Social Studies Seminars

Seminar Descriptions

List of 9 items.

  • Behind Closed Doors: Alternate Narratives of Gender and Sexuality in American History and Literature

    Fall Term
    Once upon a time in 19th-century New York, brothels advertised both ladies and "lady-boys"-- and a man wasn't considered any less manly if he went for both. Once upon a time in 1920s Harlem, drag balls were all the rage-- and gay and straight, black and white, men and women paid exorbitant fees just to ogle the gorgeous queens. Once upon a time in the "Wild West," women donned men's clothing, slung holsters and ammo around their hips, and got reputations for out drinking and outshooting any man...while men complemented their mustaches with lipstick and wore cowboy boots under petticoats. But why don't our history books tell us these stories? Why do we seem to think the 20th century invented homosexuality, queerness, and transsexuality? Why do we persist in thinking the Victorians were prudish, conservative, and even "asexual"? And how do we uncover these secret histories? Where do we even begin looking?
    Using both historical case studies and a variety of literary pieces, from poetry to short stories to documentaries, this class will uncover the alternate narratives of these "other Americans"--those who lived their lives "behind closed doors," and who, consciously or not, bequeathed a great legacy to 20th-century American history and literature, as well as to 21st-century current events.

    Instructor - Dr. Ali McLaferty
  • Citizen U

    Fall Term

    Learn what is at stake before you vote. Volunteer with a campaign or civic group.  Hear and meet candidates, political commentators, and journalists. Explore the nation’s political divides and examine groups bridging them.  Evaluate national, state, and local election cycle policies. Dive into the disinformation and AI concerns.        

    According to the Brookings Institute, “for the first time in decades, there are more closed autocracies than liberal democracies in the world.”  The Economist’s Democracy Index raises concern about democratic decline in the U.S.  What does this mean in terms of the world’s response to the 2024 election in the U.S.?  Much of this election season and some of our study will examine what makes former President Trump’s candidacy unprecedented with legal challenges to his business and political activities playing out as he campaigns. Together we will follow the 2024 Presidential election. Separately, you will choose another campaign to study closely.  We will attend the Texas Tribune Festival (September 5-7, required). Together we will do a chapel on voting and help register seniors. After the election, we will work hard to understand its results.  Throughout the course, we will focus on media literacy, fact-checking, and the practice of civil discourse.

    Instructor - Dr. Shelley Sallee
  • Investigating Historical True Crime

    Fall Term

    True Crime Podcasts are having their moment in American society, and the best episodes often investigate either notorious or long-forgotten historical events. This seminar allows students to research a historical mystery, scandal, or crime they find intriguing, and to produce a podcast episode telling the tale. Students will learn archival and digital research skills to dig deep into their infamous crime or bygone whodunit. The seminar will discuss how to evaluate historical and media sources and ask the students to analyze why their historical event was either buried or became the "crime of the century."  With their research, students will write a script and produce a podcast episode telling a new interpretation to an infamous true crime story.

    Instructor - Ms. Gretchen Young
  • Economics

    Winter Term

    How do entrepreneurs price their latest products? How does scarcity of resources force economic systems to make choices? Macroeconomics uses the tools of economics to understand how an economy functions and to develop policies that promote economic growth. This course will give students the tools to understand how a national economy works, and how various government policies affect the economy and, by extension, its citizens' lives. The course will combine economic theory and historical empirical data that relate to the three main concerns of macroeconomics: inflation, unemployment, and economic growth.

    Instructor - Mr. John McCain
  • Modern China Seminar

    Winter Term

    If the 20th century is referred to as the American Century, how will historians refer to the 21st? Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move the world.”  Does China’s stirring on the world stage - economically, politically, culturally, and militarily - constitute a threat to the Western hegemon or does it represent an opportunity for new alliances and prosperity? This seminar will focus on China’s startling growth since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, and in particular on the past three decades of rapid transformation within China and how these internal changes have impacted the rest of the world. Topics will include socialism & post-socialism, economics, current events, the Beijing 2008 Olympics, militarization, transnational workers, Africa, urbanization, cultural shifts, gender relations, Yao Ming, income inequality, social media, faith, and tourism. The course materials will be drawn from current articles, books, documentaries, movie clips, social media and comic books.

    Instructor - Mr. Scott Willson
  • Topics in Constitutional Law

    Winter Term

    Is a student-led prayer before a public school football game a violation of separation of church and state? Are large corporate donations to political campaigns protected as free speech? Whose right to bear arms did the Second Amendment protect? When can a police officer search your car? While the term constitutional law encompasses a broad range of issues about government and the separation of powers, this course will focus primarily on the U.S. Constitution and individual rights with some additional topics driven by current events. The course will include reading of landmark Supreme Court cases as well as current cases. This is a discussion-based course that rewards lively debate and that culminates in a moot court.

    Instructor - Dr. Shelley Sallee
  • History, Memory, and Politics: How Nations Remember, Forget, and Use the Past

    Spring Term
    How has Germany attempted to come to terms with the Holocaust?  How has the United States reckoned (and not reckoned) with African American slavery and its legacies of inequality?  How does China publicly remember and forget Mao’s Cultural Revolution?  What do these human experiences mean in the ongoing construction of what a nation stands for?  
    In this class, we will consider how dark and painful historical experiences have been commemorated, memorialized, and erased but also how they continue to enter into high-stakes contemporary discussions about national identity and policy.  
    Students will complete daily readings, participate actively in class discussion, write several response papers, and complete a longer research project culminating in a presentation.
    While our main topics will be the Holocaust in Germany, African American slavery in the United States, and the Cultural Revolution in China, students will be invited to research and present on another topic of their choosing relating to history, memory, and politics.

    Instructor - Dr. Anna Armentrout
  • History of Modern Mexico

    Spring Term

    For the last fifty years, U.S. news headlines about Mexico have focused on a series of crises that are thought to threaten the U.S.: drug cartel violence, undocumented migrants, multiple debt crises, and political instability. This course on Modern Mexico will go beyond the headlines to appreciate Mexico’s historical struggles to achieve political stability and economic prosperity, and the important role the United States has played in Mexico. Beginning with an overview of the Mexican Revolution and into the present, this course will cover a range of possible topics allowing students to explore areas of interest ranging from cultural phenomena such as the Mexican Mural Movement, Mexican Rock and Pop Music, and Mexican films to social events such as the student uprising in 1968 and the impact of migration both to the U.S. and from Central America.  The course will move on to economic events such as the nationalization of industries in the 1930s to neoliberalism and privatization in the 1990s, leading to some of the richest people in the world like Carlos Slim, to political happenings such as the rise and fall and rise again of the PRI and various opposition parties. The course uses a variety of historical and contemporary materials from books, articles, and visual media.

    Instructor - Mr. Luis Murillo
  • Psychology

    Spring Term

    Why do we do what we do? What influences affect our decision making? What role do our emotions play in learning? How do we choose a romantic partner? These and other questions will be explored in this introduction to the theories and concepts of psychology. The course begins with important research done in the field of social psychology, which is a study of the influence that people have on one another. From this perspective we will discuss issues such as: racism, conformity, human aggression, and the psychology of love and attraction. We will then examine the areas of motivation, emotion, intelligence, learning, memory, and personality development. Finally, we will discuss the 21st century trend of Positive Psychology, which is based on the premise that psychology should focus less on mental illness and more on mental wellness.

    Instructor - Ms. Laurel Eskridge
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213