Upper School Courses

Academic Departments

History and Social Sciences

The department continues to honor founder William Brewster’s goal to teach for "the stimulation of intellectual honesty and curiosity, the experience of democratic process, the wrestling with social problems, the greater understanding of international relations, the appreciation of threats and the participation in them.” The point of developing students’ ability to critically assess is to cultivate curiosity and concern for humanity. Courses and pedagogy prepare students for active citizenship in the world.
From World History in 9th grade to 12-grade electives, the history curriculum stresses confronting rich, complex historical and contemporary social problems from global and multicultural perspectives and building the skills of a scholar. Readings and images used in class seek to explore diverse experiences and the contexts that shaped them. To help students think critically, an emphasis is placed on main themes and essential questions so that facts are learned as part of investigation of larger historical problems. Students are taught to use social, intellectual, political and economic categories of analysis. Attention is placed on active reading and listening skills by stressing and checking note-taking. Class discussion, debates and projects are used to help students form opinions and practice expressing their ideas with the ultimate goal of preparing them to write persuasively. In a logical progression expectations increase by course for student writing and analysis. Each course builds time for teaching and practicing research methods with all students writing a capstone research project before they graduate.
  • History 9

    Education helps us understand our place in the world, in relation to others, and the World History course contributes to that goal. We trace the themes of government, religion, economy, the arts, the environment, gender structures and cultures in context. As an engine of world change, Europe merits a significant look; but non-U.S., non-European topics constitute about 60 percent of this course. The use of evidence in analytical writing is emphasized throughout, with a memoir of China’s Cultural Revolution as the subject for instruction in paper writing.

    1 credit
  • History 10

    This 10th-grade United States history class covers the period from the Pre-Columbian Era to 1900. Three themes will be interwoven throughout the class: the evolution of democracy (its definition, ideals and actual structure); emerging “American” identities (crossing race, class, gender, region, nation and national origin); and the interrelated transformation of the American economic and environmental landscape, as the nation evolved from a predominantly rural, agrarian space to an increasingly industrial, urban one. The spring term culminates in a research paper on American culture that allows students to choose any cultural creation of specific interest to them (music, fine art, fashion, architecture, poetry, literature, etc.) and then examine how it reflects various aspects of American society from 1860-1900, such as gender and sexuality, race, family life, class, the environment or technology.

    1 credit
  • History 11

    This course begins with the emergence of the United States as a world power in the early 20th century and focuses on key events and problems of a century famously called “the American Century.” The course ends with more recent changes, including the debate on the 21st century as a “post-American” world. To place the American experience in a broader global context, students examine selected topics, such as imperialism, decolonization, conflict in the Middle East, the dissolution of the Soviet empire and globalization. Broadly, the course is designed to provide students with an historical sensibility about a century that greatly shaped our current world. In the spring, each student spends four weeks on an independent research project. With support from Becker Library, students use library collections, databases and web links to academic sites related to their topics. The history research projects that students completed in the two foundational history courses, History 9 and History 10, prepare them to complete this major research project.

    1 credit
  • Social Science Seminars

    Social Science Seminars comprise a yearlong course of three term-long classes across a number of specialized topics. Designed to pique student interest and introduce the basic vocabulary of the fields, the seminars provide a foundation for future study. Since they are exploratory in nature, seminars are question-driven with high expectations for class discussion. Social Science Seminars are open to 11th- and 12th-grade students.

    Read descriptions of the current year's seminars.

    Social Science Seminars are open to juniors and seniors.
    1 credit
  • Adv European History

    This survey is both comprehensive and deep in its ongoing examinations of: a) interactions between Europe and other countries and cultures in the world; b) economic factors and aspects of poverty and prosperity; c) the projects of objective and subjective understanding; d) the power and development and effects of institutions and regimes; e) parsing the interrelations between individual and society; and f) examining the ongoing project of public communities such as nationalisms or unions. The class is conducted as a seminar with an emphasis on discussing understandings and interpretations of the various topics.

    Prerequisite: G or better grade in History 11, the recommendation of the History 11 teacher, or departmental approval. 
    1 credit

Upper School Faculty

  • Photo of Shelley Sallee
    Shelley Sallee
    History Instructor
    University of Texas at Austin - Ph.D.
    Smith College - B.A.
  • Photo of Mason Cox
    Mason Cox
    International Office Assistant
    University of Chicago - M.A.T.
    University of Chicago - B.A.
  • Photo of Wallis Goodman
    Wallis Goodman
    Dean of Faculty, Art History Instructor
    University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    Davidson College - B.A.
  • Photo of Jon McCain
    Jon McCain
    Athletics Director, Economics Instructor
    University of Texas at Austin - B.A.
  • Photo of Ali McLafferty
    Ali McLafferty
    History Instructor
    University of California at Berkeley - Ph.D.
    University of California, Berkeley - MA
    Duke University - B.A.
  • Photo of Luis Murillo
    Luis Murillo
    History Instructor
    University of California, San Diego - Ph.D.
    George Washington University - M.A.
    Hamilton College - B.A.
  • Photo of Sarah Todd
    Sarah Todd
    Director of International Program, History Instructor
    San Francisco State University - M.A.
    University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    University of Texas at Austin - B.A.
  • Photo of Scott Willson
    Scott Willson
    History Instructor
    University of Texas at Austin - M.Ed.
    Trinity University - B.A.
  • Photo of Gretchen Young
    Gretchen Young
    History Instructor
    Texas State University - M.A.
    Cabrini University - B.A.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213