History/Social Studies

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Political Philosophy

Through an in-depth study of philosophical texts, students in this course examine fundamental questions about how and why humans organize themselves into political communities. Through substantial excerpts of classical works by thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato, Locke, Hobbes and Kropotkin, students consider questions such as: do we need laws? what is the basis for government's authority to rule? What are humans like naturally; are we cooperative or agressive?

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (excerpt)
Politics by Aristotle (excerpt)
The Republic by Plato (short excerpt)
Uselessness of Laws by Peter Kropotkin (excerpt)
On Mutual Aid by Kropotkin (excerpt)
Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle (excerpt)
The Last Judgement by Karl Capek
Second Treatise of Government by John Locke (excerpt)
"The Entitlement Theory" by Robert Nozick (exerpt)
"Security, Welfare and the Communal Provision" by Michael Walzer
"The Singer Solution to World Poverty" by Peter Singer
A Theory of Justice by John Rawl (excerpt)
On Justice by Michael Sandel (excerpt)
The Ones who Walked Away from Omelas by Ursula LeGuin
Euthyphro by Plato
Apology by Plato
Crito by Plato
Interim Assessments: 

Students are required to write shorter essays (2-4 pages typed) on each major philosopher studied. Sample essay questions might include:
--Aristotle defines things in terms of their function or "telos." Is this way of seeing humans and their institutions helpful or problematic?
--Explain and then critique Hobbes' reasons for saying that we do need government.

Significant Assignments: 

In class essay comparing Nozick, Walzer and Rawls
Frequent written responses to readings which include outlining texts, identifying and evaluating key arguments and writing questions for class discussions

Sample PBATs: 
Comparative Analytical Paper: What is the relationship betweeen Morality and Government?
Comparative Analytical Paper: Is government "natural" or "unnatural" for humans?

U.S. in the Cold War (1945-1991)

Essex Street Academy

Consortium school

The Cold War – the longest and most costly world conflict of the 20th century – was dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR). This course will explore the U.S. role in the Cold War, the conflicting ideologies of the superpowers, and the ways that U.S. policies shaped the conflict itself, world events, and American life.

A Bipolar World: The introductory unit examines how and why the conflict was waged by the two sides. We will examine the differences between the Soviet and American systems and the strategies that both sides used to gain the advantage.

Excerpts from John Lewis Gaddis's The Cold War: A New History
Excerpts from Craig and Logevall's America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity
Speeches by Truman, Churchill, and Stalin (1945-1946)
Letters from Krushchev to JFK (1962)
Eisenhower's Farewell Address (1961)
Marian Wright Edelman's Commencement Address (1983)
Excerpts from Klinkner and Smith’s The Unsteady March

Research Essay
The project requires students to identify a topic in the Cold War for independent research. The paper must meet the standards for a panel PBAT project.

Media Used: 
Herblock cartoons
Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Atomic Cafe
Interim Assessments: 

Periodic Assessments: Most weeks will include a text-based seminar, which will be assessed by a writing task to be completed after the discussion. Every two weeks, on Fridays, there will be an open-notes biweekly assessment, to check on student understanding of vocabulary and course content.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Visual Encyclopedia Project
Students will select a person, event, place, or concept to research. Students will research their topic and write a summary paragraph about the person/event/place/concept and an analysis paragraph to discuss what it reveals either about how the Cold War was fought or why it was fought. The writing will be accompanied by 5-10 captioned images and will be presented in powerpoint format.

Cuban Missile Crisis Simulation
Students will prepare for (independently and in groups) and conduct a simulation of President John F. Kennedy’s options as the world came to the brink of nuclear confrontation in October 1962.

Sample PBATs: 
Was it a mistake to go to war in Korea?

U.S. History 1

Essential Questions:
What does it mean to be an American?
Is the use of violence ever justified?
How is history remembered?

History of the United States to 1865, with units of study focusing on Early Humans and Migration to the Americas, Native American Civilizations and the Encounter, British Colonial America, Road to the Revolution, the Constitution, the Early Nation, and Slavery and the Divided Nation.

As all courses at this school, this is designed to develop language skills through the curriculum in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

journals of Columbus and Las Casas
Locke's Two Treatises
John Winthrop's City on a Hill speech
Thomas Paine's Common Sense
Declaration of Independence
U.S. Constitution
various slave narratives
People's History of the U.S.
My Brother Sam is Dead (historical fiction)

U.S. regional geography

Mystery of "the starving time" in Jamestown colony

Native American cultures

outside research for essays and projects

Media Used: 
HBO mini-series John Adams
Interim Assessments: 

Work together to analyze slave narratives and create a presentation to the class, then create a piece of historical fiction based on the presentations

Significant Assignments: 

Letter to the Mayor: Should we celebrate Columbus Day?

