researching Modern Supreme Court Cases:

Sample PBATs: 
Constitutional Law Paper: Modern and Landmark Decisions

Civil Rights Movement

In this class we will learn about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, a turning point in American history. We will learn about the historical conditions that supported segregation in the American South, the courageous people who risked their lives to put an end to legal discrimination, and by doing so, forced this country to look squarely at our brutal history of racism.

Uncle Tom's Children
Little Rock Nine
The Struggle for Civil Rights --1940s-1970s
Excerpts--Eyes on the Prize
Media Used: 
Eyes on the Prize
Fredom's Song
Significant Assignments: 

Analysis of the History of Jim Crow

Analysis of the roots of the Civil Rights Movement

Sample PBATs: 
Institutionalized Racism: what is it and how do we still exist in its shadow?

The Global Classroom

The Global Classroom (G:Class) is an interdisciplinary education program that examines issues relevant to world history classes and contemporary art. Using exhibits at city museums, the course encourages visual literacy and critical thinking skills in high school students by integrating contemporary art into the core history curriculum. G:Class is designed to enhance critical thinking through discussions around critical issues that affect the lives of students and issues of global importance while increasing creative and communication skills.

Readings reflect the current museum exhibition
Media Used: 
Create a mixed-media collage that demonstrates (BluePrint Visual Arts, pp33): Use of a variety of materials such as acrylic paint, crayon, ink, cardboard, string, photographs, printed material; Variety of textures and shapes; Unity of composition; Integration of text
Or, Create a sculpture that demonstrates: Awareness of spatial relationships and balance; Unity through color, shape and pattern; A variety of two- and three-dimensional objects
Significant Assignments: 

Uilizing the work of four artists to explore current events including war, politics, and protest. These artworks will spark interest around the current war in Iraq, world economies, disappearance of public space, and different forms of resistance and protest in addition to cultivating students’ visual literary skills and critical thinking.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Materials and Method, Part I focuses and develops students’ research, writing, and verbal skills as they investigate different artistic methods, artworks, and artists and present their findings to the rest of the class. These presentations build a strong base for the rest of the curriculum.

Materials and Methods, Part II students will present findings from the previous session. This session also exposes students to some of the most contemporary artwork of our times and will discuss methods, materials, art practice, and conceptual thinking. The class will investigate how artists engage critical issues of cultural, societal, and historical significance through an inquiry based discussion of carefully selected images.


Focusing on one of the artists included in the exhibition, research other sources, including news media, photography, and other artists' work that is relevant to the themes of the current exhibition.

Sample PBATs: 
A final project that reflects the major themes of the current exhibition and the relationship between art and social and political issues.
Recent themes:
Fallen or Disappearing Monuments of the World
Politics and Protest
Media, Consumer Culture, and Waste
Fragmentation, Fragility, Uncertainty, and Violence

Participation in Government and Economics

Participation in Government and Economics are each a one semester course for grade 12 students.

In Economics, students work on two major units:

NFTE textbook, Entrepreneurs in Profile
U.S. Constitution and other related primary documents
“12 Angry Men”
Congressional Record
Students use web quests, videos, newspaper articles, simulations, and books to discover information about topics studied in class.
Media Used: 
Business Plans are created on Microsoft PowerPoint
For more information about the NFTE curriculum, visit
For more detailed information on this curriculum, visit
Significant Activities or Projects: 

In 2009, students studied the DREAM Act and wrote letters to their Senator or Representative using current research to support their opinions.

Students learn how to manipulate the national budget using the National Budget Simulation sponsored by EconEdLink.

Sample PBATs: 
PBAT – Who is responsible for trade disparities and labor conditions? After investigating the World Trade Organization, coffee and cocoa production, child labor, sweatshop conditions, and the business model of Fair Trade, through hands-on, experiential activities, students individually choose one topic to further research and explore. The end product is a 7-10 page research paper using MLA format. Additionally, students learn that consumers are partially responsible for some of the unfair conditions, so students take action based upon their research.

International Political Economy

Course Description

Sample PBATs: 
The Causes of the Great Depression
The Role of United Fruit in Latin America
The Japanese Recession of the 1990s


Economics is geared towards helping students emerge from high school with an understanding of how the economic structures in place shape our nation and our world. It is also geared toward helping students to begin to identify and develop economic strategies that will help them to plan and manage their own economic blueprint. Furthermore, by engaging in their own economic structuring they learn how their community, borough, city, state and national leaders allocate funds for various vital municipal functions which they enjoy.

Wide selection of current and relevant articles from The New York Times and other newspapers
Recent articles from various news magazines
Economics for Everybody, third edition
Economics Principles in Action
Media Used:,,,,
Significant Assignments: 

Research paper investigating and evaluating differing points of view of the effects of the Recovery Act of 2009 on the economy.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Interviews of people in the field concerning the effects of the economic downturn and effects and potential effects of the Recovery Act.

Construction, implementation, and analysis of surveys conducted on relevant economic questions.

PowerPoint presentation along with visual and audio to support findings of research paper.


Students researched all aspects of the Recovery Act of 2009, including funding sources, allocations, and arguments for and against the legislation. They then chose one part of the stimulus package to investigate in depth and the effects it would have on a specific industry of their choice. They evaluated whether the funds were appropriated correctly or if they were misappropriated. Their presented the findings of their research paper to a panel of teachers.

