Among the array of changes to the curriculum at Haverford in 2020 is a revamp of the social studies program. The refined social studies curriculum will increase students’ flexibility in choosing courses that interest them. Instead of four social studies credits, students will be required to fulfill three required credits, two of which include electives of their choice.
Rather than being required to take Western Civilization, freshmen will take American History, which would supplement eighth grade American History. Social studies teachers Joseph Taraborrelli and Leon Smith agree that ninth-graders learning American History would foster a smooth transition from middle school to high school.
“I always felt clumsy trying to teach the ninth graders the Western Civilization curriculum when they had just come from American History,” said Taraborrelli. Freshmen will have the option to take AP United States History (APUSH), but their course would be covered over two semesters, while students of other grades taking APUSH would still complete the course in a single semester. This would also present a potential solution to difficulties surrounding a one-semester APUSH, which has been described by many students as a poorly optimized course.
While Western Civilization will no longer be a required freshmen class, topics encompassed by the course will be included in the sophomore AP World History class. AP World History will also still be offered to tenth graders, and AP European History will remain available for students who wish to delve deeper into the Western Civilization.
Rather than enrolling in it during senior year, students, regardless of their level, will be required to take American Government and Civics during their junior year. Essentially, the currently required social studies courses will be pushed back a grade, leaving senior year open for students to decide the realm of social studies they want to explore further.
While Haverford already offers social studies electives such as Psychology, Criminal Justice, and others, the social studies department believes that there is a lot still uncovered in depth by the current curriculum.
“We want to offer more electives just as the science department does,” added Taraborrelli.
Smith emphasized that he wants students to find things that they are interested in. “I think when people hear ‘social studies’, they just think of history,” said Smith. The committee in charge of organizing and proposing potential social studies electives is considering multiple concentrated courses, such as African American studies, Women’s studies, and the Holocaust. In addition, AP Human Geography is expected to become available next year.
The fundamental purpose of the social studies curriculum’s remodeling is to both enhance students’ social studies education and to give them an opportunity to deviate from the core curriculum by studying things that interest them.