What Social Studies Should Be

We live in an increasingly complex world that demands nuanced thinking. Every day in social studies at Drew, you will develop your intellectual curiosity and a confident voice to share your discoveries. You will learn the skills and knowledge for historical inquiries and approach your investigations with compassion and empathy for those involved in events, movements, and ideas. Specifically, you will acquire processes for recording observations, analyzing and interpreting data, forming arguments and publishing your results to an audience. By working on your critical reasoning skills, you will feel confident to act according to your knowledge and principles in the contemporary world.

Social Studies Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • World History

    This course will serve as your introduction to history classes at Drew as we delve into global history, focusing on the modern era. To narrow this extremely broad course of study, we will build understanding thematically by examining the foundations of societies, power, economic systems, expansion, turning points, and conflict.

    Discussions, projects, analysis of primary and secondary sources, historical writing, and the development of critical thinking skills will guide our exploration of these themes. We will continually reflect on how what we learn is relevant to our lives today, emphasizing the many ways people throughout history, and their choices, shaped our contemporary world.
  • U.S. History

    From the very first Americans and the geography of the land they inhabited through the forced importation of enslaved Africans to the emerging European colonies, concepts of identity serve as the focus of this course. The rebellious events that lead to the founding of the nation and the documents that created it are explored through the lens of those earlier actions. The dividing issue in the US Constitution threads through the Abolition Movement and the Civil War. The policies of Reconstruction permeate the 20th century and relate to the racial conflicts we are dealing with today. To investigate these events and ideas, you will analyze a variety of primary and secondary sources--letters, cartoons, journals, scholarly articles--and refine your critical thinking skills and intellectual voice.

    You will also complete a variety of research projects that incorporate student choice and independent work as well as many forms of presentation and the production of final learning outcomes.

    U.S. History Honors
    Honors classes explore similar topics as the corresponding course but at an accelerated pace with additional depth, resources, and assessments. Department recommendations based on independent, self-regulated learning and a genuine interest in the skills and knowledge of History and Social Studies. Students are expected to perform more complex, self-driven assignments, relying on self-initiated one-on-one tutorial consultations.

    Prerequisite: Department approval
  • History Electives

    History of the United States Since 1945: Honors* and non-Honors options

    Nineteen-forty-five was a pivotal moment in United States history due to the significant geopolitical, social, cultural, and economic consequences of World War II. To examine the postwar period and its reverberations, we will explore varying definitions of American freedom, national identity, and the struggles to expand rights and access to power. We will investigate these throughlines by paying particular attention to issues of race, gender, identity, class, and culture.

    This course will be centered on discussion and collaboration to aid in the development of historical thinking, analysis, and writing. Students will debate, assess sources, engage in independent research, and go through the process of oral history-making from interview to publication. 

    20th Century World History: Honors* and non-Honors options
    Starting with World War I, we will look at the development of the modern world with particular attention paid to understanding the historical origins of contemporary issues and conflicts. We will examine the decline of the European colonial world, and the challenges posed to the old regime by colonial subjects, women, and racial and ethnic minorities; the influence of communist and socialist ideologies and increasing globalization; and the social, economic, and political changes resulting from the rapid development of technology.

    Race and Gender Studies
    This course will introduce students to the major questions and theories of race, gender, sexuality, class, intersectionality, and power. We will approach these concepts as social phenomena, examining the processes through which people are categorized and how these processes shape individual experiences throughout the world. Students will examine the formation of systems of power, oppression, categorization, and inequality in our society. Students will explore the potential for justice, social change, and celebration of identity. This course is centered around community praxis with the intent of empowering students to think critically about the world they are living in and to be involved in community.

    We will hone in more specifically on the major themes of economics, personal finance and government. After an introduction to microeconomics and macroeconomics, we will examine broader issues such as income inequality, taxes, and how businesses operate, as well as more specific ones like the 2008 financial crash. In addition, we will look at how individuals can effectively navigate our current economic system by investigating topics including personal debt and investing. Ultimately, we will use a similar investigation of governmental systems to determine how those processes affect--or don’t affect--the economic status of the nation. Later, we will survey recent U.S. history (1945-present), using an economic lens to focus on how the events of this period have shaped our contemporary lives. 

    Art History
    This course examines global art traditions through the lens of social change. Each unit presents case studies through which we will explore the functions of art: art as power; personal and communal expression; social action; experience. Through close observation of diverse works—paintings, prints, architecture, and various kinds of crafted objects—we will examine the place of art in times of rupture, and ask: How does art reflect or critique culture? How does art serve or disrupt structures of power? We will expand our conception of the classroom to our urban environment by going on field trips to see public art, museums, and murals. The course honors personal interest and curiosity; each unit culminates in an exploratory project chosen by students.

    Bay Area and California History
    This class is a chance for students to engage deeply with local history. We will examine the history of the Bay Area and California from the first indigenous people to the present, including Native American cultures before colonization, Spanish California, the Gold Rush and American conquest, the state’s role in World Wars I and II, and California’s history of both rejecting and welcoming immigrants. We will also study how civil rights movements, labor unions, radical organizations, grassroots activism, and anti-war campaigns have shaped the political and social life of the Bay Area. In addition to history, this course will explore local politics and the structure and function of city, county, and state governments

    *Honors classes explore similar topics as the corresponding course but at an accelerated pace with additional depth, resources, and assessments. Department recommendations based on independent, self-regulated learning and a genuine interest in the skills and knowledge of History and Social Studies. Students are expected to perform more complex, self-driven assignments, relying on self-initiated one-on-one tutorial consultations. Prerequisite for Honors: Department approval
  • Interdisciplinary Course

    You will harness the tools of business to effect positive social, cultural, and environmental change both within the Drew community and beyond. Key to successful entrepreneurship is sound leadership skills. You will study the theory of leadership and how principled-centered leadership will lead to success. You will learn to be an effective social entrepreneur through a study of the history and theory of social entrepreneurship, with training in the basics of business management.


List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Kevin Erspamer

    Kevin Erspamer 

    Social Studies Faculty
    415.409.3739 x3731
  • Photo of Talia Krahling

    Talia Krahling 

    Social Studies Department Chair
    415.409.3739 x3765
  • Photo of Jim Nickovich

    Jim Nickovich 

    415.409.3739 x3759
  • Photo of Erin Pederson

    Erin Pederson 

    Social Studies Faculty
    415.409.3739 x3755

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