Social Science

Course Descriptions

Core Courses


These courses are required by the San Francisco Unified School District and the State of California for high school graduation. 


            Ninth Grade:               Modern World 1 and 2

            Eleventh Grade:          United States History 1 and 2

            Twelfth Grade:            American Democracy and Economics (one semester each)


The following are the core course content standards for California public schools as outlined by the State Board of Education: 


World History, Culture, and Geography: The Modern World

Students in grade ten study major turning points that shaped the modern world, from the late eighteenth century through the present, including the cause and course of the two world wars. They trace the rise of democratic ideas and develop an understanding of the historical roots of current world issues, especially as they pertain to international relations. They extrapolate from the American experience that democratic ideals are often achieved at a high price, remain vulnerable, and are not practiced everywhere in the world. Students develop an understanding of current world issues and relate them to their historical, geographic, political, economic, and cultural contexts. Students consider multiple accounts of events in order to understand international relations from a variety of perspectives.


United States History and Geography: Continuity and Change in the Twentieth Century

Students in grade eleven study the major turning points in American history in the twentieth century. Following a review of the nation's beginnings and the impact of the Enlightenment on U.S. democratic ideals, students build upon the tenth grade study of global industrialization to understand the emergence and impact of new technology and a corporate economy, including the social and cultural effects. They trace the change in the ethnic composition of American society; the movement toward equal rights for racial minorities and women; and the role of the United States as a major world power. An emphasis is placed on the expanding role of the federal government and federal courts as well as the continuing tension between the individual and the state. Students consider the major social problems of our time and trace their causes in historical events. They learn that the United States has served as a model for other nations and that the rights and freedoms we enjoy are not accidents, but the results of a defined set of political principles that are not always basic to citizens of other countries. Students understand that our rights under the U.S. Constitution are a precious inheritance that depends on an educated citizenry for their preservation and protection.


Principles of American Democracy (one semester)and Economics (one semester)

Students in grade twelve pursue a deeper understanding of the institutions of American government. They compare systems of government in the world today and analyze the history and changing interpretations of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the current state of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of government. An emphasis is placed on analyzing the relationship among federal, state, and local governments, with particular attention paid to important historical documents such as the Federalist Papers. These standards represent the culmination of civic literacy as students prepare to vote, participate in community activities, and assume the responsibilities of citizenship.

In addition to studying government in grade twelve, students will also master fundamental economic concepts, applying the tools (graphs, statistics, equations) from other subject areas to the understanding of operations and institutions of economic systems. Studied in a historic context are the basic economic principles of micro- and macroeconomics, international economics, comparative economic systems, measurement, and methods.


Advanced Placement (AP) Course Descriptions


The Lowell History/Social Studies Department is currently offering eight Advanced Placement courses. Advanced Placement courses offer high school students introductory level college curricula. Examinations are given in the subject during the first two weeks of May.  Students who pass their AP exams may receive college credit for introductory level prerequisites.  Students taking the AP classes are expected to take the AP examinations.


The History/Social Studies Department has an open enrollment policy for AP courses, but students need to be prepared for the rigors of an AP course.  The amount of material that needs to be covered necessitates a fast pace both in and outside the classroom.  Each teacher has his or her pedagogical approach, but the College Board specifies the content of the courses.


The following are AP courses currently available in the Social Studies Department.  The AP course equivalents (*) satisfy the core course requirements.

AP European History          

10-12th grade

AP World History 

 10-12th grade

AP Human Geography

10-12th grade

AP Comparative Government & Politics

11-12th grade

AP US History*

11-12 grade

AP Psychology

11-12 grade

AP Economics*            (Micro & Macro)

12 grade ONLY

AP U.S. Government & Politics

12 grade ONLY



AP Course Descriptions

The following are course descriptions as outlined by College Board

AP European History

The study of European history since 1450 introduces students to cultural, economic, political, and social developments that played a fundamental role in shaping the world in which they live. Without this knowledge, we would lack the context for understanding the development of contemporary institutions, the role of continuity and change in present-day society and politics, and the evolution of current forms of artistic expression and intellectual discourse. In addition to providing a basic narrative of events and movements, the goals of AP European History are to develop (a) an understanding of some of the principal themes in modern European history, (b) an ability to analyze historical evidence and historical interpretation, and (c) an ability to express historical understanding in writing.

AP World History

The AP World History course content is structured around the investigation of five course themes and 19 key concepts in six different chronological periods, from approximately 8000 B.C.E. to the present.  Students will develop a greater understanding of the evolution of global processes and contacts, in interaction with different types of human societies.  This understanding is advanced through a combination of factual knowledge and appropriate analytical skills such as writing a variety of essays.  The course highlights the nature of changes in international frameworks as well as comparisons among major societies. The course offers balanced global coverage with units on Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.


AP Human Geography (one semester course)

The purpose of the AP Human Geography course is to introduce students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of Earth’s surface. Students employ spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human social organization and its environmental consequences.  They also learn about the methods and tools geographers use in their science and practice.           


AP US History

The AP US History course is designed to provide students with the analytical skills and factual knowledge necessary to critically examine issues in US history.  Students learn to assess historical materials and their relevance to a given interpretive problem, determine the reliability and importance of sources, and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. Students also learn to develop the skills necessary to arrive at conclusions on the basis of informed judgments, and to present reasons and evidence clearly and persuasively in essay format.  The course material stretches from the pre-colonial period through the present.


AP Psychology

The AP Psychology course is designed to introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of human beings and other animals. Students are exposed to the psychological facts, principles, and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology. They also learn about the ethics and methods psychologists use in their science and practice.


AP Comparative Governments and Politics

Students will examine the governments and politics of various countries such as China, Great Britain, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia.  They will examine the typical patterns of political processes, behavior, and their consequences.  They will be able to compare and contrast political institutions and processes across countries and analyze relevant data in drawing generalizations. Topics include sovereignty, authority, and power; political institutions; citizens, society and the State; political and economic change; and public policy.


AP United States Government and Politics

The course includes both the study of general concepts used to interpret US politics and the analysis of specific examples.  It requires the student to become familiar with the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that constitute US politics.  Students evaluate the constitutional underpinnings of the US Government, the political beliefs and behaviors of citizens as well as the importance of political parties, interest groups and the mass media within the American democratic tradition. Institutions of National Government, Public Policy and Civil Rights and Liberties are considered.


AP Microeconomics

The purpose of an AP course in microeconomics is to give students a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to the functions of individual decision makers, both consumers and producers, within the economic system. It places primary emphasis on the nature and functions of product markets and includes the study of factor markets and of the role of government in promoting greater efficiency and equity in the economy.


AP Macroeconomics

The purpose of an AP course in macroeconomics is to give students a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to an economic system as a whole. Such a course places particular emphasis on the study of national income and price-level determination and also develops students’ familiarity with economic performance measures, the financial sector, stabilization policies, economic growth and international economics.

This page was last updated on October 29, 2019