Create a presentation to the class focusing on one Native American culture

Create complete paragraphs explaining John Locke's beliefs and evaluating them from your own point of view

Effectively debate the American colonies' future in February 1776

Debate issues at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and evaluate their resolution

Debate the ratification of the Constitution from the point of view of either Federalists or Anti-Federalists

Work together to create a presentation that convinces the audience to support either Hamilton's or Jefferson's vision for the new nation

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Class trip to Philadelphia and Washington, DC

Speech: Was John Brown a hero or a villain?

Project: What does it mean to be an American?

Sample PBATs: 
American Revolution Essay: Was the revolution inevitable?
Constitution Essay: The Constitution Is....
Whose fault was the Revolution?

Human Rights and the Global Economy

This course explores economic concepts and human rights in order to investigate the economic roots of human rights abuses around the world. Questions driving this course include:
What rights should be guaranteed to all human beings, to all communities of people?
What is meant by “economy” and “economics”?
How are the 3 main economic questions answered in different systems?
What is the relationship between economics and human rights?
What systems, institutions, and/or policies promote inequalities in human rights?

Confessions of an Economic Hitman
Half the Sky

Research will be based on the topic chosen by the student for the interim assessment or PBAT.

Media Used: 
The Devil's Miner
Material World
Interim Assessments: 

Socratic Seminars and essays on each case study (e.g., Child Labor, Water Access and Control, and Globalization)

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Transnational Capital Auction Simulation

Myself at 35 Project

Comparisons on UDHR & African Charter

Cow Plans based on market versus command economy

Sample PBATs: 
Child Labor: yes or no?
Should water be controlled privately or publicly?


Our National anthem proclaims us as the, “land of the free and the home of the brave”; yet the man who penned those words, Francis Scott Key, was a slave owner.*

In this course students study the emergence of the United States and its government through the lens of the concept of freedom. The word “freedom” is everywhere you look in the United States throughout history to the present, but how free are we and how free is this country?

Excerpts of the U.S. Constitution, The Declaration of Independence
Primary source excerpts, including: Stokely Carmichael, Abe Lincoln, James Madison, John Locke, and others
Secondary source excerpts: James McPherson, Howard Zinn, others

Students conduct additional research for two essays in course: Does the U.S. Constitution limit or protect citizens' freedom? and, Who was most influential in ending chattel slavery in the United States?

Interim Assessments: 

Class debates on two PBAT questions, PBAT drafts and deadlines

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Freedom artistic piece and artist statement

Sample PBATs: 
The Constitution: Limits on or guarantee of freedoms?
Was the government established to limit or protect our freedom?
Who freed the slaves?
Did the abolitionists and the slaves give Lincoln the pen for the Emancipation Proclamation

U.S. History Survey - Rebels and Resisters

In U.S. History, we explore two units in depth. One unit is called “Rethinking Columbus” and the another unit is called “Inventing America: The Creation of a New Nation.” In units such as these, we work to further develop the skills necessary to write and present PBATs at the end of the semester.

Howard Zinn "A People's History of the United States"
"Encounter" by Jane Yolen
The Journal of Christopher Columbus
The Tainos: Men of the Good by Jose Barreiro
"Open Your Hearts" by Bartolome de las Casas
African American Resistance by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
"Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells"
"Letter From Birmingham Jail" by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Some recent topics chosen by students have included:
Resistance and Slavery
The most effective and humane methods to make social change
Civil Rights and Justice
Rockefeller Drug Laws and Mass Incarceration
How Revolutionary was the American Revolution?
Columbus and the Taino Indians

Media Used: 
"In Whose Honor"
"In the White Man's Image"
"Race: The Power of an Illusion"
"PBS: John Brown's Holy War"
"The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow"
We also have the research portal which has all the websites we use: bcs448.org
Interim Assessments: 

Position papers and debates based on the research topics listed above.

Significant Assignments: 

There are four major position papers in this course and one is extended into the student's PBAT.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

The People v. Columbus, et al trial

The War With Mexico Tea Party

Sample PBATs: 
Is Violence Ever Justified? Choose one of the issues we've examined this term to research in depth. Present your thesis and evidence to support your argument.
John Brown: Hero or Villain?