Sample PBATs: 
The Stimulus Package: Is This the Decline of the American Dream?

American Studies

This course is taught both thematically and chronologically over a 2-course sequence, covering roughly the mid- 19th century to the present.

Some of the Themes:
Settlement of the West, Native American Relocation
Growth of Industry
Immigration/growth of cities
Progressive Era
Women's Rights
Imperialism, WWI
Roaring 20's
Great Depression/New Deal
The Cold War
Civil Rights/Vietnam,
Terrorism, The new Millennium

Creating America
The Mann Act
A people's history of the United States
The Constitution, Roe v. Wade, Miranda Case
National Archives/Primary Sources
Media Used: 
Google Earth
Films - Jack Johnson Unforgivable Blackness, The Birth of a Nation, Patton, Windtalkers
Significant Assignments: 

Students complete a research paper on either the events of September 11, 2001 or the impact of the Interstate Highway System. They formulate a thesis using primary as well as secondary sources. Specific topics of the assignments were suggested. Students complete a 5-7 page paper that addressed the thesis question. The papers are evaluated using the New York State Performance Standards Consortium rubric.

Portfolio Assessment - Analytical essay on the first decades of the 20th and 21st Centuries. What theme in American culture, history, or society runs through the two centuries? What is different? What seems to remain constant? Develop a coherent thesis that argues about one of the common themes of this time period and conduct research needed to support that thesis, using primary and secondary sources.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Student created a poster board about the Great Depression. They had to list key dates, figures and events of the time. A presentation followed the creation of the posterboard that involved giving detailed information of the Great Depression.


Portfolio Assessment - Students were required to use various primary sources to complete their assessments. Students use electronic and some print sources to this end. Students develop further research skills by connecting evidence with historical analysis and argument construction.

Examples: Students drew comparisions between billionaires JD Rockefeller and Bill Gates using empirical evidence to gage their impact on the United States labor Movement, corporate monopolies, and their philanthropic efforts.

Sample PBATs: 
Civil Disobiedience and Social Discontent: students develop questions based on this issue
Political and Social Response to Change: another theme on which students may develop their research paper.

American Studies: Diversity and Identity in U.S. Society

What does it mean to be American today? In the U.S. History textbook, Out of Many, authors write that, “the underlying dialectic of American history… is that we need to locate our national unity in the celebration of the differences that exist among us. … [P]rotecting the ‘right to be different’ is absolutely fundamental to the continued existence of democracy.” This class will explore to what degree this ideal is successful in the United States through historical and contemporary cases studies.

Chinese Exclusion Act, National Origins Act, Displaced Persons Act and 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act
Case Study—Oakland, California’s Freemont Media Academy as described in Farai Chideya’s book, The Color of Our Future
Facing History and Ourselves case study: What Do We Do With a Difference? France and the Debate over Headscarves in Schools.
Media Used: 
U.S. Census statistics
The Chinese Experience, PBS Documentary Series
Significant Assignments: 

Unit One: What does it mean to be American?
Group Project: Historical interpretations
Assignment: Personal Identity Essay—What shapes your identity?

Unit Four: Relationships Across Race and Culture in a Diverse Society—What encourages or discourages relationships across race and culture differences?
Part One: School communities as sites for building multicultural awareness & relationships
Case Study—Oakland, California’s Freemont Media Academy as described in Farai Chideya’s book, The Color of Our Future

IHS survey and reflection

As part of a collaboration with an English class’s reading of West Side Story:
Love across race and culture—Legacies of anti-miscegenation laws and interracial relationships

Part Three: Puerto Rican migration to New York City
Assignment Creative Writing Assignment—Family Rivalries and Forbidden Love
What would be today’s Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story?

Class Debates on key issues (using SPAR model)

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Unit Two: Reading the Census: What do statistics tell us about American identity? What do they not tell us?
• Group Project: Graphing U.S. Census statistics for Race, Language, Income, Education and other basic demographic indicators, nationally and for NYC.

Unit Three: Immigration Laws—How have laws shaped who is included or excluded?
• Group Mini-Research Project: Posters on Chinese Exclusion Act, National Origins Act, Displaced Persons Act and 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act

Unit Six Final Project: This American Life-styled Radio project
“Encounters—what happens when different groups meet?”
• Group Project Radio Show in 4 Acts
This culminating project will draw from themes throughout the course that illustrate what happens when groups or individuals with perceived differences meet. These encounters can lead to various outcomes: they can inspire bystanders to speak up; they can lead to cultural diffusion; negative encounters can result in powerful learning experiences; they can lead to exclusion or inclusion; and they can often lead to personal or cultural transformation.

Sample PBATs: 
Graphing U.S. Census statistics for Race, Language, Income, Education and other basic demographic indicators, nationally and for NYC. What are the connections between population trends and immigration laws
Unit Five: Looking Abroad—France and the Headscarf Ban in Public Schools How has France defined national identity in comparison with the U.S.? What conflicts have arisen when different cultures meet? How is multiculturalism defined or restricted? What can we learn from this case study about our own society?
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