Civil Rights Movement

Essex Street Academy

Consortium school

This course will examine the American Civil Rights Movement. Specifically, students will explore the extent to which the civil rights movement was successful at addressing racial violence, segregation, and the fight for access and equality. The basic skills that students will sharpen include understanding point of view and historical context, using evidence from primary and secondary sources to support opinions in writing and in oral presentations, and summarizing, analyzing and addressing opposing opinions in writing.

Shame of the Nation (Kozol)
Why Do All the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria (Tatum)
The Debt: What America Owes Blacks (Robinson)
Letter from a Birmingham Jail (King Jr.)
It's the Ballot or the Bullet (Malcolm X)

Students will research the fight to address racial violence, beginning with the slave trade and lynching through the murder of Emmett Till and James Byrd. They will then research the fight to end segregation, from the struggle in Montgomery, Little Rock, and Birmingham to forced busing and Kozol's research on the re-segregation of public schools. Finally, students will research affirmative action, from the famous Bakke v University of California Regents decision to more current battles at the University of Michigan and the Louisville public school district.

Media Used: 
Eyes on the Prize
The Murder of Emmett Till
The Two Towns of Jasper
Interim Assessments: 

Did the CRM successfully address racial violence? (persuasive essay)

Is America still segregated? (persuasive essay)

Do blacks and whites have equal access in American society? (persuasive essay)

Significant Assignments: 

Emmett Till vs. James Byrd debate - what do these cases of racial violence suggest about the fight to end lynching in the Unites States?

Segregation RAFT assessment

Affirmative Action debate - Is affirmative action a necessary policy to address past wrongdoing, or is it a racist policy that perpetuates inequality?

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Journal writing

RAFT assignments

Read Alouds

Roundtable Debates

Guided Writing

Sample PBATs: 
Affirmative Action - A Necessary Evil?
Emmett Till vs James Byrd - Case Studies in Racial Violence

Constitutional Law

Students in this class examine several constitutional questions (e.g. can the Air Force tell its members that they can't wear a cross or a yarmulke or dreadlocks; can a student lead his school in prayer before a football game; can school boards decide to teach intelligent design in addition to evolution; should Native Americans be allowed to smoke peyote - a controlled substance - for religious reasons) by reading Supreme Court cases, by talking to lawyers and other legal experts and by arguing about the cases in class.

Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
Goldman v. Weinberger (1986)
The Bill of Rights (first ten amendments to US Constitution) and the 14th Amendment
Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye V. Hialeah (1993)
Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940)
Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942)
Cohen v. California (1971)
FCC v. Pacifica (1978
Texas v Johnson (1987
Black v Virginia (2003)
In Our Defense: the Bill of Rights in Action, by Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy
May It Please the Court, by Peter Irons
Multiple New York Times Articles on cases currently being decided by the US Supreme Court
Decision of First Dep't, NY, in People v. Johnson
Briefs submitted to NY Ct. of Appeals in People v. Johnson

Locate answers to multiple questions regarding the US Constitution (a scavenger hunt, of sorts), as well as researching various terms related to constitutional law.
For students undertaking PBAT work in course, briefs and decisions must be supplemented by independent legal research, including precedential cases not discussed in class and law journal (and other newsprint) articles related to the topic.

Media Used: 
Texts -- Supreme Court Opinions, Merits Briefs, Book Excerpts
Newspaper/Magazine articles related to the Supreme Court and cases before the court.
Audio Transcripts of Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court
Educational Video of the Justices discussing the process of accepting, hearing and deciding cases.
Research – lower court opinions, articles about facts of the cases, etc.
Live Argument with other students acting as lawyers and judges, as well as with outside lawyers brought in to class
Interim Assessments: 

Case Summaries (resembles a law school case-brief, laying out the facts and holding of a particular case, but also requiring that the student explain the reasoning of the dissent in the case and, at the end of the summary, whether he/she agrees with the holding of the case).

Supreme Court Merits Briefs (acting as a “lawyer,” arguing the case on behalf of one of the parties, both in writing and in oral argument before outside panel of actual lawyers).

Significant Assignments: 

Supreme Court Decision (issuing an opinion as a “Justice” having read the briefs, precedential cases, and having heard oral argument by actual lawyers or students acting as lawyers).

Additional Supreme Court Merits Briefs

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Final Exam – Law school style hypothetical scenario incorporating different issues from multiple precedential cases, requiring students to synthesize, analyze and evaluate competing claims.

Sample PBATs: 
Majority or Dissenting Opinion in Goldman v. Weinberger
Majority or Dissenting Opinion in FCC v. Pacifica
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